Deja-Vu! Another 4th and Goal Stop Gives Eagles Opening Night Win
It’s scary just how much the season opener mirrored the NFC Divisional Playoff game last January. A low-scoring, defensive battle that came right down to the wire. Holding a six-point lead with just over two minutes to go, the defense had to overcome one last ferocious drive from the Atlanta Falcons.
Once again, a final throw in the corner of the endzone to Julio Jones fell incomplete, and while this wasn’t a playoff game, this was an enormous win to start the season that could have major playoff implications later in the season.
The defense was challenged early and often, and did a tremendous job keeping the team in the game while the offense struggled.
Jim Schwartz’s group held on a goalline stand to open the game, and held the Falcons to a pair of field goal opportunities on their other scoring chances.
The group gave up their only touchdown on the night after they were spotted a short field by a Nick Foles interception.
The Eagles really overcame a lot in this game.
They committed 11 penalties for over 100 yards. They overcame a flurry of bad mistakes, including a silly turnover on a punt (another mirror image from the playoff game). They overcame playing without key pieces like Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffrey, and Nigel Bradham.
- I thought Doug Pederson leaned too heavily on Darren Sproles in the first half. Sproles took the majority of snaps, and lead the team with six touches in the first half alone, compared to Jay Ajayi’s three and Corey Clement’s 2.
- I was also shocked at how little Pederson used two-tight end sets in the first half. Dallas Goedert only saw the field when the team was in the redzone in the first half, and with the team relying on Shelton Gibson or DeAndre Carter to pick up more snaps, it made it easier for the Falcons to key in on taking Zach Ertz away.
- The scheme got much better in the second half. Ajayi and Clement were much more involved, with Sproles being preserved for some of the game’s biggest moments.
- Pederson gave the team a big spark when he shocked the world (again) by bringing out the Philly Special for an encore, with Nick Foles catching a Nelson Agholor pass for 15 yards. I felt the same shock and joy watching that play unfold that I did during the Super Bowl.
- Foles wasn’t great tonight, but managed the game effectively enough. His lone interception wasn’t his fault, as rookie tight end Dallas Goedert allowed the ball to pop out of his hands. Foles finished the night 19/34 for just 117 yards.
- Foles’ best moment may have been when he changed a play in the fourth quarter, adjusting to a call that sprung Jay Ajayi for his second touchdown of the night.
- Rough night for Zach Ertz, who dropped two catchable balls, one of which killed a drive on third down.
- Nelson Agholor caught eight passes, but gained just 33 yards.
- It’s amazing to watch Darren Sproles. That guy can still play at a high level. He picked up a huge third down late in the game on a short pass, with a defender in front of him, Sproles wouldn’t be denied.
- How great is it to have Jason Peters back at left tackle?
- DeAndre Carter got into the game for several snaps, and caught a pass for 10 yards.
- Great play by Kamu Gruiger-Hill on the 4th and goal stop, fighting off two blockers to get to Devante Freeman to keep the Falcons off of the board.
- Fletcher Cox made a great read recognizing a screen and stopping it for a loss in the first half.
- Rodney McLeod dropped an easy interception late in the second quarter. With scoring opportunities so hard to come by in this one, it was a shame to see a short-field opportunity lost. McLeod did come back to break up a pass in the second half.
- Ronald Darby had a strong game, breaking up two passes, and forcing Julio Jones out of bounds on the final play of the game.
- Jalen Mills is still very prone to getting burned by the deep ball, nearly giving up a 52-yard bomb to Jones.
- Big return for Jordan Hicks, who picked up 1.5 sacks.
- Chris Long chipped in 1.5 sacks of his own, and also forced a fumble from Matt Ryan.
- Rasul Douglas came up with the Eagles’ only turnover, picking off a pass in the second half intended for Jones.
- Great night for Cameron Johnston, who pinned the Falcons down in the first half with a 58-yard punt.
- Shelton Gibson made an unacceptable mistake taking the ball out of the endzone following the kickoff after the second Atlanta field goal. Gibson barely made it to the 10-yard line, and a holding penalty cost the Birds an additional five yards. Gibson’s mistake cost the Eagles 20 yards and made it more difficult for them to have success with that drive.
- Rookie Avante Maddox was flagged twice for special teams penalties in the first half.
- Even more inexcusable was Tre Sullivan, who for some reason refused to get out of the way of a live ball during a punt at the end of the third quarter. The Falcons pushed the young safety into the ball, resulting in a turnover. Expect Sullivan to have played his last game as an Eagle.
Super Bowl hangover? Nah.
The Eagles showed the same fight and character tonight that they had during their Super Bowl run. In spite of everything that went wrong, the team never let adversity get to them, and kept coming out and fighting every play.
Just look at the final sequence of the game. The Eagles had to stop the Falcons on fourth and goal twice because of a silly penalty, but we’re still able to find a way to get it done.
They now start the season with a solid victory against a key opponent in the NFC. They have the benefit of some extra rest before their road trip to Tampa Bay. They can continue to build and improve on what they’ve done so far, and clean up what they did poorly in this one.