PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For all of their talk about turning the page on the 2017 Super Bowl season, it sure didn’t look it for the Eagles on Thursday night.
They did a heck of an imitation of 2017 when they opened the NFL season by unveiling the Super Bowl championship banner, then unveiled a cousin to the “Philly Special” that seemed to ignite a dormant offense out of its doldrums, then held off the Atlanta Falcons in the same end of the field that they won the divisional round playoff game last season. Doug Pederson announced in press conference after game the “Philly Philly” play was the same play the Patriots tried to pull in the Super Bowl, but failed.
Once Nick Foles hauled in Nelson Agholor’s 15-yard rainbow down the sideline in the third quarter, the Eagles and Lincoln Financial Field came alive—and just in time.
An offense that produced a mere 68 yards in the first half, for an average of 2.2 yards a play, sprang to life and 2018 Eagles looked somewhat like the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles in an ugly 18-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
It was a game of hot potato: What team could out-mistake the other. They combined to commit 26 penalties for 236 yards, three turnovers, a missed extra point, and two skittish quarterbacks that looked uncertain every time they threw a pass.
Fortunately, the Eagles’ defense prevailed in the end.
They pressured Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan into making some pretty bad throws all night. Ryan finished completing 21 of 43 for 251 yards and was sacked four times for minus-26 yards.
Foles didn’t look much better. The Super Bowl MVP was a pedestrian 19 of 34 for 117 yards and an interception that wasn’t really his fault.
In the waning seconds, at the same end of the field where last year’s divisional round playoff game ended, the Falcons couldn’t finish again—thanks in large part to the pressure by Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Jordan Hicks, Brandon Graham and Chris Long.
Left guard Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Jason Peters combining to open a gaping hole for Corey Clement’s 21-yard fourth quarter run, which set up Jay Ajayi’s game-winning 11-yard touchdown run with 2:19 to play.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas’ interception at the Eagles’ 4-yard line with 12:58 to play. The Falcons had just picked up a fumble on a blunder by Tre Sullivan that gave them possession late in the third quarter in Eagles’ territory.
Defensive end Chris Long’s 8-yard sack and forced fumble with less than 6 minutes to play. Long later came up with a 7-yard sack on the Falcons’ final drive.
Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s stop on Devonta Freeman on the Falcons’ initial drive for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the Eagles’ 1.
Cornerback Ronald Darby’s work on Julio Jones. The corner, who is in his contract year, made three tackles in the first half and was all over the field. It also included tackling Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman for a 3-yard loss on the Falcons’ second possession.
Defensive end Brandon Graham helped set up the Eagles’ first points of the season with a 7-yard sack and a 3-yard tackle for a loss on the Falcons’ third possession.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks’ 9-yard sack on the Falcons’ fourth drive at the Eagles’ 34.
Receiver Nelson Agholor being a bright spot in what was otherwise a dismal first-half offense that averaged 2.2 yards per play in the first half. He finished with a team-high eight catches for 33 yards.
Punter Cameron Johnston did well, averaging 54 yards a punt. His 58-yard punt pinned the Falcons deep in their own end late in the first half.
Kicker Jake Elliott’s 26-yard field goal that tied the score at 3-3 in the second quarter. It was the only semblance of offense the Eagles were able to produce in their first two quarters of the 2018 season.
Agholor’s 15-yard completion to Nick Foles in the third quarter, which placed the Eagles at the Atlanta 26. At the time, it was longest completion of the game for the Eagles. It set up the Eagles’ first touchdown of the season, and gave them their first lead, 10-6, when Jay Ajayi scored from a yard out with 4:37 left in the third quarter.
Safety Rodney McLeod missing Julio Jones on a first-quarter 11-yard end around. McLeod later dropped an interception thrown in his hands later in the first half.
Tight end Dallas Goedert’s inability to hang on to the ball that resulted in a Deion Jones interception with 10:35 to play. It led to Tevin Coleman’s 9-yard scoring run with 9:48 remaining.
Safety Tre Sullivan kicking the ball late in the third quarter on a punt return, which gave the Falcons possession at the Eagles’ 32. While all of the other Eagles ran from the ball, Sullivan had no idea where the ball was. Sullivan can thank Rasul Douglas for bailing him out with a crucial interception at the Eagles’ 4 with 12:58 left to play.
Tight end Zach Ertz being called for offensive pass interference after Foles hit Agholor for a 10-yard gain and a first down on a third-and-four at the Eagles’ 31 with 8:31 to play.
Defensive end Derek Barnett’s two penalties lining up in the neutral zone that wiped out sacks by Chris Long in the first half and Fletcher Cox’s 8-yard sack on the first play of the fourth quarter on a third-and-five.
Center Jason Kelce’s holding call on first-and-goal at the Atlanta 9 on the Eagles’ third possession. The Eagles had to settle for a Jake Elliott 26-yard field goal.
Rookie defensive back Avonte Maddox being called for two special-teams’ penalties in the first half.
Linebacker Nate Gerry’s personal foul penalty in the third quarter on the ensuing kickoff after the Eagles took a 10-6 lead.
The Eagles’ 68 yards of total offense in the first half.