The Philadelphia Eagles opened their 2021 season with a road game against the Atlanta Falcons and it honestly couldn’t have gone much better for them. The midnight green Birds were able to put some early defensive struggles behind them with the Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts combination leading Philly to offensive success. Final score: Eagles 32, Falcons 6.
All told, it was a decisive win that can’t help but make one excited about what the rest of this season might holds for the Eagles!
Read on for a recap and stay tuned for more BGN postgame coverage.
The Falcons won the coin toss and elected to receive. Atlanta picked up two first downs on their first two plays, too easy. Atlanta ran tempo to move into field goal range. Javon Hargrave got a hit on Matt Ryan but the quarterback completed a pass to Calvin Ridley for a first down in the red zone. Then the Eagles got called for 12 men on the field, which likely had to do with all the substituting they were doing. Brandon Graham put a CRUSHING hit on Mike Davis for a loss but the Falcons converted for a first-and-goal on the next play. Davis couldn’t haul in an off-target throw from Ryan that forced the Falcons to settle for a field goal. Wasn’t the most encouraging start but at least the defense ultimately got a stop. FALCONS 3, EAGLES 0.
Jalen Hurts’ first pass was a completion to Quez Watkins for a catch-and-run first down. The Eagles ran the same play to the right side of the field for another first. Nifty. Hurts took off running on an RPO keep for yet another first. Probably don’t want to leave that guy with a ton of room to run. On a 3rd-and-4, Hurts lofted the ball to DeVonta Smith for the rookie’s first career reception. That Alabama connection just might turn out to be pretty fruitful. Encouraging start by the offense! Nice job by Nick Sirianni. EAGLES 7, FALCONS 3.
DeVonta Smith’s first TD! pic.twitter.com/H0ciXypqoq— Bleeding Green Nation (@BleedingGreen) September 12, 2021
The Falcons pounded the rock with ease to move into Eagles territory. Too many big lanes, too much sloppy tackling. The Falcons got to a 4th-and-1 and converted with a Kyle Pitts reception right on the marker.
The Falcons ultimately had to settle for another red zone field goal. Classic “bend but don’t break” defense. EAGLES 7, FALCONS 6.
Zach Ertz got wiiiide open on a wheel route and Hurts hit him but on a very underthrown ball. So underthrown that it was actually incomplete (as replay showed), though Arthur Smith didn’t challenge before the Eagles quickly got off another play. Fortunate. The Eagles got to 4th-and-4 and Hurts got pressured by Grady Jarrett into an incompletion after he broke the pocket too early. Welp. Turnover on downs at the Falcons’ 36-yard line. Don’t hate the decision to go for it there as much as the poor execution. Not the best series for the Eagles’ starting quarterback.
Derek Barnett pressured Ryan into an intentional grounding penalty, which ultimately caused the Falcons to punt.
Hurts completed four straight passes to Smith. The Eagles should feed the rookie all year long. The Eagles moved into Falcons territory but got knocked back by a Lane Johnson holding penalty. Then Kenny Gainwell caught his first NFL pass behind the line of scrimmage for a 3-yard loss. A false start by Jordan Mailata set up 2nd-and-28. Hurts had a pass knocked down by Deion Jones to bring up 3rd-and-28. On third down, Reagor was tackled immediately with Watkins missing a block on a screen to force an Eagles punt. Promising drive got derailed.
The Falcons ran on 3rd-and-9 (uh, okay) only to punt.
Kenny Gainwell, not Miles Sanders, was in at running back in the two-minute drill. Hurts evaded pressure from Jarrett to run a for a first down on 3rd-and-5. Clutch play. Hurts used his mobility again to avoid a cornerback blitz. Hurts hit Dallas Goedert to set up 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Hurts threw short to Gainwell, who was ruled over the goal line, but Johnson was called as an illegal man down field. No matter, though, because Hurts rolled right and fit a ball in to a diving Goedert for a TOUCHDOWN. What a throw. Great drive by the Eagles’ quarterback. The Goedert throw was reviewed and it looked like it MAY have been incomplete but definitely wasn’t conclusive. The play stood. The Falcons got called for a penalty on the Eagles’ extra point and Philly went for two from the 1-yard line. Nick Sirianni did a great job by deciding to go for the two-point conversion and Sanders punched it in. Two possession game going into the half with Philly getting the ball back after halftime. Great stuff. EAGLES 15, FALCONS 6.
