Defense Anchors Eagles To Critical Win
Jim Schwartz deserves a ton of credit for today’s win.
The Eagles’ defense played their best game of the season, holding the NFL’s best offense to just 15 points, under half of their season average per game.
Even more remarkable was that Schwartz was working without Nolan Carroll, who left the game with a concussion, and Leodis McKelvin was still hampered by his hamstring.
The Eagles ran a lot of effective blitzes that forced Matt Ryan to throw the ball early, disrupting his timing and forcing some key incomplete passes.
Julio Jones still got his, and finished with an impressive statistical day, but Schwartz’s group kept the Birds in the game and did an absolutely tremendous job on one of the league’s elite.
Ryan Mathews Reemerges
Under heavy criticism for how he’s handled the running game, Doug Pederson entered this game with a plan to get veteran Ryan Mathews involved in the offense again.
Mathews was the focal point on the team’s opening drive, carrying the ball seven times for 34 yards and a touchdown. The former Charger finished the first half with nine carries for 56 yards.
Mathews brought a power-element back to the offense that had been sorely missed over the last few weeks. It was easily his best performance on the season, and as an Eagle overall. Mathews finished with 108 yards and two scores.
Also notable was that Pederson made a concentrated effort to get Wendell Smallwood more involved as well. The rookie took five carries the first half for 17 yards. Smallwood was equally involved in the second half, finishing with 70 yards on 13 touches.
It was refreshing to see Pederson go away from featuring Darren Sproles as the lead running back, and incorporating some of the other players on his depth chart.
Eagles Continue To Make Crushing Mistakes
The Eagles misplayed a number of opportunities presented to them in the first half.
Carson Wentz has looked more and more like a rookie as the season has gone on. There were moments today where Wentz held on to the ball too long. He also made the mistake of throwing the ball away too soon at the end of the first half, providing the Falcons an opportunity for a hail mary. Wentz also turned the ball over with a careless fumble, providing a scoring chance for the Falcons.
But Wentz wasn’t alone in critical errors.
The Jordan Matthews’ drop before the half was absolutely outrageous. Matthews was all alone in the center of the field, and allowed the pass to bounce right off of his hands. Later in the game, useless wide receiver Nelson Agholor dropped a key pass that would have extended a drive late in the fourth quarter.
Caleb Sturgis also missed a field goal attempt earlier in the half.
It was a sloppy first half that saw the Eagles’ defense do their job, and hold the high-powered Atlanta offense to just two field goals, while the offense was only able to generate seven points. This is the mark of a young, inexperienced team with few playmakers.
- Jordan Matthews’ drops are becoming the stuff of legend. Seriously, its hard to imagine that this guy was a second-round pick. To be fair, Matthews had an anotherwise solid game, but he’s easily one of the most unreliable wideouts I’ve ever seen.
- Alan Barbre was out once again with a hamstring injury. Stefan Wisniewski started a second straight game. The offensive line worked well today, opening plenty of opportunities for Mathews and the running game.
- Darren Sproles was used properly this week, primarily featured as a receiver out of the backfield. Sproles registered eight catches for over 50 yards.
- Zach Ertz was a factor for the second straight week, putting up 55 yards on six catches.
- Dorial Green-Beckham has been invisible the last two weeks. He’s failed to record a catch in either game.
- Bryce Treggs wasn’t targeted once throughout the game, which was disappointing after his impact last week.
- Brandon Graham continues to play at an elite level. Graham had a sack and several hurries in the first half alone, and also made a couple of nice plays against the run.
- Connor Barwin has been playing well of late, and picked up another sack today.
- Still bothered by a hamstring injury that has been recurring all season, Leodis McKelvin was able to suit up and start the game. McKelvin did well to fight through the injury, and made an interception to seal the game.
- Devonta Freeman was held to just 49 yards on 12 carries.
- Vinny Curry continues to be a non-factor in the pass rush, but he has improved in run defense this year.
- Caleb Sturgis had been having a great season, but missed a critical field goal in the first half.
- Najee Goode should probably be released after the absolute boneheaded 15-yard penalty he picked up for a late hit in the fourth quarter.
After two horrible gameplans, Doug Pederson bounced back with a very encouraging performance.
His offensive gameplan going in was sound, planning to run at the weak Atlanta defense and do their best to control time of possession and keep the powerful Falcon offense off of the field.
The offense still showed their youth at times, but the coach didn’t make the backbreaking mistakes that he had made in the previous weeks.
The Eagles finally finished a game, and rallied to win a close one in the fourth quarter. Home field has become a major advantage in Philadelphia again.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter, @DennyBasens