ATLANTA – The start of a new era for the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t have been better.
Or too bad for the Atlanta Falcons.
Jalen Harts threw three touchdown passes, the first of them to Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith, and the Eagles defeated Nick Siriani in their head coaching debut in a 32-6 loss to the hapless Falcons on Sunday.
Now firmly established as an Eagles starter after the trade of Carson Wentz, Hurts certainly saw the part with touchdown passes for 18 yards to Smith, 9 yards to Dallas Goedert and 23 yards to Jalen Rigor.
“We wanted to come out the first week and start off right,” said Hurts, who guided the Eagles to more points than they had scored in any game a year earlier. “It looks great.”
Another Philadelphia rookie, fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell, scored his first TD as a pro, essentially sealing the victory with a run of 8 yards late in the third quarter.
The Falcons looked absolutely inept in their first game under coach Arthur Smith.
After settling for field goals on two impressive drives to start the game, Atalanta didn’t do much for the rest. The Falcons never advanced past the Philadelphia 49ers and finished with only 260 yards.
Matt Ryan was caught for 164 yards and sacked three times.
“I did a really bad job getting us ready to go,” Smith said. “That game is not going to define us. It’s a long season to go, but of course I haven’t worked out enough to be ready to go today.”
In a matchup of two of the NFC’s worst teams since 2020, the Eagles have improved far more with a modified offense led by the Hearts and a healthy line in front of them.
He completed 27 of 35 passes for 264 yards and used his maneuverability to repeatedly neutralize Atalanta’s attempts to shake them off with a series of blitzes. He ran for 62 yards on seven carriages and was dismissed only once.
“Jalen was in complete control of the whole game,” Siriani said. I am very happy with the way he played.
The first TD of the Siriani era signaled changing times in Philadelphia, when the Eagles fell 4-11-1 the previous season, leading to the ouster of Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pedersen.
Hurts passed a pass to Devonta Smith, the No. 10 pick in the draft, to the left of the end zone to give the Eagles a lead they never left past the midpoint of the first quarter.
Smith took advantage of a nifty, borderline pick from tight end Zach Ertz, leaving enough separation on cornerback Fabian Morrow in the throw from Hearts. In an interesting twist, it was the same end zone at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where Smith caught a championship-winning touchdown pass for Alabama in overtime in the 2018 national title game.
“We saw the coverage we wanted, rolled with it and executed the drama,” Devonta Smith said.
Hurts and Smith were teammates with the Crimson Tide for two years. The Eagles expect this to be the first of many touchdowns a team makes in the NFL.
When asked about scoring the first catch of his NFL career, Smith said, “It’s really not up to me yet.” He finished with six receptions for the team’s leading 71 yards.
The Falcons were coming off a 4–12 season in which they fired both their coach and general manager, and an off-season in which seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones was traded.
On opening day, at least, they looked even worse.
His new coach said, ‘We didn’t put any pressure on him.
in the trenches
The Eagles were coming to the fore after using 14 different offensive line combinations last season.
Right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Len Johnson, a pair of three-time pro bowlers, had come back from injuries. Jordan Malata, a former Australian rugby star, settled on a lucrative new contract he signed a day earlier after beating 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard for the left tackle spot.
Malata agreed to a four-year deal worth $64 million that includes approximately $41 million in guaranteed money.
“It feels like a movie,” he said. “I keep waiting for someone to say ‘cut’.”
Jevon Hargrave had two Philadelphia sacks, both in fourth-down plays in the closing minutes, when the Falcons were forced to go for it on consecutive property.
“I really believe everyone in our room can reach the quarterback,” Hargrave said.
Tight end Kyle Pitts is expected to have a bigger share of the offense after being drafted with the fourth overall choice by the Falcons.
He didn’t show much in his NFL debut.
Targeted eight times, the Florida rookie took four catches for 31 yards.
“I thought he did some good things for us the first time around,” Ryan said. “We were kind of tormented in the passing game. I think that makes it difficult for people.”
Eagles: S Marcus Epps Conceived in the first half. … Ertz was sidelined with a hamstring injury. … WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside has an ankle injury.
Falcon: No one is reported injured.
Eagles: Host the San Francisco 49ers in their home opener next Sunday.
The Falcons: Travel to Florida to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC South matchup next Sunday.
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