The first half of Thursday’s NFL season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles was incredibly boring. The Falcons took a 6-3 lead into halftime, and Eagles fans even booed their own team for the ugly performance (shortly after the defending champion Eagles unveiled their first Super Bowl banner in franchise history; that’s sooo Philly).
In the second half, things picked up a bit. The Eagles brought out the Philly Special 2.0 with Nelson Agholor playing the role of Trey Burton this time around.
Nice throw @nelsonagholor 🤙🏾
— Trey Burton (@TreyBurton8) September 7, 2018
That drive ended with the game’s — and the 2018 NFL season’s — first touchdown, on this Jay Ajayi run:
Yes, the game’s first touchdown didn’t come until the third quarter was almost over.
After Matt Ryan and Nick Foles traded interceptions, the Falcons took advantage of a short field and got their first — and only — touchdown of the game on this nine-yard run from Tevin Coleman:
The Falcons maintained a 12-10 lead deep into the fourth quarter, until the powerful Jay Ajayi found the end zone on a carry from 11 yards out to put the Eagles out in front, 18-12 (Ajayi added a two-point conversion to get the Eagles to 18).
The quarterback play in this game was brutal. Nick Foles — starting in place of Carson Wentz for at least a few weeks, it appears — was 19-of-34 for 117 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception for the Eagles. And Matt Ryan was 21-of-43 for 251 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception for the Falcons, with the final drive particularly being ugly.
While the Atlanta offensive line certainly deserves some of the blame, Ryan took two inexcusable sacks in the game’s final two minutes, losing seven yards both times. The second sack came when Atlanta had a 2nd-and-1 at the Philadelphia 13-yard line with under a minute left; throw the ball away and it works as a timeout while also having two downs to get one yard in the red zone.
But Ryan was able to still get the Falcons a first down, completing a 3rd-and-8 pass to Mohamed Sanu for 10 yards. The Falcons then got five plays — after an illegal contact ruling on the Eagles with one second left — inside the 10-yard line, and were unable to score. On the illegal contact play, Ryan was bailed out by the Eagles after overshooting Julio Jones in the back of the end zone.
And on the final play, Ryan completed a pass to Jones, but Jones’ feet landed out of bounds on the left side of the end zone. Sure, *maybe* Jones could’ve found a way to keep his feet, but it’s an incredibly difficult play with the location of the pass. You have to give the receiver a better chance to make a play here:
Oh, and the interception Ryan threw? That was in the red zone.
Matt Ryan's pass is PICKED.
— NFL (@NFL) September 7, 2018
How Twitter reacted to Ryan’s night:
Matt Ryan Red Zone Passing Thursday
0-3, Int targeting Julio Jones
Matt Ryan is 1-20 targeting Jones in the end zone the last 2 seasons including playoffs. pic.twitter.com/yOsqHvsi0D
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 7, 2018
Incredible stat from my guy @bdstats:
Matt Ryan has completed one of his last 20 targets to Julio Jones in the Red Zone over the last two seasons, including postseason
— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) September 7, 2018
Yeah but give Matt Ryan maybe 19 more shots at the end zone and I bet he completes one.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) September 7, 2018
Gotta say, Matt Ryan had five tries inside the 10 on that possession and I'm not sure he made one good throw.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 7, 2018
Matt Ryan basically threw four uncatchable passes lol
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) September 7, 2018
Matt Ryan made some bad throws tonight in critical situations, especially the last play to Julio. The QB must keep the ball in play to give the WR a chance to make a play. Julio can make those spectacular catches but there was no chance of him making a play on that last throw.
— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) September 7, 2018
Matt Ryan is Blake Bortles with a Julio Jones
— Evan Sowards (@EvanSowards) September 7, 2018
So, the Eagles came away with an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. They have an excellent chance to start at least 3-0, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (without Jameis Winston) and Indianapolis Colts next up on the schedule.
Things aren’t nearly as favorable for the Falcons, with games against their division rival Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints following this loss. Ryan will certainly need to play much better for the Falcons to get in the win column.