Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season began with the defending champions the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Atlanta Falcons, a rematch of the 2017 NFC Divisional match up.
Phillys own BoyzIImen had the honour of singing the national anthem. Having won the toss, the Eagles elected to defer and gave the Falcons the first opportunity to put points on the board. Matt Ryan opened the drive targeting his favourite receiver, Julio Jones, on several completed passes, taking them all the way down to first and goal within the first two minutes of the opening quarter. Falcons Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian decided to go for it on fourth and goal, denied, a decision which would inevitably cost the Falcons the game.
With Carson Wentz still not 100% game ready it was left to the 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to pick up where he left off last year. A quick three and out was not the result Foles nor the Eagles were looking for.
Having already shut down the Sarkisian steam train on the opening drive, the Eagles defence would once again hold the Falcons to fourth and goal. This time kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 21-yard field goal. The two teams then exchanged punts as the first quarter came to an end.
The second quarter began with Foles and company taking just over eight minutes off the clock which ended with a 26-yard Jake Elliott field goal. By this stage in the game there had been more penalties than points and surprisingly not one of them was for the new helmet rule. Another Matt Bryant field goal (fifty-two yards) would see the first half end with the Falcons holding a narrow lead over the reigning Super Bowl champs.
The third quarter produced the ‘Philly special’, this time it was Nelson Agholor who threw a dime to Foles for fifteen yards and a first down.
The first touchdown of the season followed, and it was London born Jay Ajayi who ploughed in from the 1-yard line, Eagles were now up 10-6.
Penalties and punts had been the order of the day until the first turnover of the game came when Ryan tried to find Jones in the corner of the end zone only for Rasul Douglas to jump the route and pick off the frustrated Ryan.
The fourth quarter started the same way as the third had ended although it was Foles turn to be intercepted. Trying to find his Tight End, Dallas Goedert, Foles threw a perfect ball but a big hit from Damontae Kazee knocked the ball up in the air and in stepped Deion Jones to get the ball back for Atlanta.
Just outside the Red Zone, Ryan found the relentless Jones just inside in the 10-yard line. Tevin Coleman went over to give the Falcons the lead but Matt Bryant would miss the extra point. With just over two minutes left it was that man Ajayi who would rumble his way in for an 11-yard score, putting the Eagles up 18-12.
This had the feel of the 2017 NFC Divisional game all over again. Similar score line with the Falcons needed a touchdown to win it. Kicking a touchback meant Ryan had to go seventy-five yards for the score. sixty-three yards from the impressive Jones had them back in the Red Zone within a minute.
Having easily sliced through a stout but tired Eagles defence the Falcons once again came up short. They had four attempts from inside the 10-yard line to find a touchdown which would have left them an extra point from a victory, but it wasn’t to be. Eagles win! Perhaps not a deserving victory given the missed opportunities that the Falcons had in the Red Zone but that’s on Head Coach Dan Quinn and Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian with that fourth and goal call.