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The Philly Special makes a return as the Eagles hold out for opening-day win over the Falcons

Two touchdowns from Jay Ajayi gave the defending champions their first win of the seaon.

Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones, front right, and Ronald Darby of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones, front right, and Ronald Darby of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Image: Michael Perez

SIX MONTHS AFTER overcoming the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles entered the new season with a hard-fought win over the 2017 runners-up, the Atlanta Falcons. 

NFL fans waiting for the return of regular season football were made wait a little longer than expected, as the Philadelphia weather delayed the start of the season opener.

Those who did persevere to watch weren’t treated to the most exciting opening quarter of a football game either, as it became clear that both teams weren’t budging much on the defensive sides early on.  

The Falcons started well with big plays from Freeman and Julio Jones and feeling confident early on, they opted to run the ball on fourth and goal, but Devonta Freeman was stopped just short and the game remained scoreless.  

The Eagles got nowhere on their returning drive and the Falcons eventually managed to get points on the board, electing to bring out Matt Bryant to kick a field goal rather than attempt another fourth down conversion. 

That was to be all the scoring in the first quarter in what was shaping to be a defensive season opener. 

The Eagles put up the next points well well into the second quarter with a 26-yard field goal from Jake Elliott to level things up. 

Bryant was brought out for the Falcons again just before the two-minute warning in the first half, putting the Falcons back in front before halftime with a field goal from 52 yards.

The third quarter saw the return of the Philly Special – the trick-play that the Eagles pulled off in the Super Bowl. This time, the play sparked a big drive down the field, eventually ending in Jay Ajayi scoring the first touchdown of the new season. The extra point was added and the Eagles went 10-6 to the good. 

After a fairly run-of-the-mill opening, the game shifted up a gear then.

A punt recovery at the end of the third quarter seemed like a boost for the trailing Falcons. As they moved into the final quarter, they tried to capitalise with points but Matt Ryan’s pass to Julio Jones from 12 yards was intercepted.   

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The Eagles then returned the favour, however, as a pass from Foles to Dallas Goedert was juggled and recovered by the Falcons, who then found themselves on the 25-yard line with four points separating the teams. 

A pass inside the 10-yard line to Jones then set up Devin Coleman to run the ball in for the Falcons’ first touchdown of the night.

Matt Bryant’s extra point was no good, however, leaving the Falcons with a shaky two-point lead with just under 10 minutes of the game to go. 

It took time, but the Eagles managed to work the ball back down the field and with 2:19 on the clock, Jay Ajayi ran in his second touchdown of the night and gave the reigning Super Bowl champions the lead. 

Trusting Ajayi’s form, the Eagles went for a two-point conversion and once again the former Dolphin came up with the goods, making it a six-point game late on. 

After getting the ball back, and down 18-12, some big yardage plays from Julio Jones got the Falcons back down to the redzone.

With seven seconds left on the clock, the Falcons landed at fourth and goal.

Matt Ryan floated a pass into the endzone, only for a flag to be thrown for illegal contact before the pass. A tense ending, the Falcons moved up to the five-yard line with one second left on the clock. 

Again Ryan sent one into the endzone for Jones to catch, who caught the ball under pressure, but landed just out of bounds, giving the Eagles their first win of the new season, 18-12.

Although it was a slow burner for the first while, the opening game of the new season had just the exciting ending that football fans had been missing for the last few months.  

About the author:

Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh

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