Goal line D
Didn’t take long for the Birds to come up with a big series.
A 33-yard reception by Julio Jones on third-and-10 gave the Falcons a first-and-goal on the Eagles’ 6. Devonta Freeman got to the 1 on first down, but Atlanta would get no closer. Matt Ryan misfired to Freeman on third down, and on fourth the Falcons again gave it to Freeman. But the Eagles strung him out, didn’t let him turn the corner, and Kamu Grugier-Hill, helping replace the suspended Nigel Bradham, and Jordan Hicks stuffed him for a 1-yard loss.
The Falcons in the first quarter ran four plays inside the Eagles’ 5 and had a grand total of minus-1 yards to show for it.
After the Falcons completely fooled the Eagles’ D with a rollout right, screen left that Tevin Coleman took for 26 yards — surprised he didn’t score — the Birds caught a break.
Austin Hooper appeared to be held in the end zone, but there was no call. Matt Bryant tapped in a 21-yarder to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead.
Bryant is 52 years old and drilled a 52-yarder. OK, he’s not really 52. He’s 43. But still. Damn. Bryant’s field goal gave Atlanta a 6-3 lead to salvage a drive that Hicks stopped by sacking Ryan for a 9-yard loss.
Live and learn Shelton. Gibson in the second quarter decided to take back a kickoff and reached the 10. A penalty on Avonte Maddox put the Eagles at the 5.
The Birds benefited from a couple of penalties — including a questionable roughing the passer call on Grady Jarrett — but still had to punt. Cameron Johnston launched a 58-yard rocket that was downed at the Atlanta 11.
Brandon Graham ended the first quarter by stuffing Coleman for a 2-yard loss. Graham was unblocked, but still, nice play. Then he opened the second quarter by busting up a screen to Freeman for a 7-yard loss on third-and-12.
With Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins out, you knew it’d be a busy night for Agholor. Agholor in the first half caught all six of the balls thrown his way for 31 yards.
Nothing else worth mentioning for the offense in the first half. Nick Foles was 11 for 18 for 65 yards, and the Eagles rushed for just 16 yards on 10 attempts.
Flags and more flags
The teams combined for 16 penalties in the first half and 26 overall.
That’s why they’re D-Backs
Falcons corner Robert Alford dropped an interception early in the third. Eagles safety Rodney McLeod dropped a pick late in the second.
Sorry, that’s a catch
Early in the third, Jones on a stop-and-go badly beat Jalen Mills and bobbled the ball as he came down with it. It was ruled incomplete because it appeared he hadn’t secured it before sliding out of bounds, but replays appeared to show he did. Nevertheless, the call on the field stood. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Not as special, but still special
Doug Pederson’s a crowd pleaser. He had to do something after such a brutal first half by the offense.
So he — or Foles? — called a trick play. Not exactly the Philly Special, but closer to the play the Patriots called for Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.
“Philly Philly was the play,” said Pederson, who admitted he got the play from the Patriots.
Foles admitted after the game he used the wrong name in the Super Bowl when he said “Philly Philly.” The play in the Super Bowl is the “Philly Special.”
Instead of a direct snap to Corey Clement, toss to Trey Burton and pass to Foles for a TD on fourth-and-goal, it was Foles to Clement to Agholor, who completed the pass to Foles for 15 yards on third-and-5. To that point, it was the Eagles’ longest gain of the game.
“I wasn’t surprised [it worked again],” Lane Johnson said. “It was just another wrinkle that kind of catches them off guard. It worked — it kind of energized the football team.”
And the crowd.
“A lot,” he said. “You felt the whole stadium rock.”
Three plays later, Zach Ertz caught an 18-yarder, and Jay Ajayi punched in the season’s first TD from a yard out to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead.
Nothing special about this
Ertz dropped two straight passes on the Birds’ next possession. He also missed a catchable ball midway through the fourth quarter on third-and-14.
The Falcons went three-and-out, but Tre Sullivan somehow ended up in the middle of a scrum after a short punt, kicked the ball, and Atlanta recovered.
Pair of picks
Just an awful throw by Matt Ryan. On third-and-3 from the Eagles’ 15, Ryan looked for Jones, felt some pressure and instead of leading Jones to the back of the end zone, lofted a ball way too short and into the hands of Rasul Douglas.
Moments later, however, Dallas Goedert was hit by safety Damontae Kazee, dropped the ball and linebacker Deion Jones came down with the interception.
This time, Ryan just handed the ball to Coleman, who ran up the gut for a 9-yard go-ahead score (PAT no good).
There’s the running game
On third-and-2 at the Falcons’ 35, the Eagles opened a highway for Clement, who gained 21 yards to the 14. Two plays later Ajayi rushed for his second score of the game, an 11-yarder, and then runs in the two-point conversion.
The Eagles rushed for 16 yards in the first half (1.6 per carry) and 97 in the second (5.7 per carry).
“Sloppy,” Johnson said. “They were doing some different wrinkles we hadn’t seen. In the second half, we made some adjustments and improved on that.”
Julio ain’t done
Jones made catches of 36 and 18 yards, the latter coming on third-and-17 on a tough pass by Ryan, who took the heat and delivered a pretty ball to the Eagles’ 22.
With under a minute left, a buddy texted me asking if the Eagles win. I replied they do if Jones misses the ball in the end zone again.
The Eagles appeared to have won when Ryan floated a pass of the back the end zone on fourth down, but Hicks was called for illegal contact (dicey call at that moment).
“I put my left hand on him,” Hicks said. “As much as I thought it was ticky-tack, I still can’t put our team in that situation. Gotta be disciplined and can’t give him the opportunity to make that call.”
With one second left, Ryan naturally went to Jones — this time on the right side of the end zone against Ronald Darby instead of the left against Mills — and Jones caught the ball but came down out of bounds.
“As a competitor, you live for those type of moments,” Mills said. “You want to be that guy that makes that play, like Darbs just did. As a competitor, you want to be in that position.”
Darby was, and that was ball game.
“It was a sloppy, greasy win,” Johnson said, “but we’ll take all we can get.”