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Week 1 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 12, Philadelphia Eagles 18

What you need to know

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s red zone woes from last year carried over to this game. The offense failed to execute on consecutive first and goal series in the red zone and came away with only three points and Julio Jones failed to make a play on a red zone fade with one second left that would have been the game winner. Devonta Freeman missed the second half of the fourth quarter with a knee that he couldn’t get loose. Atlanta was earning good yardage early in the game with interior runs but abandoned these plays for outside runs that didn’t work – especially at pivotal points. Matt Ryan had difficulty throwing the ball accurately over the middle during the first half and his intermediate accuracy dwindled in the second half. By the fourth quarter, Ryan lacked velocity with multiple throws and one of them led to an interception inside the Eagles’ five. Ryan made three critical throws during the two-minute drill to Julio Jones to reach the red zone. However, Jones couldn’t pull down an end zone fade with one second left for the game-winner.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles offense was more of a concern area than the red hot postseason offense seen last season with Nick Foles under center. Jay Ajayi emerged with a decent workload, but his snaps were centralized in the second half as Darren Sproles and Corey Clement were highly involved in the first half. Without Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace was the primary deep threat and Nelson Agholor dominated the short targets. The play-calling was a limiting factor as Nick Foles was managed and rarely took an intermediate or deep shot against the Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 43 - 251 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 8 - 0
Ryan found Julio Jones twice during the first drive with a quick out and a third-down sail route to reach the red zone. He overthrew Devonta Freeman on a shallow route to the right flat on third and one with a yard to go. Ryan extended the second drive with a third-down scramble to the right sideline after overthrowing Mohamed Sanu two plays before—earning field goal range. Ryan found Tevin Coleman on a throwback screen for 26 yards to reach the Eagles 10. Ryan was consistently wide or high on targets over the middle during the first quarter. His throw was well outside Sanu on a route up the left sideline. Ryan was a beat late to Calvin Ridley and nearly picked off late in the half. Ryan found Jones on a double move in the third quarter that could have flipped the field but the official said Jones failed to maintain possession of the ball. On the next play, Ryan committed an intentional grounding penalty. Ryan threw behind Jones on a third down late in the third quarter, forcing another punt. Ryan then threw a poor deep post to Jones that was nowhere near the target. He finished the drive with an interception that he airmailed without velocity to Jones at the left sideline inside the Eagles’ five. Ryan took a third sack during the game and lost the ball in the middle of the fourth quarter after cycling through three progressions. He regained his accuracy inside the two-minute warning on a post to Julio Jones for 36 yards but took a fourth sack with less than two minutes left. He then found Jones for another 18 yards while taking a hit. He took the fifth sack in this game while in the red zone, which forced a third down with 30 seconds left.

RB Tevin Coleman, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 19 - 1, Rec: 1 - 26 - 0 (2 targets)
He earned a quick five yards up the middle to begin the second series. Coleman failed to cut back inside on a toss play once he reached the edge and was forced to the sideline for a loss of three yards on a first-down run in Eagles territory. On the next play, he earned 26 yards on a throwback screen. Coleman earned six yards late in the third quarter around left end nullified by a clipping call. Coleman scored from an I formation run with a nice cut at the second level to take the lead.

RB Devonta Freeman, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 36 - 0, Rec: 3 - 14 - 0 (5 targets)
After Jones earned about 15 yards on an end around, they ran a toss with reverse action to Jones that opened the right side of the field for 20 yards. Two plays later, Ryan threw an RPO high and behind Freeman, resulting in a 3rd and 10. Freeman earned the first red zone carry and spun away from penetration in the crease for a gain of eight to reach the Falcons’ one but stuffed on the next two carries. Ryan then overthrew Freeman at the one on a third-down shallow route and the defense rallied to the left flat to stop Freeman on a fourth-and-goal run to left end. Freeman gave up a sack on a bull rush by the blitzing linebacker on a third down that pushed the Falcons field goal range to a 52 yarder. Freeman earned a swing pass late in the half to set up a third-and-short in-cut that Julio Jones dropped with less than a minute in the half. Freeman suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the game late. He was walking on the knee at the sideline after using a heat wrap.

WR Julio Jones, 57 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0, Rec: 10 - 169 - 0 (19 targets)
Jones began the game with a spot-out for 10 yards against the zone and followed up with an end around where he stiff-armed the safety to reach the sideline for a first down. Four plays later, Ryan found Jones on a wide-open sail route on 3rd and 10 to reach the red zone on the opening drive. Jones dropped a pass over the middle to begin the third series. The ball arrived a little behind Jones. Jones caught a comeback to begin Atlanta’s fourth series. Jones had to wait on a sideline route during a two-minute drill. He dropped a third-and-short in-cut that bounced off his chest in tight coverage late in the half and it led to a punt. Jones dropped a deep route up the sideline that was subject to one of those minutiae rulings that frustrate coaches, players, and fans alike. Jones ran a beautiful post during the two-minute drill for a 36-yard gain and then an 18-yard gain on an out for a first down. With one second left, Jones misplayed the fade route and couldn’t stay in bounds. Most fans will believe it was a bad throw but it was a bad attack of a fade route. Receivers are supposed to jump towards the ball and the ball wasn’t too high for Jones to attack with a leap straight up.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 18 - 0 (6 targets)
Ryan was wide of Sanu on a pass to the left intermediate hash to begin the second series. Sanu converted a third down in the red zone on an in-cut to make a catch over the middle.

