Eagles hold off Falcons to open NFL season
The new NFL season kicked off at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday with Sportradar’s Data and Editorial API solutions being used by a host of media to analyse the big issues and talking points. Sportradar Sports Writer John Tuvey also took a look at the opening game of the campaign using Sportradar data as Philadelphia Eagles beat Atlanta Falcons 18-12.
By John Tuvey – Sportradar Sports Writer
Lightning delayed the start of the 2018 NFL season by 45 minutes, and subsequently delayed when the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles finally took the field.
Maybe the lightning that delayed the start of the 2018 NFL season by 45 minutes also ripped a hole in the time/space continuum, because when the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles finally took the field it was deja vu all over again.
When last we saw these two teams, Atlanta was knocking at the door of a game-winning touchdown only to be turned away on a failed fourth-down toss to Julio Jones in a 15-10 Eagles win the divisional round of the 2017 playoffs. Flash forward seven months and the script was almost exactly the same.
There was another trick play, with quarterback Nick Foles catching a pass from wide receiver Nelson Agholor. And there was Matt Ryan, throwing in the vicinity of Juilio Jones with the game on the line. And in the end, there was another Eagles victory, this time by a margin of 18-12.
It took more than 40 minutes of action before either team found the end zone, with Philadelphia breaking the seal behind running back Jay Ajayi’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. The Falcons responded by turning an interception into a 9-yard Tevin Coleman touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, but Matt Bryant’s extra point attempt doinked off the right upright to leave Atlanta with a 2-point lead.
With five minutes remaining in regulation the Eagles took over near midfield; eight plays later Ajayi scored his second touchdown of the evening from 11 yards out. Ajayi added a 2-point conversion to provide a six-point advantage that proved to be the final margin.
Like the 2017 playoff game, the Falcons were mere yards from a winning score but could not seal the deal. And like before, Ryan’s toss to Jones was just offline enough for Atlanta to come up short.
Red zone failures aside, Jones provided the bulk of Atlanta’s offense with 10 catches for 169 yards–a number that could have been even gaudier were Ryan more accurate or the officials more aware of what constitutes a catch in the NFL. The much-maligned rule reared its ugly head yet again as Jones hauled in a 51-yard completion but was ruled out of bounds despite replays showing otherwise. Add in Jones’ 11-yard run on an end-around and he accounted for 180 yards–more than 60 percent of his team’s total yardage
Ryan completed fewer than half his passes on the evening, with 19 of his 39 attempts directed at Jones. He was sacked four times and absorbed 13 more hits while compiling a passer rating of just 57.4. His miscommunication with Jones on a throw near the goal line resulted in an interception—one of three point-less visits the Falcons made to the red zone.
Conversely, the Eagles crossed midfield on just three of their 11 drives—but recorded points each time they visited Atlanta’s side of the field. Jay Ajayi provided the bulk of the production, carrying 15 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns as well as a successful 2-point conversion. All but 11 of those yards came in the second half of a game that was just 6-3 in Atlanta’s favor at halftime.
For the game, the Eagles generated just 232 yards of offense, led by Ajayi’s 52 and Agholor’s 49 yards from scrimmage plus the 15-yard completion to Foles. Tight end Zach Ertz added 48 yards on five catches despite a pair of uncharacteristic drops in a game that was slowed by 26 penalties setting the teams back a combined 236 yards.
So the 2018 NFL season begins much like 2017 ended: with a futile Falcons’ goal line toss, no consensus as to what constitutes a catch, and the Eagles pulling out a victory behind a trick play, a backup quarterback and an aggressive coach. Just 255 more games—plus the playoffs—before we know how precisely history will repeat itself.