The Atlanta Falcons started strong then faltered in the second half before pulling out a 26-24 come-from-behind win against the Philadelphia Eagles in their first regular season game under new head coach Dan Quinn.
The Falcons got off to a strong 20-3 halftime lead but midway through the fourth quarter the Eagles retook it by a score of 24-23. The Falcons then drove down the field to regain the lead with a go-ahead field goal from kicker Matt Bryant. The Eagles countered, but kicker Cody Parkey’s kick sailed wide right. The Falcons had an opportunity to run out the clock but were unable to, giving the Eagles one last possession. However safety Ricardo Allen sealed the Falcons’ first win of the 2015 season with an interception off a tipped pass.
Matt Ryan led the team, completing 23 of 34 passes for 298 yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. It was an up-and-down performance for the Falcons passer, but he made some key throws late in the game when it really counted.
Tevin Coleman got his first NFL start at running back and led the team with 80 rushing yards on 20 carries. Devonta Freeman added 18 yards on 10 carries.
Julio Jones dominated the first half with eight receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns, but was slowed down in the second half. He finished the game with just one more reception for 44 yards. Roddy White also helped out with 84 yards on four receptions. Devonta Freeman and Jacob Tamme each had a trio of catches for 29 and 19 yards, respectively.
Bryant nailed all four of his field-goal attempts, with the game-winner being his longest from 47 yards with 6:27 left in the game. He also hit from 41, 39 and 44 yards earlier in the game. Matt Bosher punted four times, averaging 57.8 yards with three punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems subbed in for an injured Devin Hester, returning a trio of kicks for 59 yards and two punts for 18 yards.
Offensively, the Falcons finished with 395 total yards with 105 yards on the ground. The Falcons converted just four of 14 (28 percent) third-down attempts. The Falcons’ untested offensive line only gave up one sack but the Falcons still had a pair of costly turnovers with Ryan’s interceptions.
Defensively, the Eagles gained 399 total yards, much of it coming in the second half after being limited to 125 yards in the first two quarters. The Falcons shut down the Eagles’ run game, limiting them to 63 yards, but the Eagles did get 336 yards in the air thanks to trying to come back from a 17-point deficit in the second half. The Falcons allowed 219 of those passing yards in the second half. The Eagles also tossed a pair of interceptions and were often undisciplined, ending the game with 10 penalties. The Falcons were unable to sack Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford but did manage to hit him eight times.
Linebacker Paul Worrilow led the Flacons with 13 tackles, including a critical third-down stop on the Eagles’ penultimate drive that forced them to settle for a field goal that Parkey eventually missed. Allen (seven tackles, one interception), Jonathan Babineaux (three tackles, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits), Vic Beasley (three tackles, one quarterback hit, one pass defended), Justin Durant (eight tackles), William Moore (nine tackles, one interception), O’Brien Schofield (one tackle, one quarterback hit) and Desmond Trufant (no tackles, one pass defended) had noteworthy performances on defense.
The first play from scrimmage for the Eagles offense was a swing pass to running back DeMarco Murray that went for two yards. The Eagles then tried a run up middle to Murray, which was stopped for a two-yard gain by Durant. On third down, Bradford overthrew tight end Zach Ertz and the Falcons’ defense began the year with a three-and-out as the Eagles punted.
The Falcons’ first possession went considerably better with Ryan’s first pass to Jones going for 17 yards on a quick slant, as the Falcons receiver sped past cornerback Nolan Carroll. Then Ryan hit White on a 25-yard crossing pattern off play action to get the ball into Eagles territory. A toss to Coleman off the right side then went for nine yards. Two plays later Ryan’s next pass to Jones on third down was nearly picked off by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins dropped the pick after Jones’ slipped coming out of his break. The Falcons settled for a 41-yard field goal from Bryant to take a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Falcons’ defense continued to thwart the Eagles’ offense with Schofield blowing up Murray in the backfield, leading to a 12-yard loss on first down. Durant then sniffed out a screen to Murray, which was stopped for another loss of two yards. On 3rd-and-24, the check down to running back Darren Sproles was stopped after 14 yards by Worrilow, leading to another Eagles three-and-out and punt.
