The Latest: Eagles beat Falcons 18-12 in sloppy NFL opener
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Latest on the Atlanta Falcons playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the opening game of the NFL season (all times local):
Jay Ajayi scored on two runs and the Philadelphia defense made Matt Ryan look awful much of Thursday night as the Eagles opened the defense of their first NFL title since 1960 with a sloppy, penalty-filled 18-12 victory over Atlanta.
Ajayi scored on runs of 1 and 11 yards and the Eagles even came up with a version of the Philly Special. They needed a last stand by their defense, just as they got in last year’s divisional playoff victory over the Falcons. In an eerily familiar scenario, Julio Jones couldn’t come down with Matt Ryan’s high pass on the final play from the 5.
It was a game marred by penalties, dropped passes, missed assignments and weak quarterbacking — yes, the defenses played a role, but it still had the feel of a preseason contest. At least it had the Philly Special nod to somewhat spice the Eagles’ first appearance as a league champion since earning the 1960 title.
Tevin Coleman scored on a 9-yard run after an Eagles player touched the ball with his foot during an Atlanta punt to push the Falcons ahead 12-10. Even then, usually sturdy veteran Matt Bryant banged the extra point kick off the right upright.
The Eagles unveiled their championship banner above Lincoln Financial Field following a rain and lightning delay. Not a lot else went right but enough did.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles caught a pass for a key first down on Philadelphia’s drive to Jay Ajayi’s 1-yard TD run for a 10-6 lead on a throw from receiver Nelson Agholor.
Jones finished with 10 catches for 169 yards after not playing in the preseason.
Call it the Philly Special Junior.
It didn’t go for a touchdown like the pass quarterback Nick Foles caught to help the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But it was just as tricky.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor took a handoff on a reverse and Foles took off down the right sideline. The pass was perfect, just like Trey Burton’s Super Bowl throw to Foles. The gain was 15 yards to the Atlanta 26 in the third quarter, with Foles stumbling out of bounds.
Soon after, Jay Ajayi scored from the 1-yard line to give the Eagles the lead 10-6 on Thursday night.
An ad starring Colin Kaepernick as the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign has made its broadcast debut.
The spot aired on NBC during the third quarter of the season opener between the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons. The version that was broadcast was shorter than the 2-minute ad that debuted online on Wednesday.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016, when he protested the treatment of minorities by police by first sitting, and later kneeling, during the national anthem. He has filed a grievance against the league, alleging that owners colluded to keep him unsigned.
The ad features athletes in a variety of sports, with Kaepernick extolling them to do their best. “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” he says in a veiled reference to his own circumstances.
Kaepernick spoke Thursday at a Nike event in Oregon to celebrate the ad’s premiere, telling the crowd that “we have to come together ... and make sure we have a brighter future together.”
Nike faced a backlash from some fans who urged a boycott of the company’s products for glorifying Kaepernick.
The Atlanta Falcons lead the Philadelphia Eagles 6-3 after a sloppy, penalty-filled first half Thursday night to open the NFL season.
Although there was lots of staunch defense, the game often looked like a preseason contest, marred by dropped passes, missed blocks and all those flags. There were 16 penalties in the opening half.
The Eagles, defending an NFL championship for the first time since 1960, had an impressive goal-line stand on Atlanta’s first possession. They stopped Atlanta three times at the Philadelphia 1.
But the Falcons, who lost 15-10 in the divisional round here in January, marched downfield on their next series. Again, they were stopped close to the end zone and Matt Bryant made a 21-yard field for the first points of the 2018 season.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, still at quarterback with Carson Wentz recovering from last December’s knee injury, was sacked twice in the opening quarter.
Foles did lead Philly on a long drive to start the second quarter capped by Jake Elliott’s 26-yard field goal to make it 3-3.
Late in the half, Matt Ryan limped off following a 2-yard run and a slide. Breathe easy, Falcons fans: not an injury. His knee brace came loose. Atlanta called timeout and he returned for the next play.
Ryan was sacked on the next play and Bryant made a 52-yarder for a 6-3 edge.
Atlanta linebacker Vic Beasley was checked for a head injury but then cleared to return.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Michael Bennett were on the sideline when the national anthem was played before the NFL season opener between Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Neither really demonstrated during the song Thursday night. Jenkins and Bennett regularly have either knelt or stayed off the field during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest social injustice and racial inequality. They have been among the most vocal protesters since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began similar demonstrations in 2016 by kneeling during the anthem.
Jenkins stood with teammates while Bennett wandered behind them near the Eagles bench and adjusted his equipment.
No Falcons players were absent from the sideline and none has protested in the recent past.
