Audibles at the Line

Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

As is now tradition, we have a special Opening Night Audibles covering the regular season opener -- this year, a potential NFC playoff preview between the Falcons and Eagles.

Atlanta Falcons 12 at Philadelphia Eagles 18

Aaron Schatz: Let's play some real football!

Bryan Knowles: Well, maybe not yet. Severe thunderstorms in the area delaying kickoff -- not like the offseason is long enough, right?

There was a lightning delay before the 2013 opener, too -- a half-hour delay, followed by Peyton Manning dropping seven touchdowns on Baltimore. That means, clearly, Nick Foles will do the same tonight. After all, he has experience doing just that, right?

... Yes, I'm killing time during the rain delay, why do you ask?

Scott Kacsmar: Over/under nine mentions of "RPO" by Al Michaels and Cris Colllinsworth ... in the first quarter alone.

Vince Verhei: I just hope somebody taught Al the difference between an RPO and a play-action pass in the past seven months.

Somebody find me a pic of Cris Collinsworth's suit. The midnight blue with black pinstripes is striking.

Atlanta's first drive ends on a failed fourth-and-goal run, but the only call I didn't like there was on third down. You come out in a jumbo set and split two tight ends out wide and put Devonta Freeman in the slot -- gee, I wonder where the ball is going to go?

Bryan Knowles: A big question in the Atlanta chapter this year was whether or not the Falcons could overcome their struggles in key situations -- the red zone, late and close, etc. The other big question was whether Steve Sarkisian's play calling would improve after an inauspicious first season.

Well, it's a sample size of one, but so far, not so good. Falcons drive down the field (just like last year), but stall out in the red zone (just like last year). And on fourth-and-goal, the Falcons take Julio Jones off the field, line up everyone tight, and run the most obvious running play in the history of running plays.

Not exactly what Falcons fans were hoping for.

Aaron Schatz: Julio wasn't out there for either third-and-goal or fourth-and-goal. I hope that the failure doesn't discourage the Falcons from going for it on fourth down more often this season.

Derrik Klassen: There are plenty of reasons to bag on Steve Sarkisian's red zone approach on that first series, but that third-down pass to Devonta Freeman should have been hit. Matt Ryan had him open and just missed; looked a little late and a foot wide.

Scott Kacsmar: Didn't NBC broadcast the playoff game between these two? So first there was the joke of a fourth-down call in the fog game on SNF against New England, then that red zone mess in January, and the one tonight. The Falcons really save their worst for Al and Cris. Glad they went for the fourth down there, but I don't know how we're still seeing teams go to goal-line formations in 2018. Put your best players on the field and create some space.

Carl Yedor: Didn't get a great look at the replay but I'm not a huge fan of the challenge on that 3-yard completion to Austin Hooper. It's not a huge difference in terms of yards to go, and it's really early in the game to potentially burn a challenge for a relatively marginal gain.

Vince Verhei: Well that sure was an ugly first quarter. Philly's offense looks to be in "first game of the preseason" mode. Fumbles, penalties, unblocked blitzers, ugh. And Atlanta's red zone strategy of "run into loaded boxes" isn't working, but they're sticking with it. Which is dumb.

Aaron Schatz: Atlanta's offensive line has pulled off some very nice blocks, but they can't do anything when the Eagles sniff out their screens. Or what looked like a play where Matt Ryan was supposed to read Brandon Graham and I guess read him wrong because Graham easily took the running back down unblocked.

Scott Kacsmar: If a defensive back erases a receiver by running the route for him, should it really be DPI? Desmond Trufant just got hit with a big one on third-and-7 on a route where Mike Wallace seemingly didn't even try to run. That could cost the Falcons four points.

Aaron Schatz: I was pissed about it too when they first threw it but on the replay it looked like Trufant did pull on Wallace's butt to hold him back.

Derrik Klassen: I will now take the next few minutes yelling at Twitter as to why that pass interference call on Desmond Trufant was abysmal. Felt like Trufant went with the pretty standard "use the receiver as balance, but don't destroy him" dive to get out in front of the play.

Aaron Schatz: Looks like I might be in for another year of screaming at kick returners to stop taking the ball out of the end zone. I guess the new rules might open things up for more returns, but I definitely think if you juggle the ball in the end zone like Shelton Gibson just did, you just take a damn knee and enjoy the touchback. Instead the Eagles got the ball out to the 10 and then got moved back to the 5 by a holding penalty. Yuck.

And then a roughing the passer penalty against Grady Jarrett for daring to be subject to the laws of physics. This "body weight on the quarterback" roughing the passer stuff is awful. How on earth is the pass-rusher supposed to stop his body when he's hitting the quarterback? Do we need to practice levitation?

Scott Kacsmar: Quarterbacks should feel embarrassed that there's a rule like that for roughing. With some of these safety rules over the years, I'm skeptical how much it's actually done to prevent players from making "illegal" hits. Flag and fine a player all you want, but the hit still happened. With this particular rule, you're not likely to eliminate ANY of the hits because it's physically impossible for a defender to stop his forward momentum when he's going in on a quarterback releasing the ball like that. Flag late hits, flag low hits under the knee, but calling roughing on routine hits and sacks is pure nonsense.

