With plenty of rest before this game, many expected the Atlanta Falcons to come out dealing against a scuffling Eagles team. That just didn’t happen.
The Falcons looked overmatched yesterday, with Ryan Mathews running all over them, Carson Wentz doing enough to keep the Eagles alive, and the offense struggling mightily against a solid Philadelphia defense. It’s no great surprise that the Falcons wound up losing this game, when you take all those pieces together, and they’re going to have some soul-searching to do during what promises to be a long bye week.
Offensively, the team played their worst game all year, by what I would say is a wide margin. They left a ton of points on the field thanks to penalties, dropped passes, and missed opportunities. Their effort was harmed considerably by a Falcons defense that did not allow a ton of points, but allowed the Eagles to dominate time of possession and keep drives alive over and over again. When you combine an offense that squanders its shots with a defense that doesn’t give them many shots, you have a recipe for a loss, and the Falcons earned one with some of the least inspiring play we’ve seen from them all year, plus some terrible game management.
It’s worth remembering that this was not a guaranteed win, given that Philadelphia has been excellent at home and the Falcons were on their 10th straight football game without their best cornerback and one of their most dynamic offensive weapons, albeit one with a longer break than usual. That’s not to make excuses for what has to be considered a pretty terrible effort by the Falcons, and they’re going to have to prove this game was a fluke effort by a tired team against a quality team at home. We won’t know whether they’ll do so for two weeks, unfortunately, but as bad as this loss was, it doesn’t change my 10-6 season outlook.
On to the full recap.
- Devonta Freeman took on a heavy load in this one, and predictably, he played quite well. He just didn’t get as many carries as he probably should have in a week where the Falcons kept it close until very late.
- Julio Jones continues to be great, as he passed 1,000 yards in this one with a pretty back shoulder catch in the second quarter. The problem was that he mixed a solid all-around effort with a couple of big mistakes, which we’ll mention shortly.
- Taylor Gabriel also continues to be great. He simply ran by Leodis McKelvin in the fourth quarter for a long touchdown grab, and teams have got to stop taking him so lightly. That was just one play, unfortunately, but Gabriel’s good for at least one big one per week, and that’s more than we have a right to expect from a guy the Falcons (say it with me) scooped up from the Browns.
- Vic Beasley picked up his eight-and-a-half sack in the first quarter after Carson Wentz didn’t get rid of the football, and he picked up his ninth-and-a-half before halftime when he also forced a fumble. He’s now surpassed my conservative eight sack estimate for his second season.
- What a gigantic stop by Philip Wheeler early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were just a foot or less away from the end zone, and Wheeler and the Falcons’ defense managed to stop Ryan Mathews cold, resulting in a field goal that gave Philadelphia a 13-9 lead. I’m looking for bright spots, here.
- The rookies had rough patches, but Deion Jones and Keanu Neal combined for 19 tackles and a forced fumble, with De’Vondre Campbell also chipping in a couple of big hits. The problem is that the rest of the defense around them doesn’t look great on a weekly basis, and that’s particularly true on a week where the Falcons were without Desmond Trufant.
- Matt Bryant delivered a great punt and a solid punt, somehow, after Matt Bosher got hurt. That man can do almost everything.
- I gave Matt Ryan credit for his great throw to Taylor Gabriel, and I think he was not bad in this one, but there’s no point in denying that he launched some ill-advised throws in this one, including a near interception late in the fourth quarter and the game-sealing interception to Leodis McKelvin. The Falcons leaned heavily on the pass and Ryan was under a lot of pressure, but you saw him miss Julio Jones by a significant margin twice, launch a few near-picks and the interception, commit intentional grounding under pressure in the fourth quarter, and miss a couple of short routes. It was the kind of effort that will certainly damage his MVP case, but more importantly, it was an effort that helped lead to an ugly Falcons loss.
- He wasn’t helped by Julio Jones, who had a solid day statistically and got open often, but missed a couple of opportunities. The pass that hit him in the hands when he was wide open on third down in the fourth quarter was a nightmare drop by the best receiver in the NFL, and while that has to happen every now and then, the timing could not have been worse.
- The defense was abysmal immediately, surrendering huge chunks of yardage to Ryan Mathews and allowing Jordan Matthews to make a couple of tough catches to keep things rolling. While the point total is respectable and Atlanta made a few nice plays on defense, they let the Eagles dominate time of possession and allowed way too many productive runs to the likes of Ryan Mathews, who had been mediocre before he destroyed Atlanta in this one. The defense is going to be a trouble spot all year, but the Eagles’ ability to play this one exactly the way they wanted to is still a disconcerting sign.
- The pre-snap penalties are cropping up early and often for the Falcons, and they arguably killed the team’s first two drives.
- This was one of the team’s weaker offensive efforts of the year, especially in a first half where they repeatedly stalled out thanks to Eagles pressure and pre-snap penalties, which I guess I just mentioned. Matt Ryan missed on a couple of throws, the pressure got home quite a bit from the Eagles’ front seven, and
- On a day where Matt Bryant made history, becoming the kicker with the most field goals in franchise history, he also whiffed on a 53 yard field goal (totally understandable) and an extra point (not at all understandable).
- Keanu Neal had another terrific day, but it’s hard not to feel like he got away with one on his fourth quarter, third down hit on Jordan Matthews, which was extremely close to a helmet-to-helmet hit, if it wasn’t one. I mention this only because the Falcons have been boned a handful of times by missed calls this year, and I don’t like to see teams get those kind of breaks, even if it’s the Falcons.
- I adore Eric Weems, but he continued to bring the ball out at odd times in this one.
- Dan Quinn’s decision to call a timeout with one second to go before the two minute warning was, to put it mildly, stupid. This team looked utterly lost at times yesterday, but never more than that moment.
I just don’t feel good enough about this effort to give it to anyone. Sorry, Falcons.
Atlanta’s defense is the limiting factor the rest of the way, as we knew, but we also learned that this team is in big trouble if the offense scuffles at all.
The much-needed bye week, which will give the Falcons time to figure out what the hell happened here and hopefully come out of the break swinging against the rest of their schedule.