Eagles hold off Falcons to begin title defense

Justin GreeneSep 10, 2018

Later, the "Philly Special" returned to help catapult Philadelphia past the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 in the NFL's 2018 regular-season opener. For at least the first week, it carried the weight as Pederson's offense struggled to get on track.

Jay Ajayi's second rushing touchdown, an 11-yard rumble, gave the Eagles the lead with 2:25 remaining, after Darren Sproles converted a third-and-8 on a 9-yard pass from Ryan and Corey Clement had a 21-yard run earlier in the drive.

The first half was delayed by 45 minutes due to the weather and ended 6-3 to Atlanta thanks to two Matt Bryant field goals. "We knew coming in this was going to be a good matchup defensively, offensively and all in different areas but that part of our game clearly tonight we didn't execute at the level we'd like and we've got work to do". If Matt Ryan could actually complete a touchdown pass in the red zone, Johnson probably would've been singing a different tune.

The only thing worse than the odd lack of arm strength on Ryan's passes was the red zone play-calling and execution. Sarkisian was heavily criticized previous year for not having Jones, a two-time All-Pro, dialed in more often as Ryan's No. 1 option inside the opponents' 20.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian spent the offseason, training camp and preseason fine-tuning an Atlanta offense that's expected to be elite in his second year. Jones only had three TD catches last season. The Falcons could not find the end zone in three ties and when head coach Dan Quinn chose to go for it on fourth down, Devonta Freeman was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. They were doing it all night (Jones was targeted 19 times and had 10 catches for 169 yards). LS Josh Harris had his streak of 103 consecutive games played end because of a hip injury.

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