Aaron Schatz: We've gone a little crazy with the flags in the second quarter here, and yet they missed the big one, Keanu Neal committing pass interference on Mike Wallace.

Vince Verhei: That first half was atrocious. A complete chore to sit through. Philly calling timeout to make sure they could punt before the end of the half, only to get their punter roughed, was their best offensive play. Just thirty minutes of runs for no gain and dropped passes and catches short of the sticks and perplexing ref calls. I'm not cheering for either team but that was so hard to watch I'm angry about it.

Derrik Klassen: Watching this Falcons offense under Sark is such a pain. Toss plays for no reason, consistently too heavy in the red zone, play calls being in isolation rather than a coordinated string of calls, etc. Feels like he is still just leaning on Julio Jones and the sheer talent in the offense to win out, rather than actually taking steps to maximize that talent. In Year 1 that was maybe a bit more understandable, but in Year 2, that's concerning. Hopefully something changes here in the second half.

Bryan Knowles: Philly's offense woke up a little bit there in the second quarter -- at least, compared to the goose egg they put up in the first quarter -- but penalties and sloppiness made that an awful quarter to watch.

At least the second half can't be much worse!

Tom Gower: Halftime, Falcons up 6-3. The first quarter was a hot mess except for Julio Jones. The second quarter was a little bit better, but overall that was two quarters of an argument that NFL teams should try harder and play their starters more in the preseason, because players need game preparation, not just practices, to be ready for precise execution. Matt Ryan made some questionable decisions and missed some throws -- most notably Devonta Freeman on third down before that fourth-down "what are you doing, Sark, running toss against a fast defense from a tight formation at the goal line?" -- but not just that one. Meanwhile this looks more like the Nick Foles who's maybe the 40th-best quarterback in the NFL than the Super Bowl MVP. The play where his hard count and Lane Johnson pointed out a blitzer and he still got sacked was a particular lowlight, along with the second-and-goal from the 19 run. Add in the penalties (and I'm with Terry McAulay, there wasn't enough restriction on Wallace to throw a flag there), and the preseason-y feel increased even more.

Scott Kacsmar: When a roughing the punter penalty is your longest gain of the half, that about sums it up. At least the Falcons have hit a few nice plays to Julio, but there's little to be happy about here. Sixteen combined penalties in a half is pretty bad.

Bryan Knowles: All that being said, the Philly fans booing the Eagles at halftime felt a little ... harsh. You just raised a banner! At least let the good vibes last a full game!

Vince Verhei: At halftime, the running backs in this game have one carry for 20 yards and 24 yards on their other 17 carries.

Carl Yedor: Now this deep pass to Julio Jones is a challenge I can get behind. Would be a huge play in what has been an ugly rock fight to this point.

Vince Verhei: No idea how that deep ball to Julio Jones wasn't called a catch on replay review. That ball never hit the ground and wasn't moving as he slid out of bounds. If we're not going to reverse that let's just cancel instant replay.

Scott Kacsmar: "Catch isn't catch."

Bryan Knowles: I will say one thing -- the Green Zone, which has (rightfully) been universally panned, is actually not so bad when they go to the SkyCam angle; it feels like it helps with some of the lack of depth perception you get there.

When used with the normal angle, though, it's just as bad as everyone has been saying.

Rivers McCown: Already losing Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant is not an auspicious start for the Falcons. Hopefully short-termers. And hey, as I'm typing this, Deion Jones is down too!

Aaron Schatz: And Jay Ajayi scores the first touchdown on the next play, with an unbalanced line no less. 10-6 Philadelphia.

Vince Verhei: Philly's best play was to punt and get a roughing penalty. Atlanta's was to punt and let a random guy from Philly's return team toe-tap it back to them.

Seriously though, Matt Ryan has been stinky tonight.

Rivers McCown: Ryan has definitely not had a good second half underneath. Kinda expect his deep arm to be hit-or-miss at this point in his career.

Aaron Schatz: The decision-making hasn't been great either, on that pass to the corner that Rasul Douglas just picked off near the goal line. Denies the Falcons a field goal try.

Rivers McCown: That's FO Top 25 Prospect Rasul Douglas!

Bryan Knowles: One of the questions asked during our SB Nation questions was whether Matt Ryan was going to bounce back in 2018. "He doesn't need to bounce back," we said. "He was just unlucky; he'll be fine," we said.

He'll have to rebound now. Just threw a pretty ugly INT in the red zone -- can't blame that one on the play calling.

Rivers McCown: ... and that's FO Top 25 Prospect Damontae Kazee breaking up the pass on the Deion Jones interception!

Bryan Knowles: Falcons run the ball in to take the lead back ... but the extra point bounces off the upright. Two-point game.

When neither offense is setting the world on fire, that's big.

Aaron Schatz: Both Douglas and Kazee are going to be featured in the first run of FO players for Madden Ultimate Team, which is nice timing after this game.

