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Consecutive wins for Saints, who host Eagles on Sunday

Worth the Wait

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 6

Eagles fans could be forgiven for having a sense of déjà vu.

The Falcons had penetrated deep into Eagles territory. On the final play of a low-scoring game, Matt Ryan lofts the ball to receiver extraordinaire Julio Jones along the sideline in the end zone.

Unlike last season’s playoff victory, Jones came down cleanly with this pass. But he came down out of bounds, so the Eagles escaped with an 18-12 triumph in their season opener.

The ending turned out to be worth the wait. Fans at Lincoln Financial Field had to sit through a 45-minute delay at the start of the game due to a rainstorm. They also had to endure a dreadful first half, with the Falcons taking a 6-3 lead into halftime, before experiencing the thrilling finish.

As was the case with their 15-10 victory over the Falcons in the first step of their postseason journey last season, Thursday’s win was hardly a masterpiece. But, unlike figure skating, the NFL doesn’t award style points. All that matters is that you score more points than the other team.

The Eagles had great difficulty producing points during the first half. The first team offense didn’t look much better than it did during the preseason, when it failed to score a point. Fortunately, the defense kept the Eagles in the game until the offense could find a rhythm.

Philly Special

The offense found a spark with a familiar play. On the night when the Super Bowl championship banner was unveiled, the Eagles gained momentum during the third quarter with another Philly Special. This time it wasn’t a direct snap to Corey Clement, and Clement flipped the ball to Nelson Agholor instead of Trey Burton, but the pass still ended up in the hands of Nick Foles on the right side of the field. The play gained 15 yards instead of a touchdown, but the revival of that Super Bowl highlight seemed to energize the Eagles and the crowd.

Five plays later, with 4:37 remaining in the third quarter, Jay Ajayi scored the Eagles’ first touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run. Actually, thanks to the Eagles defense, it was the first touchdown of the NFL season.

The Falcons came right down the field on their first possession. They reached the 1-yard line on a 5-yard run by Devonta Freeman. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had a tremendous game, stuffed Freeman at the line of scrimmage on second down. A third-down pass fell incomplete. The Falcons decided to go for it on fourth down, only to have linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, with some help from a pursuing Jordan Hicks, stop Freeman for a 1-yard loss.

Surviving mistakes

Another Falcons threat was set up by a bonehead play by Tre Sullivan, who got too close to a rolling football during a punt return, allowing the Falcons to push him into the ball and then recover it at the 25-yard line. The Falcons advanced to the 5, with the aid of a third-down penalty on second-year defensive end Derek Barnett for lining up in the neutral zone. The Eagles survived those two mistakes because Rasul Douglas picked off an underthrown ball by Ryan inside the 5-yard line.

The Falcons also shot themselves in the foot with 15 penalties for 135 yards. The Eagles were nearly as bad, committing 11 penalties for 101 yards.

The Falcons finally found the end zone on Tevin Coleman’s 9-yard touchdown run up the middle with 9:48 remaining in regulation. The touchdown put the Falcons ahead, 12-10, but Matt Bryant bounced the extra point off the right goalpost.

The Falcons didn’t have to go far for their touchdown. The two-play drive was set up by Deion Jones’ interception return after Damontae Kazee jarred the ball loose from rookie tight end Dallas Goedert with a big hit.

The defense pressured Ryan throughout the game. The steam was fully turned up during the fourth quarter.

Foles all right

Foles, starting in place of Carson Wentz, faced a lot of pressure during the second half. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 117 yards, which is nothing to write home about, but he was considerably better than he was during the preseason. With NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting that Wentz could miss as much as a month, Foles is the likely starter against the Bucs on Sept. 16 and possibly the following Sunday against the Colts.

Foles’ favorite target was Agholor, but Agholor’s eight receptions only accumulated 33 yards. Tight end Zach Ertz gained more yards (48) on five catches.

Ajayi scored two touchdowns, incuding the game-winning touchdown on an 11-yard run to the left side with 2:19 remaining. He finished with a game-high 62 yards on 15 carries.

The offensive star of the game was the Falcons’ Jones, who caught 10 passes for 169 yards. His 33-yard reception at the two-minute warning advanced the ball to the Eagles 33. Three plays later, with the Falcons facing third-and-17 at the 40, Jones caught an 18-yard pass from Ryan, who was under pressure from Chris Long, for a first down.

But Jones couldn’t come down inbounds with the pass that would have put the Falcons within an extra point of victory.

For Eagles fans, it was a welcome sense of déjà vu.

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