Things looked pretty grim for the Eagles at halftime.
Trailing 20-3 and with the Falcons opening the third quarter with the football, it appeared as though the Eagles were well on their way to an embarrassing letdown.
However, the momentum changed early in the second half. The Eagles received a gift on a terrible throw by Matt Ryan which was intercepted by Walter Thurmond and returned deep into Atlanta territory to set up an easy touchdown.
The Eagles offense woke up after that really started to look like the group fans thought they were going to see. They engineered a 13-play, 97-yard drive that resulted in a score, and then briefly took the lead with a 60-yard touchdown drive.
However, the Eagles would run out of steam in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The defense broke down and allowed one more field goal in the fourth quarter, and the Philadelphia offense would stall, leading to a missed field goal by Cody Parkey.
Slow Offensive Start Dooms Eagles
Chip Kelly’s vaunted offense had no problem moving the football and putting up points against the vanilla defenses of the preseason.
However, when the curtain was pulled back to start the 2015 season, Kelly’s offense fell flat on its face to start the game. There were mental mistakes, predictable playcalling, resulting in a sputtering offense that generated two more punts (5) than they had points (3) in the first half.
The entire Eagles offense looked sloppy. There numerous instances where receivers just weren’t ready for Sam Bradford’s passes and weren’t even looking for the ball when Bradford released it. Josh Huff, Nelson Agholor, and even Jordan Matthews were all guilty of this in the first half alone.
DeMarco Murray went into halftime with four carries for -4 yards. Ryan Mathews didn’t receive a carry, but was responsible for one of the most egregious plays of the first half when he dropped an easy pass from Bradford. It was a completely inexcusable drop, Matthews had an open field in front of him and was uncovered, but instead dropped a pass and forced the Eagles into a situation where they had to go for it on a fourth and 1.
The Eagles were able to overcome Mathews’ mistake and extend the drive, but would later stall and be forced to settle for a field goal.
Then Bradford made a terrible throw under pressure before the end of the half, and tossed the Falcons an easy interception that the Falcons converted into another touchdown to go up 20-3 at the half. Throughout the night, Bradford had only been attempting short and intermediate passes, and Atlanta began to clamp down on him. With the pass rush in his face, Bradford rushed a throw and put it right in the arms of the defense.
The Eagles offense came back to life in the second half, but the damage done in the first half proved to be too much for the Eagles to overcome.
Bizarre Defensive Gameplan By Billy Davis
If there was one element of this coaching staff that most Eagles’ fans were concerned about going into the year, it was whether or not Billy Davis is the right guy to be pulling the strings of the Birds’ defense.
It didn’t take long for Davis’ defense to make Eagles’ fans groan collectively.
The Eagles allowed Julio Jones and the Atlanta receivers to go unchallenged at the line of scrimmage throughout the night. Davis kept his corners in zone coverage for the majority of the night, and Matt Ryan and the Falcon offense took advantage by picking the Birds apart.
Julio Jones had eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. He capped his first half effort by burning Byron Maxwell for his second score.
What was particularly strange about the defensive gameplan was that Davis didn’t take advantage of the talents of his corners. With guys like Maxwell and Nolan Carroll, the Eagles are equipped to play a lot of press coverage. And instead, Davis had them in a zone that at times didn’t even have a cornerback accounting for Jones, which (sure enough) the Falcons exploited all night long.
Parkey Fails In Clutch, But This Game Had Plenty Of Goats
Cody Parkey missed a clutch field goal at the end of the game that would have given the Eagles the lead, but there was plenty of blame to go around in this game.
Malcolm Jenkins played well and made some big plays, but he really killed this team with his two dropped interceptions. Both drives resulted in Atlanta points, and Jenkins had the opportunity to prevent that and failed.
Byron Maxwell did have a good game, and struggled to do anything about Julio Jones.
The offensive line played very poorly in the first half, and committed numerous penalties throughout the night. Every starter on the line was guilty of at least one penalty, and every lineman except Jason Peters had at least one holding penalty.
- Just eight carries for nine yards for DeMarco Murray. Murray was bottled up early in the game, and while he was able to pick up a couple of redzone touchdowns, it wasn’t a very impressive debut.
- Ryan Mathews wasn’t much more effective in the running game, picking up just four yards on three carries.
- Rough end to the game for Jordan Matthews, who let a ball bounce off of his hands leading to the game-sealing interception. Matthews did record 10 catches for 102 yards.
- Disappointing debut for Nelson Agholor, who was completely invisible in a one-catch effort.
- Nice game for Zach Ertz, who was able to make it back healthy for the opener. Ertz had three grabs for 46 yards, but had a couple of clutch catches that extended key drives.
- I think Chip Kelly made the right decision electing to kick the field goal at the end of the game rather than go for it on fourth down. In that situation, you have to trust your kicker and the defense, take the points and protect the lead.
- Darren Sproles contributed 50 rushing yards and 76 receiving.
- I didn’t like that the passing attack revolved so much around check downs and intermediate routes. The Eagles need to find a way to get the ball downfield and loosen up defenses.
- DeMeco Ryans looked awful tonight. Ryans missed several tackles, that led to some key plays for Atlanta, including the Julio Jones touchdown.
- Malcolm Jenkins ended up being the team’s nickel corner this week, Eric Rowe and E.J. Biggers were active, but only Biggers seemed to get on the field in dime packages.
- With Jenkins playing nickel, Chris Maragos came off of the bench to fill in at safety. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to keep Brandon Boykin?
- Enormous play in the first quarter by Kiko Alonso, who made a spectacular redzone interception to kill an Atlanta drive, take points off of the board, keep the game close, and get some momentum back for the Eagles.
- Fletcher Cox had a strong game to kick off the season. He picked up a sack, and might have had one more with a forced fumble and a turnover if not for a questionable penalty on Kiko Alonso.
- Marcus Smith was inactive tonight.
- Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry were no-shows tonight.
- Seyi Ajirotutu made a nice open-field tackle on Eric Weems during a punt return in the first quarter.
The Eagles can’t afford a slow start, and they let one slip away tonight.
All of the sudden, we’re in must-win territory. As bad as 0-1 looks right now, imagine how much worse things could get if this team doesn’t take down the Dallas Cowboys at home next week?
With Dez Bryant out of action, the Eagles absolutely have to win that game next week.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter @DennyBasens