NBC just showed a graphic that this is the most penalties in a game for Atlanta since something like 1999 ... and then they just got another one, face mask on an Eagles punt return. And sure enough, the guy grabbed the face mask. Hard to criticize the refs for throwing so many flags when the teams are going to play so sloppy and actually committing so many penalties.

Bryan Knowles: Five shots at the end zone at the end of the game, and the Falcons still can't score. Game over, Eagles win.

The play calls were better here than they were in the divisional round, but what killed Atlanta last season killed them again tonight. That has to hurt if you're a Falcons fan; you spend the entire offseason thinking about the way the season ended and the flaws all season long in the red zone, you hear the entire offseason how the Falcons were spending so much time and effort trying to improve their results in the red zone, you get down to the red zone with a chance to exorcise some of the demons of last year ... and it all ends the same way. Oof.

It wasn't a pretty game, but at least the fourth quarter was exciting. I think the Eagles can mostly shrug off their sluggish performance here; they're getting a quarterback upgrade sooner rather than later. If I'm Atlanta, I'm really concerned about the offensive performance tonight; Julio Jones was basically a one-man show bailing out Matt Ryan, and other than that, it was really ugly.

Rivers McCown: The only reason the Falcons even got that close was that they had to hurry-up and call their own plays rather than listening to the coordinator who wanted to throw a screen to Tevin Coleman in the two-minute drill.

Sheesh. As soon as they took that last timeout on the goal line, this game was over.

Tom Gower: Jumping to conclusions after Julio Jones can't come in down in bounds on the final play of the game...

  • Steve Sarkisian play calling and Atlanta's red zone execution: still an issue.
  • Falcons WR2: still an issue.
  • Matt Ryan has always had an arm a cut below the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Typically, you see that manifested in his reluctance to throw downfield unless he has a good pocket and platform, which is why he often hasn't been a good or prolific bomb passer (2016 the exception to this, obviously). But he has compensated for that. Tonight, he looked like some level of Chad Pennington. I hope it's just some injury and not something he'll have to face all year, because I like watching good football and that was not good football.
  • Like I noted at halftime, I think that was mostly more bad offense than very good defense creating problems for offenses.
  • Nick Foles is a backup. A good backup, but a backup.
  • Jay Ajayi gives the Eagles an element they needed, especially against Atlanta's defense.
  • Dang, Darren Sproles. Winning a one-on-one battle to get that third-down conversion on the drive with what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
  • I hope Keanu Neal's injury, or any of the others suffered tonight, isn't serious. Injuries suck.

Aaron Schatz: The fact that Ryan couldn't hit guys in bounds on that final goal-line stand was a problem too. He did not play a good game.

Rivers McCown: I don't know how much of that was Ryan and how much of that was nobody was open. But yes, not one for the Ryan highlight reel.

Bryan Knowles: It's worth remembering that the Falcons just barely made the playoffs last season. A goal-line stand in Detroit, a weird field goal decision in Seattle. Either of those go the other way, and they were sitting at home. They're in a tough division in a tough conference, and they can't afford to let winnable games slip away.

The Eagles did not have a good night, offensively. The Falcons had the ball in scoring range at the end of the game. We think the NFC is going to be super-competitive, and it's situations like this that are going to decide playoff slots. I know that's crazy to talk about after game 1 of 256, but this might be one Atlanta fans are looking back on in December, a game out of playoff range, and cursing one that slipped away.

Vince Verhei:

Comments

80 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2018, 4:51pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 07, 2018 - 9:45am

A goal-line stand in Detroit, a weird field goal decision in Seattle. Either of those go the other way, and they were sitting at home.

As a Lions fan, trust me, there is no reality where the Lions successfully make that stand. It's a franchise built around snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

I can't agree with the notion that this is the game Atlanta will point to as a season-decider. If they miss the playoffs, it's because they blew a game much more winnable than a road game at the defending champs.

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2 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:06am

If last night was typical of Ryan's throwing quality, the Falcons have a decent chance of missing the playoffs by more than 1 game. Hell, Case Keenum likely wins that game for the Falcons.

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8 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:46am

Are you unfamiliar with Keenum's last game in Philadelphia?

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31 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:28pm

That's my point.

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3 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by nat // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:15am

No idea how that deep ball to Julio Jones wasn't called a catch on replay review. That ball never hit the ground and wasn't moving as he slid out of bounds.

I think the issue is that the ball did move as he continued to slide out of bounds. It's not super obvious, and the tv personalities ignored it. But it is quite visible in the replays.

The interesting issue is that when it moved, it did so because the defender's foot pulled one of Jones' hands off the ball, allowing it to rotate freely momentarily. If the refs deemed that action part of a fight to prevent control of the ball that started before the play was over, then they were right to rule the pass incomplete. If the refs ruled that it was a new fight for the ball that only started after Jones had won (and ended) the fight for control and completed the catch, then they got it wrong.

In an angle available here:

https://www.sbnation.com/2018/9/6/17830400/julio-jones-atlanta-falcons-e...

