5 things learned from Falcons’ 32-6 loss to Eagles

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

The Arthur Smith era did not get off to a grand start.

The Falcons were throttled by the Eagles, of the supposedly weak NFC East, 32-6, Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The locals started heading back to their tailgates at the 9:21 mark of the fourth quarter after the Falcons punted on their sixth consecutive possession.

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“I did a really poor job getting us ready to go,” Smith said. “I feel awful for our fans. Everybody showed up today. We’ll do a better job. That game is not going to define us. It’s a long season to go. I certainly didn’t do a good enough job getting us ready to go today.”

The Falcons missed wide receiver Julio Jones as the offense had no spark.

They repeatedly made penalties. They couldn’t score in the red zone. The defense continued to give up yardage by the mile and the offensive line couldn’t protect quarterback Matt Ryan at the end of the game.

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Owner Arthur Blank was hoping the team could be competitive in 2021, but that was not the case in the season opener. Next up is the defending Super Bowl champions, Tampa Bay.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts outplayed Ryan. Hurts completed 27 of 35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 126.4. The former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback added 62 yards rushing on seven carries to power the Eagles’ offense.

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Ryan completed 21 of 35 passes for 164 yards and no touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 71.6.

“I was disappointed,” Ryan said. “You come out and you expect yourself to play well and to win. Just had some things that got us off schedule. Had some self-inflicted wounds and when you do that, it puts you in a tough spot to overcome.”

Here are the five things we learned from the season-opening loss, which was the franchise’s worst season-opening loss since Marion Campbell’s squad was beaten 48-10 by Tampa Bay on Sept. 13, 1987:

1. Rushing attack. By the end of the first quarter, the Falcons’ offense had covered 86 yards, which was more than they had in seven games in the 2020 season.

Running backs Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson both started and got rolling early.

Davis and Patterson helped to power the first two possessions that stalled and ended up with field goals.

Davis rushed 15 times for 49 yards and Patterson seven for 54 yards. The Falcons rushed 26 times for 124 yards.

2. Penalties. Both teams, who didn’t play most of their starters in the exhibition season, played sloppy. Rookie Jalen Mayfield, playing left guard for the first time, couldn’t settle.

“We felt like we had a lot of chances,” Mayfield said. “I felt that I set our team back a couple times with false starts. We penalties. When you’re behind the sticks, it’s hard to do stuff.”

The Eagles has 14 penalties for 89 yards and the Falcons had 12 for 99 yards.

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The Falcons had the ball trailing the Eagles 7-6 on their third position, but a holding penalty on right tackle Kaleb McGary, a false start by Mayfield and an intentional grounding by Ryan killed any potential drive.

The defense got a stop and the Falcons had the ball at their 8-yard line with 3:38 left in the second quarter. Mayfield had another false start and the Falcons ran the ball on third-and-9 before punting.

The Eagles answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Goedert. When defensive tackle Marlon Davidson lined up over the center on the extra point, he was called for an illegal formation penalty.

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

The Eagles went for a two-point conversion and Miles Sanders converted to make it 15-6 at the half.

The Falcons’ untimely penalties gave the Eagles control of the game.

“We got down and played right into their hands,” Smith said.

The Goedert touchdown catch appeared to hit the ground, but was upheld on review.

“That halftime swing, we just need to be better and make them kick a three,” safety Duron Harmon said.

3. Where’s Kyle Pitts? Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, the highest tight end ever drafted since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, did not have an impact on the game. He was targeted eight times and had four catches for 31 yards.

Calvin Ridley also had eight targets and caught five passes for 51 yards.

The Falcons’ second possession of the third quarter, Pitts had a 11-yard catch nullified by an offensive pass interference call on tight end Hayden Hurst.

Ryan then connected with Pitts for an 18-yard gain. After Patterson recovered a fumble by Ryan, the Falcons had a 21-yard gain nullified by a offensive pass interference call on Ridley.

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

4. Pass rush. The Falcons used their assortment of blitzes, but Hurts was generally composed.

Outside linebacker Jacob Tuioti-Mariner had a sack and a quarterback hit for the Falcons. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett nearly had a few sacks, including one on fourth-down-and-4 from the 36 early in the second quarter.

“I felt like we got some good pressure on him, but we didn’t get him down,” Jarrett said.

The Falcons’ defense features six new starters.

“We’re at a spot where the only thing we can do is get better,” Harmon said. “At the end of the day we just have to be better.”

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

5. Red-zone woes. The Falcons were one of the worst teams in the red zone last season and those woes continued in the season opener.

The Falcons opened the game by driving down to the Eagle’s 3 yard line before stalling. Kicker Younghoe Koo made a 21-yard field goal to a cap a 14-play drive that covered 72 yards and took 5:02 off the clock.

On their second possession, the Falcons moved the Eagles’ 8-yard line before stalling. Koo added a 27-yard field to end the 15-play drive that covered 74 yards and took 6:25 off the clock.

“It’s about scoring touchdowns in this league and not have self-inflicted wounds,” Smith said.

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