QB Matt Ryan WR Julio Jones DE Vic Beasley
THE REMATCH THE LAST TWO NFC CHAMPIONS CLASH IN PHILADELPHIA TO KICK OFF THE NFL’S REGULAR SEASON
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE 11 11
Heading into 2017 fresh off an NFC
Championship and heartbreaking
Super Bowl collapse, the Atlanta
Falcons faced the inevitable changes to
their coaching staff that come with a
After offensive coordinator Kyle
Shanahan led the league’s highestscoring
offense in 2016, Shanahan left to
become the head coach of the 49ers and
the Falcons made the transition to new
offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
Despite keeping just about the same
talent from the run to the Super Bowl
including MVP quarterback Matt Ryan,
All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, Pro
Bowl running back Devonta Freeman,
and nearly the entire offensive line,
the Falcons’ offensive numbers slipped
in 2017. The Falcons dropped from
second overall in total offense to
eighth and fell from second to ninth
in first downs. A deep dive into the
advanced analytics showed that the
Falcons’ offense dipped from the
league’s top offensive DVOA to ninth.
On the other side of the ball, the
Falcons’ defense ranked 20th in yards
per drive, 18th in points per drive, and
26th in turnovers per drive. Atlanta
ranked 30th in defensive interception
rate at just 1.4 percent.
Despite these challenges, the Falcons
still finished with a 10-6 r ecord, just
one game behind the 2016 t eam,
and claimed the final Wild Card spot.
After an impressive road victory in the
Wild Card round against the Rams, an
inability to execute on four straight
red zone plays cost the Falcons their
season in the Divisional Round against
Transitions are difficult. So coming
into 2018, the Falcons will look to find
more stability from the offense with a
year under Sarkisian’s belt. They will
try to compete for a division title in
a crowded NFC South that sent three
teams to the playoffs last season.
They will be led once again by Ryan,
who arguably had a better season last
year than his 2016 MVP c ampaign. He
threw for 3,914 yards and boasted a
completion percentage of 65.1 percent.
He had 20 touchdowns against 12
interceptions, five of which bounced
off of the hands of his pass catchers.
Jones finished last season with 88
catches for 1,444 yards and three
touchdowns. The target of the failed
fourth-and-goal attempt which ended
Atlanta’s season, Jones will be back
and look to get more red zone catches.
Jones made just five receptions for two
touchdowns in 18 red zone targets in
2017. Freeman returns after earning
a solid 865 rushing y ards on 4.4 yards
per rush with seven scores last season.
The Falcons will meet the Eagles in
the NFL’s Kickoff event on Thursday,
September 6 at 8:20 p.m. as
Philadelphia raises its Super Bowl LII
Championship banner and celebrates
what came after the 15-10 win over
the Falcons in January 2018.
BY GRAHAM FOLEY