Foles re-enacts Philly Special as Eagles win NFL opener

Jay Ajayi scored two touchdowns as the Eagles began their Super Bowl defence with a victory

Jay Ajayi scored two touchdowns as the Philadelphia Eagles began their Super Bowl title defence by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 in the NFL season opener on Thursday.

Ajayi also rushed for a two-point conversion and quarterback Nick Foles caught a pass for the second straight NFL game as the Eagles re-enacted a trick play from the Super Bowl before sealing the win with a defensive stand.

"This was a hard-fought win," Foles said of the rematch of last season's NFC semi-final. "We build on this, we keep building."

Philadelphia captured their first Super Bowl title by defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 in February.

The Eagles unveiled their championship banner before the start of the contest which was delayed 45 minutes because of heavy rain. Once the weather threat ended, the banner, which read "2017 World Champions", was hoisted to the rafters of Lincoln Financial Field.

The past two NFC champs both looked rusty to start their season opener before the offences finally got untracked in the second half.

"There was no panic on the sideline," said Eagles coach Doug Pederson. "The deciding factor was our defensive line and our offensive line and how they controlled the line of scrimmage."

The mostly lacklustre affair ended with a defensive stand by Philadelphia as the Falcons had a chance to win the game on the last play. Receiver Julio Jones caught a Matt Ryan pass but was pushed out of bounds after making the leaping grab with no time left on the clock.

The 29-year-old Texan Foles completed 19-of-34 passes for a total of 117 yards.

Foles, who nearly retired two years ago and started last season as the backup quarterback, was filling in Thursday for the Eagles' injured star Carson Wentz.

Foles earned the MVP award in leading Philadelphia to their first NFL championship since 1960.

On Thursday, Foles gave the offence a spark by running a sequel to the Philly Special play in the third quarter.

It featured Foles handing the ball off and then getting open to catch a 15-yard pass from Nelson Agholor to help set up a touchdown.

The Eagles capped the drive with a one-yard, go-ahead touchdown run by Ajayi, who was born in London, and a conversion to take the lead. Ajayi moved with his parents to the US when he was seven years old.

Foles had used a similar play in the second quarter of the Eagles' Super Bowl win to catch a TD pass and become the first player to both throw and catch a touchdown in the championship game.

"That was a huge momentum boost for us," Foles said. "We needed to do something. We called it at the right time of the game. We needed to make a big play."