The Atlanta Falcons needed two things in this game. They needed to play well on defense and prevent Nick Foles from actually playing well, given that he had been mediocre at best since taking over for Carson Wentz, and they needed the offense to show up against one of the toughest defenses they faced all year. When the dust settled on this matchup, the Falcons did a little bit of both, but not enough of either, and thus they dropped the Divisional Round to the Eagles.
The defense had the better game, providing smothering run defense at time and holding the Eagles to 15 points on the day, but they still allowed Nick Foles a comfortable pocket far too often and ultimately gave up too many easy first downs. When the game was on the line, they couldn’t get key stops, and that will mar and otherwise solid effort.
For all that, though, this game is on the offense. The Eagles defense was as good as advertised, but the Falcons offense was pathetic aside from a handful of drives, failing to score over 10 points and frequently running into the teeth of the Eagles defensive line. Atlanta had a chance to win this one late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite convert, and it speaks volumes that on the biggest play of the season, all they had in the toolkit was a jump ball to Julio Jones. The personnel is here for this offense to excel, but too often in 2017 they didn’t, and that will be the focus of the entire offseason as Atlanta grapples with this one.
Here’s the drive-by-drive summary, if you can stomach it.
The Falcons kicked it off, and the very first play of the game was a Nick Foles deep shot that turned into a duck. Unfortunately, Brian Poole rolled right through the receiver, who had to stop and come back to try to get the ball, and the Eagles picked up over 40 yards on a pass interference. Fortunately, Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball away on the very next play, and the Falcons had the ball.
The Falcons got a quick first down on a throw to Levine Toilolo, before Devonta Freeman picked up five yards on two carries against that stifling Philadelphia front. Then Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for a first down to keep the drive alive. Then the Falcons got things cooking with Tevin Coleman outside, as the stellar, speedy back picked up nearly 20 yards on two consecutive carries. The Falcons somewhat predictably got into the red zone and couldn’t get it done, but Matt Bryant hit the 33 yarder while lightly napping to give Atlanta the first lead of the day.
Falcons 3 - Eagles 0
The Eagles started things off with a zero yard gain by Jay Ajayi, and then Nick Foles missed on two consecutive passes. Unfortunately, Desmond Trufant got hit with a pass interference call on third down, and the Eagles had 63 yards in penalties already and another first down. Jay Ajayi then had two big gains in a row to put the Eagles on the Falcons’ side of the field. Then LaGarette Blount fumbled and fell on it for a seven yard loss, the Eagles picked up ten, and Adrian Clayborn got a sack (with an assist from Takk McKinley) to kill the drive. Unfortunately, Takk was then down on the field. Another terrific ending to a drive from the Falcons defense. The Eagles punted, and the Falcons started from their own 12.
Tevin Coleman caught a short pass and stretched it into a first down, and then Ryan hit Julio Jones for a beautiful first down followed by a six yard Tevin Coleman run. A Nick Williams drop set up third down, and then the Falcons couldn’t get it up the middle. That left them to try for it on fourth down (???) and they picked up a delay of game penalty and punted it away afterwards.
The Eagles elected to feed Jay Ajayi, who was cooking and picked up something like 23 yards on three carries. The Eagles were rolling as the first quarter ended.
The Eagles kept moving after the break. Nick Foles was able to connect, Ajayi continued to run well, and Philadelphia got a back-breaking handoff to Nelson Agholor that fooled the Falcons defense and led to a 21 yard gain that put them within striking distance of the end zone. The Eagles managed to get alllll the way to the one yard line on third down before backs collided in the backfield, the ball was fumbled, and Nick Foles fell on it. After review, the Eagles had fourth and 1 to go. Unfortunately, Blount ran it to the outside and got in without much trouble, putting the Eagles ahead 6-3. Fortunately, the extra point bounced off the upright.
Falcons 3 - Eagles 6
The Falcons needed to answer, and thankfully they did get moving. A 24 yard pass to Mohamed Sanu put them close to midfield. Unfortunately, a Matt Ryan bomb that had to be knocked down by Julio, a pass into the backfield, and a short Julio catch forced a punt. FORTUNATELY, the ball somehow bounced off of two Eagles before the Falcons fell on the ball and recovered it.
A Mohamed Sanu incompletion didn’t matter thanks to a penalty, but the Falcons got nothing on a first down run. Then the Eagles got hit with a holding call on a bad Matt Ryan throw to create a first down situation where Matt Ryan held on to the ball forever before throwing an incomplete to Levine Toilolo, who was virtually blanketed. Then on third down, Ryan got spun around and somehow threw a hop pass to Devonta Freeman for the touchdown, putting Atlanta up.