Ryan connected with Jones on first down for a six-yard gain. Then he tried to hook up with Jones once more down the field, but Eagles corner Byron Maxwell was flagged for defensive pass interference, gifting the Falcons 18 yards and putting the ball into Eagles territory. Another deep cross to White off play action gained the Falcons 22 yards and they were in the red zone for the first time on the night. Two plays later, Freeman gained 10 yards on a pass into the flat, giving the Falcons a first-and-goal situation at the six-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan’s next pass however did not connect with an open White in the back of the end zone thanks to Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso making a brilliant one-handed catch in front of the veteran receiver. Off the touchback, Eagles regained possession at their 20-yard line with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles earned their first first down of the game with a 13-yard catch by wide receiver Josh Huff to start the drive. But the Falcons’ defense once again clamped down after a seam pass to an open Miles Austin was overthrown by Bradford on second down. Then Allen popped Ertz on third down to stop him three yards shy of the sticks to force another Eagles punt.
The Falcons’ offense stalled on the next series thanks to Eagles nose tackle Bennie Logan knifing past center Mike Person to stop Coleman in the backfield for a five-yard loss. Ryan then could not connect with Coleman and Jones on his next two passes and the Falcons punted after a three-and-out of their own. The Eagles took over at their 47-yard line with 3:45 left on the first-quarter clock.
Desmond Trufant broke up a pass to Jordan Matthews to start the drive but two plays later the Eagles converted their first third down of the night after Sproles was tripped up and stretched for a four-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. Schofield then stuffed Sproles on a first-down run for no gain while Worrilow then burst through a hole on second down. He was shrugged off by Murray before the Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the Falcons’ defense rallied to stuff the running back for a one-yard gain. On 3rd-and-9, Bradford missed a back-shoulder throw to Nelson Agholor and the Eagles punted with 1:31 left in the quarter.
Ryan hit Jones on a pair of passes to end the first quarter, moving the ball to midfield after gains of 18 and 13 yards, respectively. On the second play of the second quarter, Ryan’s pass to Jones for eight yards got the Falcons into Eagles territory. A bootleg scramble by Ryan two plays later set up a 3rd-and-1, which Levine Toilolo converted with a diving four-yard catch. Another deep cross to White off play action went for 23 yards to put the ball at the Eagles’ six-yard line. Two plays later on a quick screen Ryan hit Jones, who made Eagles safety Walter Thurmond miss and then stretched over the goal line for a four-yard touchdown. The Falcons took a 10-3 lead with less than 11 minutes to go in the first half.
The Eagles then dialed up their tempo on the ensuing series. On the third play of the possession, Trufant nearly broke up a deep pass to Matthews, but the Eagles receiver reeled it in for a 25-yard gain, putting the ball into Falcons territory. Bradford then connected on two of his next three passes, including a 18-yard pass to Ertz on third down where he got behind Moore and Beasley. With the Eagles now in the red zone, the Falcons’ defense held strong with Bradford’s next throw to Ertz being an overthrow. Then on 3rd-and-5 from the Falcons’ 11-yard line, Bradford overthrew Matthews in the end zone with Babineaux delivering a big hit on the quarterback. The Eagles settled for a 29-yard field goal from Parkey to get on the scoreboard for the first time with little more than seven minutes left in the half.
Ryan dialed up White twice on the ensuing but could not connect with him either time and the Falcons punted after a three-and-out. However the Eagles were flagged twice on the ensuing Bosher punt and began their next drive at their six-yard line.
Bradford failed to convert on a 3rd-and-1 thanks to Beasley batting down his throw to Riley Cooper and the Eagles punted it right back to the Falcons. Donnie Jones’ punt was short and the Falcons began their next possession at the Eagles’ 46-yard line.
Coleman sprinted around the left side for a six-yard gain to start the Falcons drive. Leonard Hankerson reeled in his first catch as a Falcon on 3rd-and-2, converting with a three-yard gain. Two plays later, Ryan hit Jones in the flat for a nine-yard gain to convert another first down. On the next play, the Falcons dialed up the same flat pass to Jones, but White was flagged for offensive pass interference thanks to getting a little too eager blocking for Jones. Then the two-minute warning hit with Atlanta backed up to Philadelphia’s 34-yard line on 1st-and-20. Tamme snagged his first Falcons reception for seven yards which was followed up by a check down to Freeman for 12 yards, setting up a 3rd-and-1 at the Eagles’ 15-yard line. However Thurmond flew off the edge and stopped Freeman in the backfield for a six-yard loss on that down. Bryant came out onto the field and hit a 39-yard field goal to push Atlanta’s lead to 13-3 with a minute left in the first half.
