Allen Comes Up Big:In his first regular season game at free safety, Ricardo Allen made himself the hero by picking off Sam Bradford with 1:11 left in regulation, all but sealing a victory. On third and eight, Bradford tried to find Jordan Matthews, but Paul Worrilow got in the way and sent the ball fluttering in the air. Allen then made a sliding catch and sent the Dome into a frenzy.
According to the second-year defensive back, Atlanta works on the tip drill at the beginning of every practice, and he believes those reps adequately prepared him to make the night's biggest play.
"We go over it every day," he said. "We preach finish. We're ready for everything they can throw at us in two-minute (drills) … It tipped up. It just landed in my lap."
D Starts Strong: Atlanta's defense set the tempo early on by holding Philadelphia to just four yards on six plays in their first two possessions. Then, the Falcons surrendered just one field goal—a 29-yard boot via Cody Parkey—in the Eagles next six drives, allowing the offense to find its stride and build a lead. Richard Smith's unit allowed just four first downs in the opening half—one from rushing, three from passing—and stopped Philadelphia on all three of its third down attempts. After 30 minutes, the Eagles had registered just 90 net yards of offense on 18 plays, an average of five yards per snap.
Running Backs Thrive: A big reason why the offense as a whole succeeded was the production from the RBs—namely Tevin Coleman, who finished with 80 rushing yards on 20 carries. Not bad for a rookie making his NFL debut. By forcing the Eagles to respect the run, Atlanta was able to effectively use the play action to move the ball downfield.
"I feel real good," Coleman said. "I think I did a real good job out there. My O-line, they did a really good job making holes clear for me to run through, so I'm just real excited about that. (The experience in a zone blocking offense) helped me a lot. It made me better out here. It made me see the right holes out here."
The Atlanta Falcons kicked off the regular season in the Georgia Dome against the Philadelphia Eagles in a Monday Night Football matchup. Here are photos from the game.
Falcons Win LOS:** Although Philadelphia boasts a stout O-line and a fast, imposing front seven, the Falcons won the battle in the trenches. Of everything that went right for Atlanta on Monday—and many things did—this was the most important. The offensive line helped the ground attack develop a rhythm by opening up holes; the defensive line, featuring an array of new faces, brought solid pressure and stymied Philadelphia's running backs.
In total, the Eagles RBs netted just 63 rushing yards on 16 attempts, a pedestrian 3.94 average. If there's one figure that can sum up how surprising Atlanta's run defense was, it's this: Since the AFL/NFL merger, DeMarco Murray's nine rushing yards is the lowest total by a reigning rushing champ in his first game of the following season.
"I think our guys out there did a great job of communicating and making sure everyone was on the same page," said Andy Levitre, who was signed on Sept. 4 to man left guard. "Credit to the guys for helping me out. Tevin is good, man. He runs hard. I thought he did a good job hitting the holes. It's a credit to those guys—even the receivers blocking. It takes all 11 guys on offense to move the chains."
Julio Gets Best of Maxwell: Once again, a highly-touted matchup between Julio Jones and an opposing cornerback made headlines in the days leading up to kickoff. And, like many times before, Atlanta's star receiver got the best of his adversary. CB Byron Maxwell, signed to a six-year contract in March, had some nice moments but was largely outplayed by Jones, who finished with 141 yards and two touchdowns.
"Julio is an awesome player," Ryan said. "He shows that basically every time he steps on to the field. He had a great night tonight; pressed vertical a couple times, showed his explosiveness there. In the quick game he (got over) to catch it and got yards after contact there. He's just as good as there is, and we're lucky to have him."
Roddy Still Has It:** Despite being 34 years old, Roddy White proved he's still capable of being a productive WR. Atlanta's eldest offensive weapon quickly tallied three catches for 70 yards and later added another for 14-yard grab. Earlier in the week Jones said he likes getting double-teamed so White can get plenty of one-on-one looks, and that certainly happened on Monday.
Clemson Kids Show Out: University of Clemson products Vic Beasley Jr. and Grady Jarrett—selected in the first and fifth rounds of this year's Draft, respectively—got their NFL careers off to productive starts. Beasley brought noticeable pressure several times and, with 5:21 left until halftime, swatted a Bradford pass that forced a Philadelphia punt; shortly thereafter, disruption from Jarrett led the Eagles QB to throw an interception to William Moore.
Third Quarter Problems Continue: The Falcons have not been a good third quarter team in recent history, and while there's plenty of time to correct this problem in 2015, Atlanta once again stumbled out of the gate following halftime. Ryan threw an INT—his second of the night—just 1:24 into the third stanza; the Eagles them promptly scored two TDs, erasing all but three points from their 17-point deficit.
Learning to Finish: Those issues could have let the Eagles compose a monumental comeback, but the defense stepped up when it mattered most and made sure Dan Quinn's debut ended on a happy note.
"It's all about finishing," said Desmond Trufant. "We gave up a couple plays we didn't want to, but we finished in the end, so I'm happy about that."