... we can see that (a) Jones bobbled the ball (b) the defender forced a second bobble when his elbow hit the ball (c) Jones got apparent control and hit the ground (d) Jones slid out of bounds, and (e) the defender forced a third bobble when his foot hooked Jones' hand.

It's not remotely strange to consider (b) and (e) as part of a continuous fight for the ball. It's not as if the defender stopped trying to knock the ball out or got physically separated in a meaningful way or waited until Jones stopped sliding, or anything like that. Nor would it be particularly strange to consider (b) and (e) to be separate attempts to knock the ball free, with the second attempt instantly ending the play and resulting in a reception. It's a close judgment call.

There. Now you have an idea. Isn't that better than having no idea?

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19 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Eddo // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:46am

I agree with you. I totally agree with that play being an incompletion, and would not be a fan of changes to the catch rule that result in it being a catch. The Eagles' DB loosened the ball while Jones was lying on the sideline.

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20 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Arkaein // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:46am

Yeah, I've been a little surprised today at how many people seem to overwhelmingly think this was a bad call.

Looking at the replay alone, I'd probably go with a catch, but considering it was called incomplete on the field, and the one replay that actually showed the ball the whole way showed that secondary movement, I'm not surprised they stuck with the call on the field.

I think that if the original call went the other way, they stick with that as well. Not the most conclusive evidence even on replay.

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4 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:22am

1) It's worth noting that Darby did shove Jones in the air after he caught that last pass, preventing him from even attempting to get his feet down in bounds. Which is a seriously heads-up play by him which I think isn't getting a ton of credit. It would've been *really* hard for Jones to actually make that play, but still, Darby made it impossible.

2) Am I the only one that thinks that Ajayi *seriously* should've gone down at the 1 there? That would've been a first down, and run the clock down to the 2 minute warning. They couldn't run out the clock and kick (Atlanta had two timeouts left) but most likely worst case if you can't run the ball in 3 times, you kick the FG, take the lead, and Atlanta ends up with under a minute to go with no timeouts, down by 1. Yeah, sure, there are other worst cases (fumble, missed field goal) but the most likely outcome is the exact same (touchdown), except you burn the 2-minute warning and possibly a timeout or two. Personally I'm not sure the Falcons wouldn't've let the Eagles walk in, although down 6 and down 1 is a big difference.

3) "Nick Foles is a backup. A good backup, but a backup." Seriously? Seriously?? Yes, Foles isn't an A-list starter. Duh. But really, look at the other (non-rookie) backup QBs in the league. If you had no starter, and had to pick one of the backups around the league to start for you, who would you pick over Foles? Josh McCown?

Matt Ryan's backup is 37-year old Matt Schaub, f'crying out loud. You think a coach would call a trick play WR pass to QB with *Matt Schaub*? You think most teams would trust their backup QB to audible out of a play at the goal line at the end of the game?

Foles is a below-average starter. He's almost certainly the best non-rookie backup QB in the league. Just the fact that Pederson trusts him enough that they're running a complete offense is almost enough to make that case.

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10 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by RickD // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:51am

Foles may be inconsistent, but he's better than Flacco, Winston, Eli, and a handful of other starting QBs. It's not like he's Hoyer.

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23 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:00pm

Look, Jameis Winston seems a trash person, but in what world is Nick Foles a better quarterback?

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37 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:00pm

The one where Foles is allowed to play all the games in a season?

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45 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:00pm

Foels 2017: -114 DYAR, -28% DVOA
JW 2017: 779 DYAR, 14% DVOA

Right. They're practically in the same neighborhood! Foles earned -114 DYAR in what, four games? That's -900 DYAR pro-rated out to 16 games.

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50 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:37pm

No one would have thought Foles was in the same neighborhood as Winston by the end of the year.

Except Foles played more games than that, and in those 3 games, he earned 583 DYAR, for a total of 469 DYAR in 7 games. That's a rate of 67 DYAR/game, or 1072 DYAR for a 16-game season.

So yeah, same neighborhood.

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55 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:15pm

Those are his playoff numbers? Where did you find them? I would have included them initially but I don't know where to find them

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66 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 8:31pm

Under Quick Reads. You have to look up each week, so it's a tiny bit tedious. But only three weeks.

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27 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:09pm

Exactly. "Good backup" is how I would describe Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or maybe even Matt Schaub or Brian Hoyer. Quarterbacks who have actually managed to have decent (but never great) seasons at one point, but are well past their prime.

*Those* are good backups, as compared to DeShone Kizer, Geno Smith, Chase Daniel who are mediocre ones, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden who are bad ones. Not to even mention the teams that honestly don't even *have* a backup (e.g. Carolina, Dallas), who essentially are acknowledging if their QB gets hurt early, they're just going to lose, and they'll sign a real replacement after the game.

Foles at the very least is a fantastic backup. He's a QB who's managed to have a decent (but not great) season, but *is* in his prime. He's essentially equivalent to Case Keenum and Sam Bradford (because of injury concerns), and if it wasn't for extenuating circumstances in Philly, he'd be starting elsewhere (*cough* Buffalo *cough*).

