Julio Jones had 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns, Matt Ryan shook off a pair of interceptions, and the Atlanta Falcons came back to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 26-24, on Monday night after squandering a 17-point halftime lead.
Ricardo Allen’s interception off a deflected pass sealed the victory with 1:11 left, giving Dan Quinn an upset victory in his first game as Falcons coach. The Eagles missed a chance to go ahead when Cody Parkey missed a 44-yard field goal with 2:27 to go.
“Our defense stepped up at the end of the game,” Ryan said. “Ricardo has worked so hard.”
Coming off the best season of his career and with a lucrative new contract, Jones dominated the Eagles’ revamped secondary as the Falcons raced to a 20-3 halftime lead. It could have been even more if not for Kiko Alonso’s dazzling one-handed interception while falling backward in the end zone.
Ryan had another pass intercepted on the first possession of the second half, turning the momentum in Philadelphia’s favor. The Atlanta quarterback finished 23 of 34 for 298 yards.
Sam Bradford, in his first regular-season game in nearly two years and making his debut for the Eagles, was 36 of 52 for 336 yards. But Philadelphia’s much-hyped running game, led by newcomer DeMarco Murray, was largely a bust.
After leading the NFL with more than 1,800 yards rushing in Dallas last season, Murray was held to nine yards on eight carries. Ryan Mathews had only 4 yards, while Darren Sproles led the way with 50 yards on the ground.
Coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense looked unstoppable in the preseason but bogged down in the first half against the fired-up Falcons, who hope the energetic Quinn can turn things around from a 10-22 showing the last two seasons under Mike Smith.
Other than a 69-yard drive that led to a field goal, the Eagles generated just 56 yards on their other seven first-half possessions — three of which went three-and-out, and another ended quickly when Bradford was intercepted.
Jones, on the other hand, was unstoppable. After signing a new $71.25 million contract, he gave Atlanta its money’s worth by hauling in eight passes for 97 yards before halftime, including touchdowns of 4 and 22 yards. The Eagles clamped down in the second half, but Jones finally got loose for his only catch after the break — a 44-yarder that set up Matt Bryant’s winning field goal from 47 yards with 6:27 left.
Bryant also connected from 41, 39 and 44 yards.
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to capture the momentum after halftime.
On the third play, Ryan threw a deep pass down the middle just as he was hit, looking for Roddy White. Walter Thurmond stepped in to make the interception, returning it 23 yards to the Atlanta 8. After an incomplete pass, Murray took off around right end for Philadelphia’s first touchdown of the season.
The Falcons were forced to punt, and the Eagles put together their most impressive drive of the night to that point. Despite four penalties, they went 95 yards in 13 plays, capped off by Bradford’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Murray that sliced Atlanta’s lead to 20-17. The running back hauled in the throw, cut back to leave Kroy Biermann sprawled face-first on the turf, and sauntered into the end zone.
Philadelphia wasn’t done, either.
Bradford guided the Eagles 80 yards in just six plays, including four consecutive completions that went for 24, 12, 21 and 19 yards to the Atlanta 1. Mathews took it in from there, giving Philadelphia its first lead of the game.
It wouldn’t last.