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Eagles v. Falcons: 22 winners, losers, and I dunnos

We are all losers for having watched that game

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Goodness, what an offensive viewing experience.

Everything was bad, man. Cameramen and production crews couldn’t find the penalties/talking points to display; commentators couldn’t actually comment on; refs couldn’t keep their dirty paws off of drive- and game-altering calls. Forget about the on-field performance of the teams — everybody was rusty on opening night.

Remember how I said forget about the on-field performance of the teams? Let’s talk about the on-field performance of the teams.


The Philadelphia Eagles

Objectively speaking only.

Fletcher Cox

Fletch was all over the field last night, man. That’s a solid interior offensive line that Atlanta has, and Cox lived in Matt Ryan’s lap for four quarters. Ryan, who had a dreadful night, rarely had a clean throwing platform up into which to step. He was constantly releasing from bad arm angles and without ideal footwork. We have Cox to thank for that. His interior presence collapses so many escape routes that let the defensive ends eat.

Check out Cox’s sack on the night, against an All-Pro in Alex Mack. Using his quickness to attack the snapper and immediately threaten the pocket makes a ton of sense — but it takes great flexibility and body control to get oriented to the quarterback’s set point and make contact before he can step upfield into the space you vacated. That’s special athleticism from the big man.

Jay Ajayi

It took the Jay Train a bit of time to get rumblin’ — apparently he wasn’t feeling great on his foot in the first quarter — but he ended the night with a respectable 62 yards on 15 carries (4.0 YPC), as well as 14 total points (two touchdowns; one 2pt-conversion). I expected around a 20 touch night for Jay, who likely could have gotten closer to that number had he played all four quarters.

Ajayi thrives on defenses like Atlanta’s because he’s just about as big as their backers — but he’s still explosive and quick enough to give them issues in space. The offensive line struggled to clear daylight in the first half, but in the second they opened up more room for Ajayi, who regularly picked up two or three yards after contact. I still predict he takes on bell-cow like snaps for Philly this season.

Darren Sproles

And I expect Sproles to continue offering key situational snaps, as well as change-of-pace looks. Sproles picked up two first downs in memory — of course, with the 3rd and 8 catch, tackle break, and fight for the sticks sticking out as a key play. Sproles offers such dependability for Philadelphia, in that he always seems to gain positive yardage regardless of the situation. It’s nice to have him back.

Ronald Darby

A man looks back to full quickness, let me tell you. I don’t know if they rushed Darby back from his 2017 ankle injury, but there seems to be an added spring in Darby’s step this season. His ability to make plays at the catch point with elite quickness — he is not long at all — shines.

Darby gave up a healthy amount of yardage to Julio Jones on those deep outs/comebacks he runs so well, but that’s okay. Most corners in the league can’t do as well of a job as Darby did, and I’m sure Jim Schwartz would ask more of his pass rush on those particular reps. That blown 3rd and 18 was really quite poor; the 4th and goal stop maybe made up for it.

Kamu Grugier-Hill

Ka-MUUUUUUUUUUU had himself a great night folks! Many will remember the 4th and goal stop early in the game — what a key stop that became! — and rightfully so. Kamu fought tooth and nail to maintain the edge, which is key when the corner pylon is so accessible for the running back. He turned the runner back into help and eventually even got in on the stop. That’s a disciplined, physical play.

But all night long, Kamu was very aggressive flowing downhill to take on blockers before they reached the second level, and he showed excellent flexibility in his frame to make plays through tough angles. He’s a disruptive, downhill player who I think offers more as a blitzer than Mychal Kendricks ever did. What a great growth process for the young player.

Rasul Douglas

Intercept a football; get called a winner. This ain’t hard.

Cameron Johnston

Big Boot Johnston had himself a debut, folks! And with Donnie Jones (s/o Bag o’ Bones) on the sideline and everything!

He averaged over 50 yards a punt and hit a long of 65 — both don’t include a net 70+ yard punt that was called back due to offsetting penalties. He widely had nice hang time to allow for coverage to swarm and put two good balls inside of the 20, one of which trickled into the end zone for a touchback. I believe there was another fair catch right outside of the 20 as well. And hey, in a game like tonight, field position mattered a ton.