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63 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by NJBammer // Sep 07, 2018 - 7:07pm

He's like a AAAA baseball player. A little too good to be a minor leaguer, not quite good enough for the majors. Foles is too good to be just a backup, but not good enough to hitch your wagon to him unless you can surround him with the kind of talent he has now.

Bottom line, even a QB on Foles' level is a very, very special player.

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13 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by dank067 // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:59am

Uh, I didn't think the Eagles were running anything remotely close to a complete offense last night. Jeffery being out may have had as much to do with it as Foles, but they were extremely conservative in the passing game—they ended up averaging 3.2 yards per dropback. Maybe there's something they don't like about the matchup with Atlanta but it sure didn't seem like they wanted to go down the field very much.

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18 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:35am

They *ran* a complete offense, they just didn't *execute* one. There were quite a few mid-range/deeper throws - they just weren't completed. Part of that is Jeffery being out (it's Wallace's first year on the team), and part of that is Ertz having a *really* bad day.

Obviously a good number of those incompletions are on Foles - duh, he had a bad day - but Pederson was still *calling* them, because he knew Foles was capable of them. And in general most of them were good decisions by Foles (save the near-interception, obviously), just not executed.

edit: to give numbers to it, by the "short/deep" designations in the NFL, Foles threw 7/34 "deep" and Ryan threw 10/43 deep. Essentially the same (it's a difference of 1 pass attempt). Difference of course is that Ryan completed 50% for 25.4 ypc and Foles completed 0%.

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32 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by dank067 // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:32pm

Outside of some of the targets to Julio I didn't really feel the Falcons were pushing the ball downfield very aggressively themselves, but if you're comparing numbers/percentages keep in mind that Ryan was dealing with a lot more pressure than Foles (which certainly seemed to be affecting Ryan's accuracy) and that Atlanta had quite a few more snaps in the red zone than the Eagles did, where you can't really throw deep. The binary cut-off that the NFL game logs use for short/deep is 15 yards, right?

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35 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:55pm

Yeah, it's binary. But ~20-25% 'deep' targets is pretty typical. And I don't think it's worth breaking down the details of each team, because no one in their right mind would compare the Eagles receiving corps (without Jeffery) to the Falcons. To me it really all comes down to the fact that Ertz and Foles both had a bad night. Yeah, some of the balls were a bit difficult to catch, but Ertz is a fantastic receiver. He normally catches those. And Foles isn't usually that off-target.

It's also worth noting that the Eagles were under field position pressure for several of their drives, too. About *half* of their drives started inside the 20, and one of them was at the "just get enough room for a punt" point.

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21 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Eddo // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:48am

"""3) "Nick Foles is a backup. A good backup, but a backup." Seriously? Seriously?? Yes, Foles isn't an A-list starter. Duh. But really, look at the other (non-rookie) backup QBs in the league. If you had no starter, and had to pick one of the backups around the league to start for you, who would you pick over Foles? Josh McCown?

...

Foles is a below-average starter. He's almost certainly the best non-rookie backup QB in the league. Just the fact that Pederson trusts him enough that they're running a complete offense is almost enough to make that case."""

What are you taking such offense to? You basically just restated the comment you appear to be arguing against.

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34 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:41pm

"What are you taking such offense to?"

'Good'. A below-average starter isn't a good backup. They're a *great* backup. They also don't usually end up being backups at all, because *some* team would want them. A good backup is a player who can't get a starting job. Foles absolutely could.

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47 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Poolboy // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:04pm

Full name Pat Foles? :) -Poolboy

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51 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:46pm

Yes, I'm a total Nick Foles fanboy, because I believe he's better than the list of legendary QBs such as Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, Brandon Weeden, Jacoby Brissett, Blaine Gabbert, Cody Kessler, Geno Smith, Chad Henne, and AJ McCarron.

Or that I believe that Foles would, in fact, make a better starter than that giant of the NFL, Nathan Peterman.

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54 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:06pm

Is he a below average starter?

2013 still happened. He's got a positive career DVAR, and his one really putrid year comes with a Fisherian asterisk.

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64 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bravehoptoad // Sep 07, 2018 - 8:06pm

If you had no starter, and had to pick one of the backups around the league to start for you, who would you pick over Foles? Josh McCown?

Terry Bridgewater. After that...yeesh...Jacoby Brissett maybe? Can I pick Colin Kaepernick?

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74 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 08, 2018 - 10:23am

Bridgewater's almost falling into the "rookie" trap though - find a guy who's got more potential than obvious limitations. I think most teams aren't nearly as high on Bridgewater as people assumed a few years ago - otherwise it's doubtful he would've landed on the Jets basically for free.

You can basically just look at the contracts for that: Bridgewater's got like, nothing guaranteed, whereas Foles has one of the highest cap numbers on the team. Foles is basically being paid lower-tier starting QB money, which just stresses how the NFL views him.