Falcons 10 - Eagles 6
The Eagles suddenly found themselves struggling to run the ball, but they could still throw it, and they got a first down on a play where Keanu Neal couldn’t make the tackle. Then they had an unproductive run, a short pass, and a high Foles pass to an open receiver to force the Eagles to punt again.
The Falcons started the next drive by handing it off to Tevin Coleman, who picked up a first down and a lot more. Unfortunately, they stalled out near midfield thanks to a missed throw and Devonta Freeman not being able to escape from all 11 Eagles defenders despite a game try. With :55 left, the Falcons punted. The Eagles got hit for a running into the punter penalty that looked pretty egregious, but Philadelphia also got a hand on the ball, and wound up with the ball.
On their final drive of the half, the Eagles completed a pass a little shy of a first down and then dicked around wasted a lot of time before picking up a false start penalty, leaving them with only :22 left. Then on the next play, Keanu Neal attempted to pick off a pass that bouned off his knee and landed in the hands of Torrey Smith, leaving the Eagles at midfield with :12 to go. Then Nick Foles missed a pass badly before hitting Alshon Jeffery with one second on the clock, and the Eagles were able to hit the long field goal to enter the half down a single point.
Falcons 10 - Eagles 9
The first drive of the quarter was completely unproductive for Atlanta, which wound up punting it away to the Eagles.
The Eagles got nothing on the ground, then a six yard catch, then a short pickup and a punt came in. All defense to start the third quarter.
The Falcons got an easy first down thanks to a Tevin Coleman run, but followed that up with a loss of one and then a near Matt Ryan interception. A Julio Jones catch over the middle, followed by some solid running, got the Falcons moving. They stalled out, though, with the Eagles’ ability to get pressure on Ryan paying off in a big pay when they sacked him on third down. Punt, and the Eagles started on their own 6.
Philadelphia picked up a first down on a short Jay Ajayi run and a catch over the middle, and then Nick Foles started killing Atlanta through the air in a continued, unfortunate, unexpected development. The Eagles got into Atlanta territory at a crisp clip, with Foles continually finding his receivers for first downs. The Falcons badly needed a turnover or a hard stop. They got one, as they managed to get pressure on Nick Foles and got the luck of a Jay Ajayi drop, but the Eagles still hit the 37 yard field goal without much trouble.
Falcons 10 - Eagles 12
The Eagles got a safety into the backfield basically unblocked for a sack, and the Falcons lost a ton of yards on first down.
Then Matt Ryan hit Julio in the hands and saw the ball dropped, and Devonta Freeman took it about 14 yards, which wasn’t nearly enough on 3rd and 20. The Falcons had to punt again.
The Eagles got a screen pass to Jay Ajayi that was executed perfectly, which put the Eagles at midfield after 33 yards. It was a disastrous play, and Foles had little trouble picking up another first down to follow. And then another, on a Nelson Agholor rumble. And then close to another on a pass to Mack Hollins. And then another first down to LaGarrette Blount. At this point, the defense just looked gassed, and the Eagles were inside the ten yard line. They got to third down on about the five yard line, and Desmond Trufant made the tackle on a short pass to set up 4th and 2 for Philadelphia. The Eagles settled for a field goal, and the Falcons were on down five with six minutes to go.
Falcons 10 - Eagles 15
That left all the pressure on the Falcons offense, which had managed only a couple of productive drives all day to this point. They got a first down after a six yard Tevin Coleman toss and a Julio first down pickup, but then Freeman got blown up on first down. The Falcons got a key third down reception from Mohamed Sanu, but it was overturned on review, and the Falcons decided to go for it with everything on the line. Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for a first down to convert. Then Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones again. Then we were at the two minute warning with Atlanta driving, and the Falcons connected on a seven yard pass to Taylor Gabriel and a great run by Tevin Coleman to put them close to the goal line. Matt Ryan couldn’t quite connect with Julio Jones in the end zone on the first play, the Falcons attempted a shovel pass that didn’t even have a chance on third down, and Ryan hit Julio over the middle on the two yard line on third down. That left fourth down with everything on the line, because a failure to convert would give the Eagles the ball with just enough time to run out the clock. On fourth down, the Falcons tried to connect with Julio Jones in the end zone, but it didn’t work out, and that was game.
The Eagles got the ball back and Grady Jarrett encroached, and that was that. Eagles win.