Eagles vs. Falcons score, takeaways: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia defense too much for Atlanta
The Eagles got a big game from their first-round pick
DeVonta Smith's NFL debut was as good as advertised and Nick Sirianni earned his first career victory as a head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Atlanta. The Eagles' first-round pick tied a team record with six catches in his debut, finishing with 71 yards and a score as Philly scored 25 unanswered points to beat the Atlanta Falcons 32-6 in a crucial road victory.
Jalen Hurts had a banner day in his first Week 1 start, finishing 27 of 35 for 264 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 62 yards. Hurts has amassed 300 total yards in three of five career starts and rushed for 60 yards in that same amount. The Eagles quarterback threw touchdown passes to Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor.
Smith's first career catch for the Philadelphia Eagles went for an 18-yard touchdown as Smith became the first Eagle since Tony Stewart in 2011 whose first career catch was a touchdown. Smith is the only player in franchise history to have five catches and a touchdown in his first career game.
The Eagles had a two-minute drive to score their second touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Hurts to Goedert with two seconds left in the half, which set the tone for the rest of the game. Miles Sanders converted a two-point attempt to put the Eagles up 15-6, momentum they wouldn't relent in a dominant second half. Kenny Gainwell rushed for a touchdown to put Philadelphia up three scores, as Gainwell and Smith became the first pair of rookies in franchise history to each score a touchdown in their first career game. Hurts capped off the victory with a 23-yard pass to Reagor to put Philadelphia up 29-6 with 4:20 to play.
Atlanta had its chances in the first half, but the Falcons failed to convert both of their red-zone attempts. The Falcons went inside the 10-yard line on their first two possessions, yet came away with just six points. Matt Ryan was sacked three times -- all in the fourth quarter-- as Atlanta finished with just 58 yards in the second half.
Why the Eagles won
The Eagles were able to control the line of scrimmage on the offensive and defensive lines. Philadelphia had Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson back together on the line for the first time since 2019 and it showed -- as the Eagles rushed for 173 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Hurts was hit just once and only sacked once, just a year removed after the offensive line allowed 65 sacks (which led the NFL).
The defensive line dominated the Falcons offensive line in the second half, as Atlanta faced a lot of pressure on the interior. Javon Hargrave had two sacks in the fourth quarter and Hassan Ridgeway had one -- as the Eagles finished with 10 quarterback hits on Ryan (Ridgeway and Hargrave each had three). Atlanta was beaten up front in the second half, thanks to the Eagles' defensive tackles.
Why the Falcons lost
The Falcons failing to convert touchdowns in the red zone on their first two possessions stopped them from talking control of the game. Atlanta went inside the 10-yard line on their first two possessions, yet came away with just six points. The Falcons went to the Eagles' 3-yard line on their first possession and had two downs to score, yet couldn't punch the ball into the end zone.
Back-to-back penalties facing a first-and-goal on the 2-yard line held Atlanta to another field goal -- and the opportunity to go up 10-3. The Falcons were able to run that ball at will on their first two possessions, yet Arthur Smith never reacted to Jonathan Gannon's adjustments. Atlanta had just one more play in Eagles territory the remainder of the game, which was an intentional grounding penalty by Ryan.
Hurts found Goedert on a 9-yard touchdown catch with two seconds remaining in the first half that gave the Eagles a commanding 15-6 lead and set the tone for the remainder of the game. The throw by Hurts to Goedert may have been the play of the game, as the Eagles quarterback rolled to his right and threw on the run to a diving Goedert for the touchdown.
Hurts led the Eagles on a 12-play, 62-yard drive that started at the Eagles' own 38 with 1:44 to play in the first half. Hurts went 5- for-7 for 41 yards on the drive (one was a spike) and rushed for 24 yards, That drive by Hurts was the back breaker for the Falcons.
Play of the game
There are multiple candidates here, but Hurts throwing an 18-yard touchdown to Smith on the Eagles' first possession of the year is the one that had Eagles fans jumping out of their seats. Hurts found Smith on third-and-4 from the 18-yard line for the touchdown, the first career catch for Smith and the Eagles' first touchdown of the season.
Smith is the first Eagles player to catch a touchdown in his first career game since Marvin Hargrove in 1990 and the third Eagles receiver to accomplish the feat (Cris Carter was the other). His six receptions tied DeSean Jackson for the most from a player in his NFL debut in Eagles history. The Eagles took the lead for good on this play.
"When things are wrong, he's the guy who's picking everybody up. When things are right, he's telling everyone to keep pushing." -- Smith on Hurts in postgame.
Hurts had an impressive performance against the Falcons and is the first quarterback since the merger with 1,000 passing yards and 300 rushing yards in his first five career starts. Hurts has 1,183 passing yards and 334 rushing yards in his first five career starts -- but he's been praised for his leadership throughout the summer.
Philadelphia (1-0) is at Lincoln Financial Field for its home opener against the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) while Atlanta (0-1) travels to Raymond James Stadium to face reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0).
That will do it. Eagles go to 1-0 with a 32-6 blowout of the Falcons. Philly gets a huge road victory and shuts down Atlanta's offense.
Tony Romo told me they were going to surprise some people this year. That was impressive.
Not the start we wanted.— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 12, 2021
Josh Rosen in for the Falcons as the Eagles wrapped this one up. Philly has 31 carries for 173 yards on the ground.
OK. NOW there's a mass exodus. Matt Ryan is sacked. Jalen Mayfield just... whiffed.— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) September 12, 2021
Injury Update: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (ankle) is questionable to return.— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 12, 2021
The turnover was taken away by grounding, but Eagles defense gets justice. Sack on 4th down all but seals this one.
There's the turnover the Eagles needed. Hassan Ridgeway got the strip sack. Milton Williams with the fumble recovery.
Banner day for the 2021 Eagles draft class.
The Eagles are just trying to run out clock as Nick Sirianni has been conservative.
Still a two touchdown game (Falcons need two two-point conversions), but the run aspect of football is gone. The defense just has to get to Matt Ryan.
Five straight punts for Atlanta's offense. Only two first downs. There's no sugar-coating that.— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) September 12, 2021
The Eagles front four have really made Matt Ryan uncomfortable in this second half.
Ryan should have thrown a pick-six there. Offensive line has been great too.