That was one ugly football game, but it’s also the type of game that the Atlanta Falcons traditionally find a way to lose. They showed heart and grit and grinded out a well-deserved win against the Philadelphia Eagles — and while it wasn’t necessarily pretty, there were many moments that deserve a tip of the cap.
Desmond Trufant’s two picks
Falcons corner Desmond Trufant dropped a number of tailor-made interceptions in 2018, and it seems he came into this game against the Eagles determined to shed his reputation for butterfingers.
He did just that, securing not one, but two interceptions in this matchup. He picked off Carson Wentz late in the first quarter, and would do so once more midway through the second quarter.
Atlanta entered this game with a focus on forcing turnovers, and Desmond Trufant certainly did his part.
Ricardo Allen’s pass breakup to prevent a TD
Raise your hand if you’re excited that Ricardo Allen is back and at full health. Yep — my hand is way up. Ricardo is the unquestioned leader of the Atlanta secondary, and nowhere was that more evident than the prodigious hit he laid on Philadelphia receiver Nelson Agholor to prevent an Eagles touchdown in the second quarter.
Wentz’s ball seemed destined to find Agholor for six, until Allen came flying in and removed Agholor from the football (and possibly his soul from his body). Massive hit with massive implications on the outcome of this game.
Kendall Sheffield’s forced fumble
Atlanta’s Turnover Tour continued in the second half, with rookie cornerback Kendall Sheffield immediately handing the Falcons possession when he forced a fumble on the kickoff.
Eagles returner Corey Clement reeled in Matt Bryant’s kick and darted downfield, only to be rudely met by Sheffield punching out the ball. Safety Sharrod Neasman would fall on it for the recovery, and the Falcons would score on a Julio Jones touchdown three plays later.
Julio springs free on the screen and bolts for a 54-yard touchdown
I wish I could find some way to project this play onto the back of my eyelids so that it’s what I see as I fall asleep each night. This was the culmination of excellent play calling and execution — a DaVincian masterwork of football from the snap to the game-winning touchdown.
With the Falcons facing a fourth-and-3 from their own 46-yard line, quarterback Matt Ryan audibled to a wide receiver screen to Julio Jones. If Atlanta failed to convert, it was likely that the game was over.
Julio secured the ball, and was initially sprung free by Mohamed Sanu’s quick block. Left tackle Jake Matthews then followed that up with an absolute pancake on another defender, and Julio had nothing but end zone ahead of him as he sprinted for the score. Just brilliance all the way around, and a game-saving (and eventual game-winning) play.
Isaiah Oliver saves the game
Isaiah Oliver had one of his best games in an Atlanta Falcons uniform on Sunday, and none of the plays that he made were as pivotal as the tackle that he made on Zach Ertz to force a turnover on downs. Ertz was mere inches from converting the fourth-down attempt, one that likely would have led to an Eagles victory. Oliver wrapped up the big tight end and prevented him from clearing the marker, sealing the 24-20 win for Atlanta.
Bonus Hat Tip: Keanu Neal flying in to ensure that Ertz hit the ground.
Matt Ryan’s interceptions
The Falcons would eventually win 24-20 over the Eagles, but they did it in spite of Matt Ryan’s poor play. He made some maddening decisions on Sunday evening, throwing three interceptions — including one particularly ugly pass to Austin Hooper in the end zone.
Hooper was blanketed by two defenders, yet Ryan tossed it over to him anyway. Philadelphia linebacker Nathan Gerry would snag the interception and the Eagles would deny the Falcons the opportunity to add to the 17-12 scoreline.
Matt Bryant shanks one
Field goal misses happen — it’s simply part of the game. But it’s still jarring seeing someone as automatic as Matt Bryant miss, especially with a shank as bad as his second quarter attempt. It at first appeared that it was blocked at the line of scrimmage, but the replay clearly showed that it was just a really bad kick.
The Falcons brought Bryant back due to Giorgio Tavecchio’s ineffectiveness in the preseason, and so far he is 1-2 in field goal attempts.