- The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 on Thursday night in the first game of the 2018 NFL season.
- The Eagles win came thanks to a huge defensive effort, with Philadelphia forcing three game-changing red zone stops including one in the final seconds of the game.
- Atlanta’s offence has struggled in the red zone for some time, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones confoundingly unable to connect.
The first half of the game was a slog, with both teams failing to produce a touchdown. But while the Eagles offence started out undeniably sloppy, the Falcons offence was running like a well-oiled machine – until they got to the red zone.
Atlanta’s red zone yips caught them on the very first drive of the game. After receiving the opening kickoff and marching the ball to the one-yard line, the Falcons were stuffed on three successive plays by the Eagles defence, eventually turning the ball over on downs.
Their next drive wasn’t much better. The Falcons were gifted a short field thanks to a three-and-out from the Eagles offence, only to get once again stopped within five yards of the end zone. This time, Atlanta would settle for a field goal.
Those two stands from the Eagles defence set the tone for the end of the game. With Atlanta needing a touchdown to win and once again threatening, Philadelphia’s defence stepped up once again to stop the Falcons with the game on the line. The final play of the game was a pass to wide receiver Julio Jones, who couldn’t come up with the catch.
The scene was strikingly similar to the sequence that ended the Falcons 2017 season, where the Eagles also shut down the Atlanta offence in the red zone to secure a spot in the NFC Championship.
— Jeff McDevitt (@JeffMcDev) September 7, 2018
The Falcons struggled in the red zone the entire 2017 season, scoring a touchdown on just 49% of trips that ranked among the bottom ten teams in the league. While the pairing of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones could be considered one of the most dynamic in the NFL, the duo cannot click in the red zone at all – in fact, Ryan is just 1-20 when targeting Jones in the red zone over the past two seasons, including his two game-ending misses against the Eagles.
Matt Ryan Red Zone Passing Thursday
0-3, Int targeting Julio Jones
Ryan is now 1-20 targeting Jones in the end zone the last 2 seasons including playoffs. pic.twitter.com/f01Ow4TShJ
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) September 7, 2018
While you never want to overreact to the first game of the season, it’s clear that the Falcons red zone woes go well beyond their past two games played.
If Atlanta hopes to compete this year, they will need to address the issue and right the ship soon.
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