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76 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bravehoptoad // Sep 08, 2018 - 11:22am

I don't think "high" or "low" is the way to parse most team's interest in Teddy Bridgewater. They're uncertain how he's recovered from his knee injury and whether or not he can stay healthy. That's why, sure, the Jets got him for almost nothing, but after a solid preseason, the price moved up to a 2019 3rd-rounder. All he has to do for that price to move even higher is basically show that he can play without shattering parts of himself.

If he can do that, he's in franchise QB territory. Not many (non-rookie) backups can say that.

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78 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 09, 2018 - 9:49am

You could've said similar things regarding Bradford, though, and he still got oodles more than Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was fully OK for free agency, so teams should've been able to judge risk there.

And if we're gauging players by trade value, that still means teams valued Foles higher, as the Eagles were offered a high 2nd for him. And that's with a much higher salary.

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5 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Ryan // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:23am

Just here to spread the hate for the Green Zone.

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7 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by RickD // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:45am

+1

Looks like a random part of the field was recently treated and makes the rest of the field look like crap.

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11 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:54am

It looked like the Meadowlands.

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22 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Eddo // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:49am

I figured I wouldn't have an opinion about it, but I actually quite liked it. It helped with some third and long situations and also when the switched to the Madden camera angle, and it wasn't invasive at all.

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26 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:06pm

A less contrasty shade of green would be nice. It has value, I agree, but they could make it 50% subtler and maybe make everyone happy?

It has even more value on Madden Cam, as Vince noted here and I noted in the open thread last night.

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6 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Joseph // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:37am

(Disclaimer--Saints fan for life, but I respect Matt Ryan as a player)

Besides other things listed as problems for ATL, I want to emphasize that I saw several other passes defensed by the Eagles where it looked like Ryan got the ball to his receiver just a beat late. Two that come to mind would have been completions for first downs in the second half. The same thing happened on the Deion Jones INT of Foles--the pass was just a second late, allowed the safety to jar it loose.
I will allow others to determine why, but my opinion is less game reps in preseason. Obviously the game was sloppy, and of the penalties that I saw, they looked pretty straightforward--the clip and the facemask mentioned in the comments come to mind. (I didn't see the roughing call they talked about.)

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30 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:22pm

"Life" is a long time. How long do you think you could hold out if Daniel Snyder bought your team?

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46 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Joseph // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:01pm

Not sure--having said that, I meant that I have been a fan for all of my life (43 yrs.), not just in the Brees/Payton era. First game I remember was when the Rams edged them out for a playoff spot on the last day of the reg. season. Mike Lansford kicked a FG on the last play of the game after the Saints had scored a go-ahead TD late on an offensive fumble recovery in the end zone. That would have been 1983, iirc.
The reason for my disclaimer is that any true Saints fan has to hate ATL--the teams have been rivals pretty much since both teams entered the league and played against each other in the old NFC West. Still hate the Niners b/c of it too--even though I very much respected Montana, Young, Rice, Craig, et. al. as talented players.

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53 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:03pm

I thought you guys had a nice budding rivalry with St. Louis, until the last realignment broke it up.

And I disagree vehemently that "any true Saints fan has to hate ATL". Obv you're not talking about yourself here and I understand why people assume that of football fans. I lived that fandom for decades too. But even at the time I hated hating the rest of my team's division. It literally made me a stupider football fan. I root for the Broncos now, but without any animosity towards the Raiders, Chargers, or Chiefs. I'm a much happier person and a happier fan without that baggage.

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57 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:57pm

For what it is worth I've never hated any of the Vikings division rivals. I still root for the Vikings, but I decided a long time ago that the game really gets more interesting when you don't care that much about who wins. The closest I've come to rooting hard against a team is when I enjoy seeing ol' rubberfaced Jerry Jones in the closing moments of a Cowboys loss, despite enjoying watching quite a few Cowboys players through the years.

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65 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bravehoptoad // Sep 07, 2018 - 8:08pm

I'm with you; the Cowboys are one of the only teams I actively route against. For me it's not so much the ownership, it's the fans. Any fanbase that wants to call its team "America's Team" is just an extra-special one.

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75 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 08, 2018 - 10:37am

I *love* the fact that there's a polite discussion here concluding "hey, it's not okay to hate other teams... unless they're the Cowboys."

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79 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 09, 2018 - 10:13am

Hey, I admit to my vices! If you can't enjoy the sight of an unhappy Jerry Jones, well, gee whiz, let's not be total killjoys!

I swear, if they didn't put the camera on his ridiculous mug, I wouldn't care!

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80 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 09, 2018 - 4:51pm

You can make a good case against the Steelers as well. How many Steelers fans around the country can tell you what state Pittsburgh is in? Team management's uncompromising stance wrt Bell (who IS NOT directly under contract to play for them) is another good reason to root against them.

And that's not even fractionally as offensive as what Washington does with their cheerleaders.

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9 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by RickD // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:48am

The roughing penalty on Grady Jarrett just cannot be a penalty. So now all a QB has to do to draw a roughing penalty is fall backwards, so the pass rusher falls on him? That's really bad. The NFL is penalizing clean hits at this point. And why? Because once or twice per season a heavy guy squished a QB?