The Eagles’ next series lasted just one play thanks to pressure from rookie defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on a stunt with Beasley, leading to Bradford making an high throw that Moore picked off. The Falcons took over with 59 seconds in the half at the Eagles’ 27-yard line.
However on first down Ryan was hit by Fletcher Cox in the backfield, leading to a fumble which Eagles pass-rusher Connor Barwin recovered. However an illegal contact penalty on Alonso against Tamme down the field wiped out that turnover, giving the Falcons another opportunity. They took complete advantage as Ryan lobbed up a bomb to Jones for a 22-yard touchdown on the very next play. The Falcons had a 20-3 lead with 45 seconds left in the half.
The Falcons dialed up pressure on the first play of the ensuing Eagles series, leading to an errant throw to Sproles in the flat. Sproles then gained 11 yards on a draw play, but pressure again got to Bradford on the next play. Beasley sped past left tackle Jason Peters and delivered a blindside hit on Bradford that led to an incomplete pass to Ertz. Rather than risk injury to their quarterback with just 20 seconds left in the half and 70 yards to score, the Eagles decided to run out the clock, but a pair of holding calls nullified any yardage they gained. Sproles ended the first half with a one-yard run on 2nd-and-30.
The Falcons received the opening kick of the second half, but the Eagles dialed up a blitz by Carroll off the edge and he flushed Ryan into the waiting arms of Cox for a sack. Ryan’s next pass was a deep cross to White but Thurmond read it all the way, undercutting the throw for an interception. He returned it 23 yards to the Falcons’ eight-yard line where the Eagles took over.
It only took two plays for the Eagles to score a touchdown thanks to center Jason Kelce pulling outside and nailing Moore on the second level, leading to Murray running eight yards untouched for a score. The Eagles had cut the Falcons’ lead to 20-10 with 13 minutes left in the third quarter.
Coleman gained 14 yards on his first two carries on the next Falcons series before the Falcons attempted another flat pass to Jones that was negated by a offensive pass interference call, this time on Hankerson. That backed up the Falcons 10 yards and the team failed to convert thereafter. Ryan was hit on third down by Cox, and Jenkins dropped another potential interception on an out throw behind Hankerson. Bosher’s 62-yard punt however got a good bounce and the Eagles were forced to start at their five-yard line.
A false start on Peters backed up the Eagles two more yards to start that next series. But Riley Cooper would give them a first down two plays later after a seven-yard catch. On the next play, Murray ran for a 19-yard gain but the play was brought back thanks to a face mask penalty on the Eagles’ runner. However Jordan Matthews gained 19 yards on the very next play on a screen pass to give the Eagles another first down. Three plays later the Eagles converted a 3rd-and-1 on a pass to Ertz for 12 yards, but an offensive pass interference penalty on Agholor wiped out that play. But it was all for naught as Ryan Mathews shook Moore and Durant on 3rd-and-11 to gain 12 yards and another first down. Bradford connected on his next three passes, including a sideline pass to Austin for 15 yards followed by a 10-yard screen to Mathews that Babineaux sniffed out but was unable to stop. But that play was again wiped out by a holding penalty against Kelce. Kelce redeemed himself three plays later, pulling outside once more and nailing both Moore and Worrilow this time to spring Sproles for a 27-yard gain. Allen brought him down with a horse-collar tackle, tacking on another 10 yards to put the ball at the Falcons’ five-yard line. On the next play Allen then shot upfield to string out a run of no gain by Murray. But on the next play, Murray was able to shake Kroy Biermann at the goal line on a five-yard pass, scoring and cutting Atlanta’s lead to 20-17 with 3:39 left in the third quarter. The Eagles mounted a 13-play, 95-yard drive that bled over six minutes off the clock, tiring out the Falcons’ defense with the up-tempo, no-huddle attack.
