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Eagles Suffer Unbearable Victory

FOXBOROUGH, MA - SEPTEMBER 10: Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) takes an interception to the house during a game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 10, 2023, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s not the same Patriots team. The guy who won six titles as that team's quarterback was honored in retirement at halftime. But New England is still coached by Bill Belichick, and this was still a game at Foxborough, where the Patriots are still pretty decent. Despite all that, the Eagles opened their season with a 25-20 victory, their first at New England since a flukey 35-28 win in 2015. And, oh my goodness, it was terrible for Eagles fans.

It was almost the perfect Eagles game—a thrilling win over a hated opponent that fans can still justifiably complain about for a few days afterward. The only downside is that the Eagles play again Thursday, which means Philadelphia fans don’t get to pull their hair out for a full week. On its own, though, yesterday was the Full Eagles Fan Experience.

Eagles fans moan about everything from announcers to zebras. They do this every week of every season, and even in the offseason, but their complaints happen to be justified this time. The Eagles won, but they played like shit. New England had several chances to win the game and couldn’t punch it in for a game-winning touchdown. That’s a credit to Philadelphia's defense, which was the better side of the ball on Sunday despite leaving the middle of the field as empty as Tom Brady’s crypto wallet.

Also being the best Eagles unit doesn’t mean the defense was good. The line, by far the strongest on Sunday, didn’t get to Pats QB Mac Jones until three minutes remained in the game. The linebackers couldn’t cover anyone. Jones threw for 316 yards, including three touchdowns against a secondary that looked kind of brittle. There was a play on the Patriots’ final drive where Mike Gesicki was just wide open on the sideline for a 17-yard gain. Darius Slay returned a pick 70 yards for a score, which was great. That was the big defensive highlight, and it came 10 minutes into the game. The next 50 minutes were shakier.

And “best” is relative, too, especially when compared to how the Eagles played offensively. They opened the game running plays almost exclusively for Kenneth Gainwell; that drive stalled with a field goal when the Pats were finally able to stop him. Then they scored on a 25-yard drive after a Patriots fumble. The offense wouldn’t get into the end zone again. Their much-hyped line was not great. Jalen Hurts didn’t complete a pass to TE Dallas Goedert and only targeted him once. D’Andre Swift, who cost the Birds a 2025 fourth-rounder in an April trade, had one carry (and two catches for one yard). Their longest play as a team was 23 yards. With a chance to salt the game away after a defensive stop, Hurts lost a fumble in his own territory. With another chance after another defensive stop, the Eagles threw incomplete on fourth down to give New England one last drive. Eagles beat reporter Bo Wulf uses the term “coward’s draw” for a handoff on third-and-long, and the Eagles did that twice! They also ran out the clock to end the first half instead of attempting to get in range for a field goal.

Don’t even get me started on special teams.

This is, I hate to say it, the main reason why I enjoy watching the Eagles. The unbearable feeling that they are going to lose the game can strike at any moment. The Eagles had a 16-0 lead after the first quarter, but by the time Jones hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a first down on third-and-10, midway through the second quarter, I was starting to prepare myself for a crushing defeat. When it was 16-14 at halftime I had texted “Uh oh” to several people. The feeling at the end of the game was relief, not jubilation. These are the best Eagles games—the ones where the team wins, covers the spread even, and I still come out of it thinking and feeling like they lost. I love football, baby. Now to talk to some friends about how much the Eagles suck.

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