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12 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 07, 2018 - 10:56am

The call on Long was similarly egregious. If being pushed down into the QB's thigh is a penalty, then you need to call the block-in-the-back on it and make it offsetting.

It's not a bad call. It's a bad rule.

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38 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by morganja // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:07pm

I agree. It looked to me that the ref saw the helmet going into the chest and called that, not noticing that it was the QB clutching Jarrett's head that he was actually seeing, not Jarrett driving his helmet. Hopefully it was just a bad call, that the ref saw wrong, rather than something refs will call as a rule.

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14 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bingo762 // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:01am

"Bryan Knowles: All that being said, the Philly fans booing the Eagles at halftime felt a little ... harsh. You just raised a banner! At least let the good vibes last a full game!"

All your previous comments were spent ragging on this game from the comfort of your home. These people paid good money and sat thru a rain delay (spending more money) to watch an offense who's best play FO said was a roughing the passer penalty. Get bent, dude. Were they supposed to cheer that performance?

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29 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:18pm

Counterpoint: the entire social practice of "booing" at sporting events is shameful and should be abandoned. It's needlessly negative -- are you ENTITLED to your football players to make less mistakes? What good can possibly come of it? Are Eagles players inspired to step it up to avoid more boos? It's self-destructive AT BEST!

It also reinforces sports as events of unthinking tribal loyalty instead of, you know, competitions where the best athletes in the world show off. These assholes booed because an Atlanta player got hurt! Fuck booing at sporting events in general.

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68 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Jerry // Sep 08, 2018 - 2:22am

Countercounterpoint: Booing is how fans express disapproval. If someone in the stands sees a cheap shot or a receiver drop a pass on the hands or an official making an awful call, booing is a quick and easy way to make negative feelings known. Would you prefer silence?

And if the home team plays the first half well below the expected standard, booing is a way for the crowd to express its disappointment. I've seen cases where it had the desired effect and the home team woke up in the second half.

And I didn't single out Philadelphia once in all of that.

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72 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by BJR // Sep 08, 2018 - 9:53am

The first priority of a fan should be to get behind the team. It's completely counter-productive when an individual player is singled out, or booing is relentless throughout a game at the first sign of any mistake or adversity. It just creates a poisonous atmosphere. But I agree booing at half time or at the end of a game is acceptable as a way for paying fans to express disapproval if they are unhappy with the overall spectacle.

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77 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 09, 2018 - 12:43am

The first priority of the fan should be to have fun! (This is why college games are 100x more fun to attend in person than NFL games.)

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40 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Ryan // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:35pm

Chill out.

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15 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bingo762 // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:04am

No mention of the Philly Special Redux

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16 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by nat // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:24am

It wasn't a Philly Special, redux or otherwise.

It was a copy of the Patriots' trick play from the Super Bowl. Only this time it worked. (Better throw. Better hands.)

Call it a "Foxboro Special" if you want to nod towards the Philly Special play. It was a fun play which worked, and was a nice little dig against the Patriots, not that getting a dig in on the Patriots was a factor at all in the play being in the book for this week.

It's smart coaching to learn from your opponents - even from plays that didn't work against you.

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17 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 11:30am

It's apparently called "Philly Philly" (according to the team, who gets to name it - it's a nod to what Foles mistakenly called for in the Super Bowl). Only slight difference was personnel.

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25 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bingo762 // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:05pm

Philly Philly or Philly Special started with a direct snap to the running back. This play was close enough that pretty much the entire media called it that last night

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36 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:58pm

No, Philly Special is the one from the Super Bowl. Philly Philly is the one from last night. That's literally what they call the plays, it was in the press conferences last night. They're not the same play. Yes, this is confusing, but it's their playbook, they get to name them.

Foles said "You want Philly Philly?" in the Super Bowl, but that was just a mistake - the play's name is Philly Special.

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42 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by nat // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:45pm

Teams can name plays whatever they want, even if they copied them from other teams.

But naming a copied play after yourselves is pretty lame, isn't it?

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52 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Pat // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:00pm

It's not exactly a first. Philly Special was copied from the Bears, who called it the Clemson Special, because they took it from Clemson.

Not that lame, though: they modified Clemson Special (which would've been instantly memorable to Mike Groh and Alshon Jeffery, who actually ran the play with the Bears the year before), so they had to rename it a bit to make the differences stick. Similar deal with Philly Philly, which is out of a different formation than the Patriots play.

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58 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by nat // Sep 07, 2018 - 5:11pm

Fair enough. I wasn't aware of the formation difference, or that it would be enough to consider it a different play deserving a different name.

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59 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Eddo // Sep 07, 2018 - 5:33pm

Yeah, but the Bears didn't call it the "Chicago [fill in the blank]" here - they used (kept?) the "Clemson" name because of the play's origins. So yeah, it's a little lame that the Eagles changed the name to refer to themselves.