The anthem has been a particularly thorny issue for the NFL, especially with President Donald Trump urging owners to bench or fire players who demonstrate. Players say their message has been misconstrued into something against the American flag or the military.
The league and players union still haven’t resolved whether players will be punished this season if they choose to kneel or demonstrate during the anthem. Owners approved a policy requiring players to stand if they are on the sideline during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” allowing them to stay off the field if they wish.
But the league and union put that on hold after the Miami Dolphins faced backlash for classifying the protests as conduct potentially detrimental to the team — putting players at risk of fines or suspensions.
During the game broadcast, Nike is expected to run a commercial featuring Kaepernick after making him the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign.
After waiting since 1960 to be called champions, the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans had to withstand a weather delay before unveiling their Super Bowl championship banner.
About 30 minutes after the scheduled kickoff, which was delayed from 8:20 p.m. until 9:05 p.m., the banner high above Lincoln Financial Field was uncovered Thursday night as the building rocked in celebration.
Fans came back from the concourses following the rain-and-lightning delay and were greeted to an on-field pep talk by former safety Brian Dawkins, resplendent in the gold Hall of Fame jacket he received last month. With owner Jeff Lurie by his side, Dawkins then led a chorus of “Fly Eagles Fly,” accompanied by more than 70,000 fans.
The rendition was just as loud as after the Eagles’ NFC championship victory over Minnesota in January.
Moments later, led by veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles ran onto the field to another rousing ovation.
A severe weather pattern has forced fans at Lincoln Financial Field to leave the open seats for cover before the kickoff of the NFL season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.
A message from the National Weather Service was posted on the Linc videoboard asking everyone to take cover in stadium concourses. Some fans in end zone seats ignored that, frolicking in the downpour and dancing as music blared over loudspeakers.
Rain began falling at the Linc around 8 p.m., accompanied soon after by lightning. Earlier, temperatures had reached the high 90s.
Stadium officials announced a new kickoff time of 8:55 p.m., more than 30 minutes after the game was originally scheduled.
Falcons long snapper Josh Harris is inactive against the Eagles, ending a streak of 103 consecutive games played.
Harris has a hip injury and missed a couple days of practice. Jeff Overbaugh was promoted from the practice squad and takes Harris’ spot. Overbaugh played in three games for the Vikings, including two playoff games last season.
There were no surprises on Philadelphia’s list.
Quarterback Carson Wentz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery are the starters sitting out. Both are returning from surgery. Wide receiver Mack Hollins was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury hours before the game.
Other inactives for the Eagles: G Chance Warmack, T Jordan Mailata, OL Matt Pryor, DE Josh Sweat.
Inactive players for the Falcons: CB Isaiah Oliver, S Jordan Richards, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, G Ben Garland, T Matt Gono, DT Justin Zimmer.
Carson Wentz was throwing passes on the field more than two hours before kickoff as he continues his recovery from surgery last December to repair two torn knee ligaments.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will start for the defending champion Eagles on Thursday night against Atlanta. Wentz wasn’t officially ruled out by coach Doug Pederson until Monday, though it was an obvious decision because he hasn’t been medically cleared.
Wentz did various drills and looked sharp as he wore a brace on his left knee. It’s uncertain when he’ll return to the starting lineup. Foles stepped in Week 14 and helped the team win its first NFL title since 1960.
The last time the Eagles took the field for a game that mattered, the temperature hovered around zero in Minneapolis. It was slightly hotter in Philly on Thursday.
Like pushing 100 degrees.
The season opener between the Eagles and Falcons is going to be a heated affair, thanks to Mother Nature. About 2 1/2 hours before kickoff, it was 96 degrees (35.6 degrees Celsius) at Lincoln Financial Field — hotter than earlier in the day. Compare that with the comfort of the Super Bowl, which of course was played indoors in Minneapolis, not in the Arctic conditions outside the Vikings’ home stadium.
That was the last time the Eagles had a meaningful game, beating New England for the championship.
Predictions of rain Thursday night — and probably a cooling off — certainly aren’t dampening the enthusiasm for the Eagles’ first home game as NFL champion since the 1961 season.
The NFL is opening its season by giving Philly fans one last celebration of their Super Bowl title before their team dives in to chase another.
The Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night in the first game of the regular season, eight months after the teams played a tight game in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Philadelphia will unveil its first Super Bowl banner in franchise history in front of a sellout crowd.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson says he expects both a great atmosphere and a great opponent.
The Falcons aren’t trying to make up for their loss to the Eagles in January. They have a new goal — finishing the season at home in Atlanta, where the Super Bowl will be played in February.
The Eagles will be playing without quarterback Carson Wentz, who had surgery last December to repair two torn knee ligaments. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will start instead.