The Falcons’ offense got their act together on the ensuing series, mounting a long drive of their own to give the defense a much-needed rest. However it started poorly thanks to another holding call against Hankerson on a quick screen to Jones backing up the Falcons to a 2nd-and-15 at their seven-yard line. But two plays later, Coleman got an excellent downfield block from White on a draw play, converting the 3rd-and-15 with a 20-yard gain. Freeman then followed up with a nine-yard gain on a counter and the Falcons fed Freeman for two more runs to close out the third quarter. On 3rd-and-4 at the outset of the fourth quarter, White beat Maxwell on a quick slant to gain 14 yards and put the ball into Eagles territory. Hankerson followed up with a 13-yard gain two plays later, followed by Ryan scrambling for six yards on a play-action bootleg. Coleman looked physical on his next run, breaking multiple tackles for a 16-yard gain on a sweep left. However, Falcons guard Andy Levitre was flagged for a holding, bringing the play back. The Falcons failed to convert their third down two plays later with Ryan underthrowing an open Freeman on a wheel route, allowing a trailing Barwin to break up the throw. The Falcons settled for a 44-yard field goal from Bryant, which the veteran kicker nailed to push the team’s lead to 23-17 with less than 11 minutes to go in the ballgame.
The Eagles dialed up a wheel route of their own on the next series, with Bradford hitting Sproles for a big 24-yard gain to put the ball near midfield. Bradford hit on his next three passes, connecting with Jordan Matthews twice and Ertz once for a combined 52 yards to put the ball at the Falcons’ one-yard line. Matthews’ second catch was a 19-yard gain that saw him make a few moves after the catch to get the ball down at the goal line. Then Ryan Mathews got a nice second effort on a run up the middle to get the one-yard score and give the Eagles’ a 24-23 lead, their first of the game with 8:37 left on the clock.
The Falcons immediately called on their best player in Jones, as Ryan hit him on a go route for 44 yards, beating Maxwell and flipping field position to get the ball down to the Eagles’ 36-yard line. That play marked Jones’ only catch of the second half, but it was a massive one. Ryan’s next pass was nearly picked off by Jenkins as he threw behind Hankerson on another out pattern. Two plays later, Ryan hit a split-out Freeman on a slant for seven yards, setting up a 4th-and-3 at the 29-yard line. The Falcons of course opted to kick the field goal and Bryant hit a 47-yarder to retake the lead, 26-24, with 6:27 left to go.
Bradford dialed up Jordan Matthews three times to start the next drive, with the second-year receiver snagging all three passes for a combined 15 yards. Two plays later on 3rd-and-1, Sproles shot up the middle for an 11-yard gain to convert. Then on the next play, Sproles shook Moore along the sideline for a 14-yard gain on a Bradford pass. A 25-yard screen to Ryan Mathews was called back by another holding call against Kelce on the next play. Bradford then hit Cooper down the seam for a 12-yard gain to set up a 2nd-and-4. The Falcons’ defense got tough thanks to Worrilow stuffing Mathews in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 for no gain and forcing the Eagles to attempt a 44-yard field goal. Parkey’s second field-goal try of the game sailed wide right and the Falcons still held the two-point lead with 2:26 left in the game.
The Falcons proceeded to hand the ball off to Coleman three straight times but were unable to convert on a 3rd-and-1 thanks to Jenkins shooting upfield to stop the rookie running back for a four-yard loss. Bosher boomed a 57-yard punt to Sproles, but Toilolo made an excellent open-field tackle to force the Eagles to start at their 14-yard line with 1:49 left to go.
After a two-yard gain on a flat pass to Sproles, the Falcons blitzed up the middle and Bradford overthrew the running back on second down. On 3rd-and-8, Bradford’s pass to Matthews over the middle tipped off the receivers’ hands and into the arms of Allen, who made an excellent sliding grab with 1:11 left in the game.
That play sealed the win for the Falcons, who knelt three straight times to end the game.
Next week the Falcons face their first road test under Quinn against the New York Giants, who lost their season-opener to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in a 27-26 rollercoaster. It marks the home opener for the Giants, who are 6-5 in such games under head coach Tom Coughlin. However, the Giants have lost three straight home openers. The Falcons have lost three straight road games to the Giants since 2009 after winning eight consecutive road games against them dating back to the Falcons’ inaugural 1966 season. The last time the Falcons beat the Giants came in a 34-0 beatdown in the Georgia Dome in 2012. However, the Falcons are 2-5 overall against the Coughlin-led Giants.
Dating back over the last decade, the Falcons are 2-8 in road-openers, with their most recent victories coming in 2012 and 2006. But in his first action, Quinn was able to snap a three-game Monday Night losing streak and hopes to do the same with the team’s season-opening road woes.