Philadelphia walked onto the field at Mercedes Benz Stadium looking like a new team ready to make a comeback this season, and they may do just that.
With a brand-new head coach and quarterback, the Eagles made their season debut against the Atlanta Falcons today, winning their first game, 32-6. As a youth movement is underway in Philadelphia, the newer guys certainly shined, giving Eagles fans hope for what’s to come.
Due to an ongoing knee injury, Rodney McLeod was ruled out this week, as well as Marcus Epps (concussion), who was starting in McLeod’s place. With the lack of depth, the defense had a slow start; however, they were able to hold the Falcons from the endzone. After a 21-yard field goal, Atlanta took the lead (3-0).
The Eagles got the ball back and didn’t disappoint. Second-year Jalen Hurts completed an 18-yard pass to rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith for his first career touchdown. The extra point was good by Jake Elliott, who also looks to turn things around after a mediocre season last year.
Quez Watkins also highlighted himself, showing bursts of speed, continuing his growth from the offseason.
The Falcons started the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal within the first minute, trailing the Eagles by one point (6-7).
The majority of the quarter was uneventful, with the exception of several penalties, namely from Philadelphia’s veteran players. Though only Week 1, head coach Nick Sirianni should look to address this as the Eagles prepare for a tough fight in the weeks ahead.
Fans also saw glimpses of DeVonta Smith late in the second quarter after the wide receiver completed multiple catches. The rookie became the first player in franchise history to have five catches and a touchdown in their first career game.
With two seconds to spare, the Eagles scored — a 9-yard touchdown to tight end Dallas Goedert. After an attempted field goal and Atlanta penalty, Sirianni called for a two-point conversion, succeeding and leading 15-6 going into halftime.
The first sack of the game came early in the third quarter against Jalen Hurts. Shortly after, tight end Zach Ertz left the game with a hamstring injury. He remained questionable, seen jogging on the sideline but returned to the game.
With 1:25 left, rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored an eight-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point was also good, bringing Philadelphia up 22-6.
The youth movement is alive!!! Touchdown Gainwell!
— Bleeding Green Nation (@BleedingGreen) September 12, 2021
Philadelphia’s defense was a force to be reckoned with, closing out the final quarter of Week 1.
Darius Slay showed good coverage with two pass breakups. Hassan Ridgeway attempted to sack Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, but Ryan was called for intentional grounding. He later succumbed to the sack by Javon Hargrave.
With 4:20 left in the game, Jalen Reagor found his groove, catching a 23-yard pass from Hurts for another touchdown, giving the Eagles a 29-6 lead. Philadelphia’s defense put up another two sacks (Ridgeway and Hargrave), ending Atlanta’s offensive run.
The Eagles ended the game with one last field goal (43 yards), taking a win back home to Philadelphia.
A LOOK AHEAD
Though the Eagles are essentially a brand-new team, they certainly didn’t play new. Philadelphia’s fluidity on the offense was better than expected, and Jonathan Gannon’s defense should make other teams nervous for what’s ahead.
With the unknown surrounding Hurts going into today’s game, the second-year quarterback looked like a leader and directed smart plays. Hurts completed 27 of 35 attempts for 264 passing yards, 62 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and a 126.37 passer rating.
Addressing today’s penalties will be crucial and maintaining the team’s health should always remain a concern given their history. Philadelphia will look to continue their growth next week for their season opener at Lincoln Financial Field against the San Francisco 49ers.