WR Calvin Ridley, 46 offensive snaps (2 targets)
Ridley dropped his first target on a hitch in the middle of the field when the Eagles defense hit him in the back. Ryan didn’t go back to him for the rest of the contest.

TE Austin Hooper, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (4 targets)
He earned four on a low-and-away throw in the red zone off a bootleg left. A defender trailing a route outside of Hooper collided with the tight end within five yards of the line of scrimmage and threw off the timing of a third-down red zone pass to force a field goal to finish the second offensive series. Hooper earned 15 yards on a play-action crossing route. He earned a hitch route in the two-minute drill.

TE Eric Saubert, 13 offensive snaps (1 targets)
The tight end dropped a third-down route over the middle late in the third quarter after taking a hit in the back by the safety, leading to another punt. Saubert committed a facemask of Darren Sproles late in the game on a punt return that gave the Eagles strong starting field position..

Philadelphia Eagles

QB Nick Foles, 72 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 34 - 117 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (1 targets)
With Carson Wentz still recovering from his knee injury, Nick Foles drew the start to open the Eagles’ season against Atlanta. There was a clear game plan for conservative play calling. It was a clunky start for Foles and the passing game with two empty drives including a bobbled snap which thwarted a third down attempt. Without Alshon Jeffery, an occasional deep shot to Mike Wallace was the lone opportunity down the field for Foles. In terms of accuracy, Foles was off-target often this week, highlighted by missing a wide open Zach Ertz on a third down out route and being late on a deep crossing route, which should have been an interception if not for a drop from the defensive back. Foles highlight recalled a moment from their Super Bowl victory, the ‘Philly Special’, as Foles caught a third down pass from Nelson Agholor on a reverse to convert.

RB Jay Ajayi, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 62 - 2
Ajayi ended up with a decent snap share (39%), but most of his usage came in the second half. Over the first two quarters the Eagles’ rotation was firmly Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. Ajayi’s lone contribution in the first half was a broken tackle off a spin move for nine yards. In the second half, however, Ajayi dominated the backfield and looked like a feature back. Ajayi nearly broke a long run, but stumbled in the hole after less than 10 yards, a missed opportunity for a big gain. Ajayi’s two touchdowns both came in the second half and breaking tackles in the red zone.

RB Darren Sproles, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 10 - 0, Rec: 4 - 22 - 0 (7 targets)
Sproles’ season debut at 35 years old was an impressive one with a strong share of the snaps in the first half. Jay Ajayi shifted to prominence in the second half, but Sproles saw primary snaps, plus the two-minute drill over the opening 30 minutes. Sproles had a touchdown opportunity with a goal line toss, but was tackled at the one-yard-line. Sproles also broke a tackle on a third down reception for a key conversion in the closing minutes. The Eagles ultimately scored the game-winning touchdown on the drive. Sproles was an uncharacteristic disappointment in the passing game with a drop and being covered easily on multiple short routes.

RB Corey Clement, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 26 - 0
Clement was mixed in with Darren Sproles as the primary running backs for the Eagles in the first half against Atlanta. Clement had a rough outing, however as he saw minimal holes created by the offensive line and regular penetration stopped his runs before they started. In the second half, Jay Ajayi took over with most of the snaps and Clement saw minimal time on the field. On one of his few opportunities, Clement exploited a huge interior hole on third-and-short for a long gain and setting the Eagles up in the red zone.

WR Nelson Agholor, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 15 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 16 - 0, Rec: 8 - 33 - 0 (10 targets)
Agholor rarely left the field for the Eagles with Alshon Jeffery out against the Falcons. Agholor was the featured receiver, but his routes and targets were centered on routes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Agholor had more success as a runner and passer in the game than impact plays as a receiver. Agholor had a solid run on a third down toss play and threw to Nick Foles on a third down reverse successfully. While Agholor’s volume was solid with Jeffery inactive, it was clear Agholor will be used in ways to maximize his yards-after-catch ability more than downfield.

WR Mike Wallace, 66 offensive snaps (3 targets)
Without Alshon Jeffery in the lineup, Wallace saw the second-most snaps for Eagles wide receivers to Nelson Agholor. Wallace’s skill set down the field, however, did not mesh with the Eagles’ game plan focusing on short routes and minimal risk. Wallace had three deep targets all denied by double coverage or poor throws by Nick Foles. Wallace’s highlight beyond the box score was drawing a defensive pass interference penalty on third down in field goal range.

TE Zach Ertz, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 48 - 0 (10 targets)
Ertz rarely left the field against the Falcons and played a good amount of snaps as a split out receiver. Ertz had only two of his targets in the first half and his lone reception was a third-and-long catch well short of the first down marker. Ertz saw more volume in the second half as the Eagles offense as a whole improved their play. However, Ertz logged three drops and drew an offensive pass interference penalty running a pick play. Also notable is rookie tight end Dallas Goedert did see situational snaps, including an end zone target on a fade route.

TE Dallas Goedert, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (3 targets)
While Goedert’s aggregate snap count was low (24%), Goedert did see three targets, including an end zone fade route. Goedert corralled the target in a contested situation, but was out of bounds when he landed. Goedert nearly made another contested catch down the seam, but a big hit jarred the ball into the air for an interception in the second half.