Here it is again pic.twitter.com/8Ew6k0Fm6g— Bleeding Green Nation (@BleedingGreen) September 12, 2021
Sanders successfully bounced to a run to the outside for a 23-yard gain. Hurts got sacked for the first time on a 3rd-and-5 to force a punt. Kind of fortunate he didn’t fumble there with just one hand on the ball. Also sounds like there was a big missed opportunity:
Looked like Hurts missed a streaking Quez Watkins for a possible touchdown on that third down.— Bo Wulf (@Bo_Wulf) September 12, 2021
K’Von Wallace got away with pass interference on a third down Ryan throw to Ridley that ended up incomplete. The Falcons punted.
The Eagles methodically moved into field goal range with five straight runs and a short pass to Sanders. Hurts threw wide of Goedert on third down, looked like it may has been a miscommunication. The Eagles went for it on 4th-and-2 but the handoff to Gainwell didn’t look clean and the rookie was stopped short of the marker. Again, don’t mistake poor execution as a poor decision to be aggressive. Will say it’s fair to question using Gainwell instead of Sanders in that spot.
The Falcons punted after an obvious Ridley pass intereference penalty wiped out a first down.
A successful screen (That’s allowed?! Couldn’t tell after watching the 2020 season) to Sanders set the Eagles up in the red zone. Then Gainwell took an RPO handoff into the end zone. Too easy ... in a good way. EAGLES 22, FALCONS 6.
Brandon Graham pressured Ryan into an incompletion and Darius Slay knocked down a third down pass to force a fifth straight Falcons punt.
Sanders had a nice blitz pickup to give Hurts time to find an open Smith for a 19-yard gain on 3rd-and-9. The Eagles ended up having to punt and Arryn Siposs had another good one downed within the Falcons’ 10-yard line.
The Eagles got the ball back and went three-and-out. Offense looked a little too conservative with a lot of time left in the game.
It looked like Hassan Ridgeway had a strip-sack that was recovered by Hassan Ridgeway but it was ruled an incompletion and intentional grounding penalty instead. No matter, though, because Hargrave sacked Ryan to force a turnover on downs just a couple plays later. Hargrave had a great camp and was very active in this game before finally logging a sack. Well deserved.
Reagor caught a short pass and took it 23 yards to the house untouched with perfect blocking in front of him. Jordan Mailata absolutely CRUSHED a defender to spring the receiver free. After the score, the broadcast cut to a shot of a very happy Jeffrey Lurie (and Julian Lurie, his son and Jeffrey’s eventual successor). EAGLES 29, FALCONS 6.
Ridgeway got his sack on Ryan this time. Hargrave sacked Ryan on fourth down again for another turnover on downs. Eagles defensive line feasting.
The Eagles ran some clock and Jake Elliott hit a 43-yard field goal to put icing on the cake. EAGLES 32, FALCONS 6.
- Marcus Epps got the start at safety with Rodney McLeod out.
- Derek Barnett, not Josh Sweat, was first up at defensive end.
- Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert did not officially start since they weren’t on the field for the first snap.
- Quez Watkins was the kick returner.
- Jalen Reagor was the punt returner.
- Marcus Epps (concussion) got banged up on the Eagles’ first defensive drive and didn’t return. K’Von Wallace replaced him.
- Zach Ertz (hamstring) was ruled questionable to return early in the third quarter. No one seemed to notice exactly when he got hurt.
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (ankle) was ruled questionable to return late in the fourth quarter.