FOXBORO — There’s no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL, or at least there’s no column for it in the standings, but wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was encouraged by the Patriots’ performance after their 25-20 loss to the Eagles in Week 1.
Facing a 16-0 deficit early in the game, the Patriots did bounce back against the reigning NFC champions even if ultimately it was not enough in the end.
“We definitely feel like we can play with any team,” Bourne said. “Just keep improving every day, not feeling like we arrived. Just playing our game, playing within the scheme and just making the plays when they come. I think that will make us better.”
Bourne had an eventful game. He caught six passes on 11 targets for 64 yards with two touchdowns, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. An errant pass from quarterback Mac Jones hit Bourne in the hands as he was leaping and adjusting for the ball in midair midway through the first quarter. The ball fell to Darius Slay, and the Eagles cornerback took it back for a 70-yard pick-six touchdown.
“Just react faster,” Bourne said when asked if there was anything he could have done differently on the play. “Bat the ball down, I’m not sure. But it’s good to go through adversity, testing us. We’re tested in a tough situation. I think we responded well.”
Jones and Bourne didn’t connect on the wide receiver’s first three targets. Their connection later put the Patriots in position to come back with the two touchdown hookups, one a 19-yard score late in the first half, and the other an 11-yard completion with 3:37 left in the game.
The Patriots had two more chances to score late in the game but came up short with two turnover on downs.
Jones targeted Bourne on third-and-12 trailing by five points with 2:29 left in the game. The pass, which fell incomplete, was credited as a breakup by Slay, but Bourne put the blame on himself.
“A drop, honestly man,” Bourne said. “I gotta make the catch. Tough catches, I pride myself on making tough catches. Pretty bummed about that one. I want to show up for my team in all areas. Touchdowns are cool and everything’s cool, but a big play like that would have changed the momentum even more.”
The Patriots had a delay of game on the next play, and Jones threw incomplete to tight end Hunter Henry on fourth-and-17.
Jones praised Bourne after the game.
“I know that’s my go-to guy,” Jones said.
The Patriots were 1-of-4 on fourth down. One of those attempts came on fourth-and-3 with 9:39 left in the contest down 22-14 on the Eagles’ 34-yard line. The Patriots went for it on fourth down rather than kicking a 34-yard field goal.
Bourne was just happy that the Patriots were taking risks at all, and he believes the team will perform better on those plays in the future.
“It’s cool that we’re going for it on fourth down,” Bourne said. “It shows our confidence. I like that. I think it puts pressure on the other team. Like ‘these guys are confident they’ll get it.’ I think we’ll do better in our next situations.”
It’s fine to be encouraged after barely losing to a very good team in the Eagles. But at some point, the Patriots need to turn moral victories into actual wins.