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Philadelphia Eagles begin title defense with win vs. Atlanta Falcons

By
Alex Butler
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) reacts to a call on the field during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photo by Derik Hamilton/UPI
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) reacts to a call on the field during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Photo by Derik Hamilton/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Jay Ajayi was the star of a game lacking offensive fireworks, helping the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 to open the season on Thursday in Philadelphia.

The Eagles running back capped off the effort with an 11-yard touchdown run with 2:25 remaining to give his team a 16-12 advantage. He followed the scoring scamper with two-point conversion run. Ajayi finished the game with 62 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

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Atlanta took the initial lead in the rematch of a January NFC Divisional round playoff bout. Matt Bryant made that possible with a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott responded with a 26-yard field goal in the second quarter to tie the score at 3-3. Bryant earned the lead back for the Falcons with a 52-yard field goal with 2:13 remaining in the first half.

Ajayi capped off an 11-play, 63-yard drive with a one yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Eagles a 10-6 advantage. But the Falcons responded with a nine-yard Tevin Coleman touchdown run in the fourth frame to earn a 12-10 lead.

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Ajayi finished off the Falcons by sealing the Eagles' 8-play, 54-yard drive in the fourth quarter. He went around the left edge on the play, beating several defenders through the hole before reaching pay dirt for the decisive points.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan -- who completed 21-of-43 passes for 251 yards, no scores and one interception -- attempted to bring his team back on a late game-winning drive, but fell just short. The Falcons faced a 1st and goal from the Philadelphia 10-yard-line, but Ryan threw five consecutive incompletions to end the game as time expired.

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Star Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones led all pass-catchers with 10 catches for 169 yards in the loss. Nick Foles completed 19-of-34 passes for 117 yards and an interception for the Eagles.

The Eagles face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 at 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The Falcons battle the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

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