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24 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by bingo762 // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:03pm

Yeah, so anyway, no mention of it in audibles seems weird

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28 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by The Ninjalectual // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:10pm

Did you read the disclaimer? This column is for fun, not ultimate comprehensiveness. You sure complain about a lot.

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33 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by morganja // Sep 07, 2018 - 12:41pm

So, I'm still not getting the infatuation that Football Outsiders, not alone, has with the Falcons. What made everyone think they were suddenly going to be significantly better than last year? They are a good, not great, team with problems that they have never addressed. As evidenced yet again by last night's game. I'm genuinely curious what specific things happened in the off-season to make people think they were going to be so much better than they were?

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41 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Ryan // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:37pm

Seems pretty simple--more cohesive and progressive play-calling, and the defense jelling. It's not like the roster is riddled with holes. There's plenty of talent.

I don't think anyone suspected Matt Ryan would become Peyton Manning circa late '14 season.

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44 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by morganja // Sep 07, 2018 - 2:24pm

Couldn't that be an argument for just about every team? More cohesive and progressive play-calling? Seems an awfully inexact basis on which to claim that Atlanta will improve, but 16 other teams get worse. Are the other 16 teams expected to have less cohesive and progressive play-calling? On what basis?
In any case, the evidence so far shows that it was not a good assumption.

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49 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Ryan // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:26pm

"Couldn't that be an argument for just about every team?'

No, it cannot. Other teams don't have the roster and playmakers that Atlanta does. The Bills could call ingenious sequences of plays all day, but I don't trust Nathan Peterman and Zay Jones to execute them. It's not complicated.

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56 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by morganja // Sep 07, 2018 - 4:54pm

I think you are engaged in circular reasoning here. The 'roster and playmakers' performed exactly as they did last year, last year. Exactly. Logically, one would expect them to perform the same this year, except for things that changed. The question is, what changed? We can claim they are much better players than they have performed in the past,, but until they go out and perform better, than all we are doing is saying that we think they are better than they have performed.
Which gets us to....why do we think they are better than they have performed?
Why Atlanta and not Jacksonville?
After last night, its even harder to claim that Atlanta is a much better team than they were last year. They look to be the same to me.

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60 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 07, 2018 - 5:47pm

In particular, it kind of escapes me as to why we would expect Sarkisian to be any better. He's 44, and while coaching performance isn't a static thing, just assuming improvement doesn't seem especially insightful.

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61 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by dank067 // Sep 07, 2018 - 6:06pm

One could have made the argument that the effect of Sarkisian's playcalling on their poor red zone performance last year was overstated and that it might 'regress' or snap back in line with the rest of their offense, which was pretty good in all other areas of the field last year.

...that argument doesn't look as compelling after last night

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67 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Bryan Knowles // Sep 08, 2018 - 1:38am

There's also the fact that Sarkisian's playcalling was good in all other zones of the field, so it's not like he had no track record of success anywhere. The Red Zone is a different beast, for sure, but it's not like the Falcons were struggling up and down the field; Sarkisian did alright out there. So it seems (seemed?) at least plausible that he could improve his red zone performance to be closer to his rest-of-the-field peformance.

We'll, uh. We'll see about that.

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39 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by ChrisS // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:23pm

Seemed to me the difference in the game was the Philly pass rush, especially after the first quarter. They got 4 sacks (plus one erased by a flag) and 13 QB hits.

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43 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by dmstorm22 // Sep 07, 2018 - 1:48pm

I came away from this game really impressed with Philly.

Clearly, Foles is going to be up and down, and they better get Wentz back soon, but man that defense is so good.

The additions of Bennett and Ngata are really good; that DL rotation has a Giants 2007-08 type feel to it. So deep, so strong. Their pass rush on the last drive was insane.

Sidney Jones had a nice game in his debut at slot corner. Jim Johnson would have loved playing around with these guys.

The offense is the offense. They can scheme Foles well, but the run game is still fairly strong. Very few true stuffs, though a lot of 1-3 yard gains.

That Eagles defense can be special if they stay healthy.

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73 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by BJR // Sep 08, 2018 - 9:58am

Ajayi is an impressive runner. Seems as though he makes a lot of yards after contact and always 'finishes' his runs strongly. I know PFF have always graded him highly from this perspective.

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48 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by pachoo5 // Sep 07, 2018 - 3:05pm

Wow, Keanu Neal is out for the year. Serious blow for the Falcons.

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62 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by justanothersteve // Sep 07, 2018 - 6:38pm

I learned two things last night

1. Carson Wentz will be QB as soon as he's able to play. Foles did nothing to make anyone think he was going to keep the job.

2. Steve Sarkisian isn't going to let the title for worst OC in the NFC go to Brian Schottenheimer without a fight.

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69 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by big10freak // Sep 08, 2018 - 6:10am

Boy is everyone working the game for NBC really old

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70 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 08, 2018 - 9:25am

Quiet you. That kind of talk is how we got Joe Buck.

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71 Re: Audibles at the Line: 2018 Opening Night

by Will Allen // Sep 08, 2018 - 9:39am

I heard that they were working on a Curt Gowdy clone....

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