After enduring weeks of doubt and all kind of doom and gloom talk, the Philadelphia Eagles came out and proved the naysayers wrong with a grueling 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
It wasn’t an easy win. The Eagles made a flurry of gut-wrenching mistakes in the first half that helped give the Falcons an early lead. The team had four first-half fumbles, and lost two of them. All 10 Atlanta points came off of the team’s first half turnovers.
The Eagles also left some points on the field. Jake Elliot missed an extra point, and Nick Foles missed Trey Burton on a third down that killed a drive.
In the second half, the Eagles turned things up. The defense shut the powerful Falcon offense out in the second half. In a playoff game, to shut a potent offense out for an entire half, the second half no less, is nothing short of remarkable. Even more remarkable is that they were able to keep the Falcons off of the scoreboard without forcing any turnovers.
Meanwhile, the offense turned in several long, methodical drives that resulted in Jake Elliot field goals to get the lead.
With six minutes left, the Falcons went on one more march down the field. In all-or-nothing situation, Jim Schwartz’s defense held up, making a goalline stand in the redzone, turning the Falcons away with fourth-and-goal on two-yard line.
The Eagles really overcame a lot of adversity tonight. When you lose a fumble on your opening offensive drive, and you muff a punt that sets up the opposing offense with a short field, those are typically the types of plays that lose football games.
Give a world of credit to Doug Pederson for keeping the ship together, and calling a great offensive game.
Foles Starts Slow, Heats Up In Second Half
Nick Foles was certainly the biggest question mark coming into this game.
And early on, things didn’t look good for the veteran. Foles looked like the same guy that struggled against the Raiders, missing Trey Burton on a key a third down pass that would have at least gotten the Eagles into position for a field goal attempt.
However, Nick was able to settle in towards the end of the second half. Things began to turn around for Foles when he found Alshon Jeffery right before the end of the half with one second left on the clock to set up Elliot’s 53-yard attempt.
In the second half, Foles really began to heat up. He became much more decisive, and got the ball to his receivers quickly. The Eagles allowed him to run a lot of read-option looks that really seemed to benefit him.
Foles guided the team on a 12-play, 74-yard drive that gave the team a lead, and followed that up with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in three more points.
For the night, Foles was a solid 23 of 40 for 246 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The second half of this game is something that Foles can really build on moving forward. He’s finally gotten the monkey off of his back, and shaken off the mediocre play from the Oakland game. He ran the offense well, and just guided the team to a playoff win. He’s got his confidence back, he just outplayed Matt Ryan, and that could really help open things up for the offense next week.
- Doug Pederson coached a great game. He set Foles up for success by calling a balanced attack. Andy Reid would have put the run away immediately after the Jay Ajayi fumble. Pederson’s best call of the night may have been the handoff to Nelson Agholor on a third down that went for a big gain to set up the LeGarrette Blount touchdown run.
- Doug also correctly selected the spots to be aggressive. The decision to go for it on fourth down was the right decision, and an even better play call. The decision later in the game to pull back and get a five-point lead was also correct.
- However, the execution of the decision to send in Elliot late in the game left a lot to be desired and was really the only blemish on Doug’s night. I can understand that he needed to think long and hard about that decision, but once it became clear that they couldn’t get a play off, just take the five-yard delay of game penalty. Wasting a timeout in that situation was very Reid-esque.
- Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball away on his first carry, but finished strong, picking up 54 yards on 15 carries, and adding another 44 yards on three receptions. I loved that Doug kept the screens to Ajayi under wraps until the second half, when they were implemented, they really caught Atlanta off guard.
- LeGarrette Blount was second on the team with nine carries, but gained only 19 yards. He scored the team’s only touchdown, however.
- Corey Clement was given only one carry, oddly enough it came at the end of the game, with Clement picking up a first down to ice the game.
- Alshon Jeffery as quiet for most of the first half, but made some key plays down the stretch. Beginning with his reception and getting out of bounds to set up the Elliot field goal before the half, Alshon made a difference later in the game. Foles connected with Jeffery three more times in the second half, all resulting in first downs.
- The Eagles even got contributions from Torrey Smith this week! Smith began the game by drawing a pass interference call on the first offensive play of the game, and finished with three grabs for 44 yards, picking up two first downs.
- Great performance from the offensive line, they really kept Nick Foles clean most of the night.
- Star Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman was a total non-factor, picking up just seven yards on 10 carries.
- Fletcher Cox was very active, picking up seven tackles and a sack.
- Rodney Mcleod picked up a key sack in the second half, getting to Matt Ryan on a safety blitz.
- Julio Jones got his numbers, picking up over 100 yards, but at the end of the game, Jalen Mills did a nice job covering him up in the endzone.
- Speaking of the final play of the game, what was Atlanta thinking splitting their fullback out wide? Doesn’t seem like the kind of formation you’d want to go to with your season on the line.
- Vinny Curry overpursued several times tonight, resulting in some big gainers for the Falcons.
- Can anyone figure out Jake Elliot? Money from 50 yards and beyond, yet can’t hit extra points. Elliot made all three of his field goal attempts on the night, and the Birds needed every point.
- Bryan Braman, a late season addition, came up big tonight, getting his hands on a punt that set the Eagles up with better field position.
- The turnover that set Atlanta up with a short field was just unacceptable. Dave Fipp’s unit has made a lot of these boneheaded mistakes lately.
This game not only makes you feel great about the Eagles in the short-term, but the long-term as well.
Doug Pederson really validated himself as a head coach tonight.
We’ve seen in the NFL that a lot of head coaches with great quarterbacks can’t survive without their star. Take Mike McCarthy out in Green Bay, a coach who has absolutely ridden the coattails of Aaron Rodgers. Whenever Rodgers has gone down, the Packers have gone straight in the toilet, with McCarthy constantly getting exposed for the fraud he is.
Doug has kept his team together, and just coached them to a very difficult playoff win against a team that nearly won a Super Bowl a year ago.
And Doug didn’t just lose Carson Wentz. He’s lost Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Jordan Hicks as well. These are four very key pieces to this team, with a league MVP being one of them.
Doug showed tonight that he’s not Andy Reid-lite. He’s better than Andy. He was smart enough not to abandon the run at the first sign of trouble, and found a way to win with what he’s got left.
The NFC Championship Game is coming back to Philadelphia for the first time since 2004. The arrow is pointing up with a defense playing at an elite level, and a quarterback that is starting to settle in and find himself.
See you folks next Sunday!