Less than four calendar years ago, the Eagles and Patriots met in the Super Bowl, producing one of the biggest offensive showcases in the history of the NFL's championship game. On Thursday night, they clashed again, but this time amid entirely different circumstances. Kicking off Week 2 of the 2021 preseason, Philadelphia rested most of its starters ahead of its anticipated regular-season kickoff of Nick Sirianni's youth movement. That included quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was a surprise absentee due to a last-minute illness. The Patriots, meanwhile, got sharp performances from Cam Newton and Mac Jones in their bid to get one step closer to crowning a true Tom Brady successor going into the new year, claiming an easy 35-0 victory in the process.
Here are our instant takeaways from Thursday night's Eagles-Patriots showdown:
Why the Patriots won
This will sound like a copout, but the biggest reason New England started strong and built an early lead is because the Eagles rested almost all of their top defensive starters. All week, reports out of camp indicated Philly had its way with Newton and Co., but against second- and third-team D-lines, Newton had little trouble finding open passing lanes. Big plays from Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne helped. Jones was even more impressive later, carving up the Eagles' backup secondary with a lively arm and getting assists from a deep running backfield headlined by J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson. And then the Patriots defense, headlined by a busy front that included Chase Winovich and Christian Barmore, made Eagles quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens uncomfortable to further bury the home team.
Why the Eagles lost
Well, for one, they started Flacco at QB, thanks to Jalen Hurts coming down with a last-minute illness. The vet started his night by chasing down an errant snap and ended it with just 86 yards on 17 throws. Nick Mullens, the No. 3, was even worse, dancing around in the pocket while trailing by 30-plus. Aside from DeVonta Smith, who got consistent separation in his anticipated debut, no one really popped on the Eagles offense. The "D" wasn't much better, with rookie Milton Williams maybe the lone standout on a night when other young backups like Zech McPhearson struggled to keep up in pass defense.
Honestly, it could've been the moment Flacco trotted out as the Eagles QB instead of Hurts, who at least brings some mobile swagger to Philly's offense. Instead, let's go with Flacco's first snap, when reserve lineman Nate Herbig sent the ball over the QB's head, forcing Flacco to chase after it and then fumble away the ball himself. This came on Philly's first possession, allowing the Patriots to go up 7-0 with ease.
Play of the game
Jones had a number of impressive darts, and Taylor had a killer spin move on a red-zone run, but let's give it to Patriots defenders Justin Bethel and Harvey Langi, who teamed up for a diving interception of Flacco:
The Patriots (2-0) will close their preseason schedule on Aug. 29 against the Giants. The Eagles (0-2), meanwhile, will finish their slate on Aug. 27 against the Jets.