You were hoping for a shake ‘n’ bake offense to score a bunch of points and make life easier for the Eagles defense? That didn’t happen. What you did get was a whole lot of WTF moments throughout the game which left you holding your breath until the final seconds of the 4th quarter.
Philadelphia’s defense staged a last-minute goal-line stand and Jake Elliott atoned for a missed extra point with three field goals as the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10 Saturday to move into the NFC championship game. They stopped sixth-seeded Atlanta (11-7) after it got to the 9 with a first down, and then on fourth down from the 2 when Matt Ryan‘s pass sailed over Julio Jones‘ head in the end zone.
Nick Foles was so erratic at QB in the first half I began to lose faith. But he got better in the 2nd half. Fortunately for the Eagles, Matt Ryan was having an equally difficult time getting any kind of consistent rhythm at QB for the Falcons.
It didn’t help Foles’ cause that the Eagles were screwing up on Special Teams early, or that Jay Ajayi coughed up a fumble that killed an early drive. A handoff play was nearly disastrous when Nelson Agholor crashed into the mesh point. Then the ball popped out of the pile at the goal line which Foles miraculously scooped up to save the drive. Our defensive backs were whiffing on so many early tackle attempts that the breeze they created lowered the wind chill factor.
Ajayi was a workhorse early on, racking up 58 of Philly’s first 60 yards including 49 on the ground in the first quarter. Foles, on the other hand, was 2-for-3 in the first quarter for 19 yards. He also threw two passes that probably should have been picked, one of which resulted in a lucky PI call induced by Torrey Smith. It was not looking good at all for the Eagles offense.
Things got a little better in the 2nd quarter. LeGarrette Blount, who won it with New England last year, followed an Atlanta field goal with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth down to make it 6-3 Eagles in the second quarter. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, who crushed the Giants (and maybe their season) with a 61-yard field goal in September, missed the extra point.
As bad as Foles was for the Eagles in the first half, the Birds also didn’t have much luck. A second-quarter Atlanta punt grazed Brian Braman’s leg to give the Falcons the ball back on the Eagles’ 18 with 7:31 left in the half. Atlanta needed only four plays and 1:50 to find the end zone with Devonta Freeman taking a nifty 6-yard dump pass from Matt Ryan for a 10-6 lead.
Elliott made it a one-point game with another kick at the gun when he nailed a 53-yard field goal to send the Eagles to halftime trailing 10-9.
Then Foles came out in the 2nd half with a better plan. He suddenly looked comfortable running the Eagles’ hybrid version of the West Coast offense, with quick-hit slants and run/pass option plays.
He just couldn’t finish in the red zone. Some of that was due to HC Doug Pederson’s extremely conservative playcalling, not to mention Atlanta’s tightening defense. Jake Elliott’s third field goal of the game gave the Eagles a five-point lead with just over six minutes to play.
At that point I was concerned that Doug had given Matt Ryan just enough time to engineer a long drive that would effectively run out the clock, leaving the Eagles no time to come back from a 17-15 deficit.
Thank the football gods for that. Ryan got the Falcons in position with a methodical drive down to the Eagles’ 2-yard line, but the Eagles defense did their classic bend-but-don’t-break thing.
Had not Julio Jones slipped on his final route break on the unpredictably crumbling sod at the Linc, this story may have ended completely differently.
So we got the W. I’m extremely grateful for that. But quite frankly, the Eagles have to play a much stronger and cleaner game in all phases if their playoff run is to go any further.
Matt Bryant 33 Yd Field Goal
11 plays, 59 yards, 5:32
LeGarrette Blount 1 Yd Run
14 plays, 86 yards, 6:44
Devonta Freeman 6 Yd pass from Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick)
4 plays, 18 yards, 1:50
Jake Elliott 53 Yd Field Goal
5 plays, 37 yards, 0:46
Jake Elliott 37 Yd Field Goal
12 plays, 74 yards, 5:42
Jake Elliott 21 Yd Field Goal
14 plays, 80 yards, 7:57
|Passing 1st downs||11||12|
|Rushing 1st downs||6||8|
|1st downs from penalties||2||2|
|3rd down efficiency||4-13||6-13|
|4th down efficiency||1-2||1-1|
|Yards per Play||4.8||5.3|
|Yards per pass||5.0||7.7|
|Yards per rush||4.3||3.0|
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||1-3||1-3|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|