During the playoffs last season, the Atlanta Falcons had no red zone offense to speak off against the Philadelphia Eagles which led to them being knocked out. In the 2018 National Football League season opener, those same issued came back to haunt the Falcons as they lost 12-18 to the Eagles.
Slow starts by both teams lead to no touchdowns in the first half
Both sides had to wait for an extra 30 minutes before kick off due to a thunderstorm in Philadelphia and that delay did not help the rhythm of either team. By the time the clock ran out, fans and neutrals alike had witnessed three field goals and 16 penalties from both teams. In short, it was terrible viewing for anyone who enjoys the game.
The Falcons were able to move the ball well in between the sticks but once they reached the red zone, it seemed as though nothing would work. On the first drive of the game, Matt Ryan marched his offense down the field until about four or five yards outside of the red zone. The Falcons could not find the end zone in three ties and when head coach Dan Quinn decided to go for it on fourth down, Devonta Freeman was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. The Falcons also hoped to get Julio Jones involved in play as much as possible and it worked between the sticks but when he was targeted just three times in the end zone, Ryan and Jones could not connect.
The Eagles fared slightly worse than the Falcons. Nick Foles started the game as Carson Wentz is still not quite ready yet and the Super Bowl MVP took a long time to get going. Without Alshon Jeffery to stretch the field, who had been ruled out due to injury, Foles was forced to make short yardage passes as the Falcons zone marked well. The running game was almost non-existent for the Eagles as well. Neither Jay Ajayi, Chris Clement nor Darren Sproles were able to break the Atlanta defense and the Eagles were forced to punt more often than not in the first half.
Trick plays and turnovers open up the game
With both offenses stuttering in the face of some very strong work by the defenses, it would need something special to break open the game for either side. The first break for the Eagles came in the third quarter when Jones' catch was ruled incomplete as the Falcons were beginning to find their footing in the game. That call by the referees seemed to take the air out of the Falcons and the Eagles capitalized. With the Falcons reeling, Doug Pederson called up a trick play that resulted in Nelson Agholor finding Nick Foles with a pass similar to what Philadelphia had pulled off in the Super Bowl. With the end zone in sight, Ajayi run for one yard and gave the game it's first touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Atlanta thought that the tide had turned in their favour as they recovered a punt after an Eagles player had touched the ball, only for Matt Ryan to be picked off by Rasul Douglas near the end zone as the Falcons quarterback tried to find Julio Jones. With the Eagles looking to score on the turnover, Deion Jones was the fortunate recipient of a loose catch by rookie tight end Dallas Goedert and the Atlanta got the ball back quickly. The Falcons moved down the field again and this time, got the touchdown as Tevin Coleman picked his way through the Eagles defense for a nine yard touchdown run. Matt Bryant missed the ensuing PAT and that would come back to haunt the Falcons as the Eagles rushing game came to the fore and ended in another Ajayi touchdown.
With the game on the line, Ryan moved the Falcons offense easily down the field once again but the red zone problems reared their head one last time as the Falcons could not not convert. The final play of the game underlined this as Ryan found Jones in the end zone but his pass was too high for the wide receiver to bring in inbounds, leaving the Eagles as the victors after a bad day at the office for the offenses.