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A closer look: The Falcons run defense gets gashed

The run defense hadn’t been tested much up to this point, but things went poorly against Doug Pederson’s Eagles.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Following Atlanta’s loss to Philadelphia, it wasn’t difficult to figure out the biggest talking point. The Eagles rushed for 208 yards and had the ball for more than 38 minutes. Those numbers ultimately doomed the Falcons, who were overwhelmed on both sides of the ball. For them to get destroyed by a revamped offensive line missing two starters was alarming.

I always rewatch the previous Falcons game and post GIFs on Twitter of the most standout plays or disappointing decisions. One particular player, positional group, or situation is excluded from the film review to be saved for this piece. The porous run defense needs to be featured this week. Although many will highlight the front seven, every player on defense should be held responsible. There are mistakes from nearly every starter. Here are some of the mistakes that allowed Philadelphia to run wild on Sunday.

1st quarter: 2nd and 1 at PHI 44

This doesn’t look like a significant play based on Philadelphia only needing one yard to earn the first down. Look at how easily they obtained it. Nearly every defensive lineman gets driven off the line of scrimmage. Stefen Wisniewski replaced Allen Barbre at left guard and moved Grady Jarrett around on a consistent basis. Tyson Jackson can’t handle being double teamed, while Jason Kelce takes out Deion Jones. Ra’Shede Hageman ends up making the tackle from being there at the right time. His initial first step is pitiful. How do you expect to get any penetration by planting your front foot like that? This run only went for five yards, but the warning signs started to emerge on the first drive.

1st quarter: 2nd and 5 at ATL 18

Philadelphia used rookie guard Isaac Seumalo as an extra blocker during the game. It proved to be effective, especially when Pederson called stretch plays to the left side. Pairing Semualo with outstanding left tackle Jason Peters gives them plenty of strength against an undersized and undisciplined front. Jarrett fails to get any penetration again. Jackson appears to misread the run, which is staggering on his part. With both defensive tackles eliminated, Kelce pulls out and takes Jones out of the play. Seumalo pushes Hageman five yards downfield, before the mammoth defensive lineman can bring him down. Nobody is winning their individual matchup.

1st quarter: 2nd and 2 at ATL 4

This is the final play on a 12 play drive. Eight of them were carries. It should also be noted that Ryan Matthews received a carry on the last five plays. What is the point of getting fancy, when you are forcing the defense into submission? Kelce doesn’t allow Jarrett to get much movement. Jackson gets taken out by another double team. With Hageman essentially a non-factor, that puts the linebackers under intense pressure. The linebackers are Kemal Ishmael and LaRoy Reynolds on this play. Dan Quinn’s defense was overmatched from the beginning. On the last five carries, Matthews gained 28 yards, as the offensive line was in full bully mode.

2nd quarter: 1st and 10 at PHI 18

Jackson’s stint in Atlanta hasn’t been memorable. Despite not making splash plays, the high-priced signing usually holds up at the point of attack. This was arguably his worst game as a Falcon. He was consistently overpowered by Brandon Brooks with some help from Kelce. After being blown up four yards off the line of scrimmage, he could make up for it by tackling Matthews and preventing a big play. Jackson can’t escape Brooks and Matthews runs free into the secondary. DeVondre Campbell displays poor gap recognition here as well. It’s unclear what he anticipated on the left side. Matthews was focused on running behind Brooks. Jackson’s inability to hold his own, along with Campbell being undisciplined forces Ricardo Allen to make a potential touchdown saving tackle.

3rd quarter: 2nd and 15 at ATL 32

Another theme during this onslaught was the defensive line’s inability to set the edge. Hageman’s lack of football IQ couldn’t have been more evident. He is constantly allowing space on the outside by trying to go inside unsuccessfully. With better linebacker play, Hageman could get away with this poor decision. When a strong safety (Ishmael) is filling in here, it allows Wendell Smallwood to find daylight with relative ease. Hageman’s inability to contain is the main cause behind another big run. To allow a 12-yard run in this situation is deplorable.

3rd quarter: 1st and 10 at PHI 48

As mentioned above, the front seven wasn’t entirely responsible for this horrific performance. Keanu Neal finds himself in an open field situation against Matthews. The rookie strong safety has been a terrific fit in Quinn’s defense. Run support is considered to be one of his main attributes. He allows Matthews to beat him without using any particular move. It was a rare poor miscue by Neal, who should have done much better. Brooks Reed doesn’t do him any favors, as Seumalo drives the edge rusher away from the run. A good run defense eliminates one-on-one situations as much as possible and their safeties aren’t forced into making many tackles in the running game. The Falcons did neither last Sunday.

3rd quarter: 1st and 10 at ATL 21

Three plays later, Philadelphia goes back to Matthews. They take advantage of Atlanta’s nickel front. Vic Beasley is a liability against the run, while Jonathan Babineaux is on a steep decline. Adrian Clayborn gets some penetration and nearly prevents Matthews from finding the gaping hole. The main culprit on this run is Jones. Similar to Campbell, he shows poor recognition and fails to stay disciplined. Matthews does change directions unlike the previous big run, where Campbell made a bizarre judgment error. Jones is still held accountable for misreading the play. Babineaux and Beasley not getting any push doesn’t help either.

4th quarter: 1st and goal at ATL 5

Another excellent play call translates into another successful run. The defensive line fails to set the edge again, which allows Matthews to roam free into the end zone. Brent Celek does a terrific job against Reed. When a tight end takes out your defensive end, the run usually doesn’t end well for the defense. Reed needs to be more active here, as he looks fatigued. Worrilow gets caught underneath, which renders him hopeless on the touchdown. The Eagles’ offensive line and tight ends deserve credit for controlling the line of scrimmage. They looked unified, while the Falcons defense was rattled and overmatched.