Falcons lose Keanu Neal for season with knee injury in NFL opener

Atlanta Falcons starting defensive back Keanu Neal is injured during NFL season's opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles

Atlanta Falcons starting defensive back Keanu Neal will miss the remainder of the NFL season after injuring his right knee in Thursday's season-opening loss at Philadelphia, the team announced Friday.

An MRI exam showed the extent of damage to the 23-year-old safety, who grabbed his knee after a play in the third quarter of Atlanta's 18-12 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles.

Neal had twisted his knee in the first half but went down without contact in the third quarter as he ran to attempt a tackle.

Most teams won't even open their 2018 campaign until Sunday but Neal's third NFL season lasted barely half a game.

The 2016 first-round NFL Draft pick, taken seventh overall, made the Pro Bowl last season. He was considered a key player in the Falcons' defensive unit, a versatile playmaker whose 116 tackles last season were second-most in the NFL among safeties.

Replacing Neal was second-year safety Damontae Kazee, who jarred the ball loose from Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert to set up an interception by Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones that led to a Falcons touchdown.