Wentz-less Eagles Found a Way to Take Down Falcons in Season Opener
It wasn't necessarily pretty, but the Philadelphia Eagles used their tough defense and some trickery on offense to eek out a season-opening victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
After a downpour of rain delayed the start of the game, the Eagles took the field without their franchise quarterback and found multiple ways to frustrate the Falcons on both offense and defense.
Nick Foles stepped in at quarterback and didn't exactly look like the Super Bowl MVP from this past February, especially in the early going. Both teams came out sluggish on the offensive side of the ball. With both teams having a recent history of being offensive powerhouses, it's tough to believe they would combine for a total of just nine points at halftime.
On the very first possession of the game, the Falcons were stuffed at the Eagles 1-yard line as running back Devonta Freeman was stopped for a loss on 4th and goal. That set the tone for a defensive battle the entire night on both ends.
The Eagles went three-and-out on their first possession and struggled to move the ball the entire first half. Atlanta responded on their next possession driving deep into Eagles territory, but were stopped at the 3-yard line on 3rd and goal. They would settle for a Matt Bryant 21-yard field goal to open the scoring making it 3-0. That was all for the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Eagles would tie it with their one drive that was able to muster up some points. The Eagles would go 52 yards on 14 plays to set up a Jake Elliott 26-yard field goal to make it 3-3. Atlanta came back on the ensuing drive and was able to move into field goal range for Bryant to kick a 52-yarder to make it a 6-3 game. That was all the scoring for the first half. Exciting stuff.
Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles got a spark on offense from what is now, one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history, the 'Philly Special.' On a crucial 3rd and 5 at the Atlanta 41-yard line, Foles handed off to Jay Ajayi, who then flipped it back to wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who threw on the run back to Foles on the right sideline, hitting him in stride for a 15-yard gain and a first down, which seemed to ignite the Eagles offense. Five plays later, Ajayi scored on a 1-yard run to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead after the extra point.
In the fourth quarter, the Falcons seemed to have a scoring drive in the works as they drove down to the Eagles 15 before Matt Ryan was picked off by Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas on a pass intended for Julio Jones. Philadelphia would turn it over on their next possession when Foles threw an interception to linebacker Deion Jones, who returned it to the Eagles 27-yard line to give Atlanta good field position.
After an 18-yard pass play from Ryan to Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman would score on a 9-yard run giving the Falcons the lead, 12-10 with 9:48 to play. Bryant would miss the extra point. Each team followed with a three-and-out and their respective possessions before the Eagles would get the ball back with just under five minutes remaining.
The Eagles would once again find some magic on offense. Highlighted by a couple of key third-down conversions, Foles led the Eagles on a go-ahead scoring drive. Corey Clement's 21-yard run in Atlanta territory set up Ajayi's second score of the game, this time from 11 yards out. Ajayi would then run in the two-point conversion to make it 18-12 with 2:19 to play.
The Falcons weren't quite done threatening. Ryan went to work with multiple pass plays to J. Jones to get Atlanta down to the Eagles 10-yard line with 23 seconds left. The next four pass plays from Ryan fell incomplete. However, on the fourth attempt, an Eagles penalty gave the Falcons one final chance at the 5-yard line. Just as the Falcons had tried in last year's divisional playoff game against the Eagles, Ryan threw to J. Jones in the corner of the end zone, where it was caught in mid-air, but J. Jones momentum and cornerback Ronald Darby took the receiver out-of-bounds making it incomplete as time expired.
Foles finished 19 of 34 for 117 yards and an interception. Ryan was 21 of 43 for 251 yards and an interception for the Falcons. Ajayi ran for 62 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. J. Jones had 169 receiving yards on 10 catches in a losing cause.
The Eagles (1-0) will play next Sunday (September 16) in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers. It's likely that Carson Wentz will not play during Week 2.