Doug Pederson

Doug’s always a winner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give him a pat on the back. Doug made some clutch play calls down the stretch, using unique play calls/sets late that worked nicely off of how he’d been attacking the Falcons’ defense up to that point. That last touchdown drive, he worked all three of his backs for multiple touches and that OL ripped open some gaping holes. He proved he could win with good Foles; now, he even eeked one out with bad Foles.

Oh, also, he ran the Patriots failed trick play to perfection on a key third down, which is essentially Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue on the baseline.


The Atlanta Falcons

This is a facts only post.

Matt Ryan

Jeepers! I’ve never seen Matt Ryan look that frazzled and effete. Typically a zippy passer with great poise under pressure, Ryan submarined his team more than once last night. I’m not sure if it was a knee issue after he had that wonky slide with his brace; or maybe an early hit from a Philadelphia defender bruised his arm — whatever it was, Ryan was not himself tonight.

His downfield throws were bad. That interception to Sul was super bad. His pocket presence and situational awareness was ultra bad. His super slo-mo angry reactions on the broadcast were pretty funny.

Steve Sarkisian

Man, what is it about the red zone that just has Sarkisian by the ears? It’s really something, to watch a relatively creative and aggressive play caller just crumble into shocking madness when he gets inside scoring range. Sark does well to script his running game looks to compliment one another, and he clearly has figured out how to feed Julio (19 targets on 39 passing attempts). But in the red zone, he just overthinks everything. It’s confounding.

Julio Jones

Do you think he has nightmares of the back pylons at Lincoln Financial Field?

Nathan Gerry

Okay, let’s talk some Eagles. I thought Gerry had a generally rough night as a starting ‘backer. Atlanta ran a lot of heavy personnel early to try and keep three LBs on the field, and they found success when running it to Gerry’s side and forcing him to play physically against climbing offensive linemen.

They also got him matched up with Devonta Freeman on Sark’s only good red zone play call on the early 3rd and goal, but Ryan wasn’t able to connect with Freeman on the out route. Gerry is not a great short-area man coverage defender and does not profile well against the run as a strongside backer. He’s a limited player, and I’m excited for the return of Nigel Bradham.

Tre Sullivan

What were you thinking, man? That’s just dreadful. That could have been a game-altering, boneheaded decision, to continue blocking when the ‘Poison’ call was made and end up activating a live ball. I mean, inexcusable.

What with Philadelphia trading for Deiondre’ Hall as a potential SAF4 above Sullivan when he returns from his suspension, Tre could’t afford to be making mistakes like that. His roster spot may be in jeopardy.

Derek Barnett

Speaking of foolish mistakes, two offsides in one game is never good — especially when both were on third downs your team ended up winning. It was a quiet night for Barnett besides hearing his number called on those penalties — but it was a quite night for Eagles EDGEs not named Chris Long in general.

Shelton Gibson

DeAndre Carter saw more offensive snaps (I’m pretty sure) than Shelton Gibson tonight, who also picked up a silly ‘get in bounds if you want to play the game’ penalty as a punt gunner. I find it very interesting that the coaching staff got both DeAndre Carter and maybe even Markus Wheaton on the field more often than Gibson.

All of us

For sitting through a 45 minute rain delay to watch a chaotic, bumbling facsimile of an NFL game.


For being up at 2:30 AM to finish this post


If you’re reading it right now and not tomorrow morning.

I dunnos

The refs

The refs were definitely losers, in that they made a bunch of super confusing calls that likely should have not been called/been reversed/fixed somehow. But also, I feel like things generally skewed Philadelphia’s way in the referee column (and in the luck column), so they got promoted to ‘I dunno’ status.

But if that illegal contact call on Jordan Hicks had ended up oh man let me tell you.

Jake Elliott

I dunno how close that short field goal was — but man it looked close. Short field goals are to Jake Elliott as red zone offense is to Steve Sarkisian. Inexplicably, unnecessarily difficult.

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