The Divisional Round kicked off with our most avian matchup of the playoffs: the Falcons and the Eagles. Atlanta was favored on the road, but Philadelphia was the No. 1 seed for a reason. The Eagles won, 15-10, and are moving on to the NFC Championship. They’ll host either the Saints or the Vikings next Sunday.
Final score: Eagles 15, Falcons 10
Eagles 15, Falcons 10: So the Falcons get to the red zone and had their chances to win ….
and they couldn’t get it done.
Their second-and-goal play was this god-awful shovel pass attempt:
Then Julio Jones caught a pass at the Philly 2-yard line that was held up on review.
So it all comes down to one play: fourth-and-2. Matt Ryan danced around for a while, looked for Jones (who fell down and got back up), and it fell incomplete, to the heartbreak of Falcons fans and delight of Eagles fans:
The Eagles ran out the clock for the win.
Eagles 15, Falcons 10: The Falcons have found some life.
On third-and-6, Matt Ryan barely avoided a sack and found Mohamed Sanu for a first down:
But the Eagles challenged it and it was overturned. Thanks, catch rule. But oh yeah, the Falcons have cheat code Julio Jones, who did this on fourth down:
The Falcons are trying to … fowl this streak up:
Eagles 15, Falcons 10: The Falcons (surprise) punted, but before we could nod off, the Eagles came up with huge plays on back-to-back third downs. A screen pass from Nick Foles to Jay Ajayi picked up 33 yards:
Then Zach Ertz gained 11 yards on third-and-7 to keep the drive going.
The Falcons clamped down in the red zone, however. On fourth-and-1 at the 3-yard line, the Eagles faced a choice: get the points or try to get the touchdown and potentially put the game out of reach.
After a (wasted) timeout, they opted to go for the field goal, stretching their lead to five points.
Nick Foles has had a strong second half — though he’s been living on a steady diet of slants and screens. He should also thank the play of his OL, which has kept him upright.
Third quarter: Eagles 12, Falcons 10
Eagles 12, Falcons 10: It looked like another drive was destined to end in a punt, but Nick Foles woke up at midfield. He found Alshon Jeffery on third down and then connected with Zach Ertz and Torrey Smith for two more. Jay Ajayi’s drop on third down set up Jake Elliott’s 37-yard field goal, which gave the Eagles the lead back right.
Right as the quarter ended, Matt Ryan was sacked by Rodney McLeod on a safety blitz on first down.
The Eagles have to hold on one more quarter to keep this impressive streak alive:
The @Eagles have won 15 straight games when leading after 3 quarters (12-0 this season when leading after 3rd quarter)
The Falcons are 2-4 this season when trailing after the third quarter
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 13, 2018
Falcons 10, Eagles 9: A four-minute drive for the Falcons ended up the same way every drive in this half has: with a punt. Tevin Coleman is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, so the Falcons might want to keep feeding him.
Falcons 10, Eagles 9: The Falcons went three-and-out to start the second half, thanks in part to two things:
The turf monster makes an appearance
— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 13, 2018
2) the basketball-like tip Jalen Mills made on Matt Ryan’s third-down throw.
But then the Eagles answered right back with their own three-and-out
Halftime: Falcons 10, Eagles 9
Falcons 10, Eagles 9: Right before halftime, the Eagles came up with their best catch — and most hilarious — of the game:
The shoulda-been interception ended up helping the Eagles chip away at the Falcons’ lead. With one second left in the half, Jake Elliott boomed a 53-yard field goal through the uprights.
Falcons 10, Eagles 6: Some drama right before the half. With less than a minute left, the Falcons had to punt. The Eagles were called for running into the kicker, but the review saw what everyone with eyes also say: Bryan Braman (and his magnificent ponytail) got a finger on the ball:
Because it had been deflected, there’s no running into the kicker penalty
Falcons 10, Eagles 6: Nick Foles looked like he had finally found a groove, and then the drive ended as so:
Nick Foles misses on a high throw and the Eagles will have to punt. Critical drive for the Falcons, who get the ball again after the half
— The Playoffoholic (@TheFalcoholic) January 13, 2018
Or, to put it more bluntly:
You can’t miss these plays, geez…
— BleedingGreenNation (@BleedingGreen) January 13, 2018
Falcons 10, Eagles 6: The Falcons took advantage of a turnover again, but this time they turned it into a touchdown.
After a couple penalties and some teeeerible red zone play-calling, Matt Ryan avoided a sack, twisted and turned, then dumped off a 6-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman.
Eagles 6, Falcons 3: Not a good throw by Matt Ryan here, but Julio Jones should play both offense and defense, tbh:
The Falcons punted into the wind, and then got the ball back anyway because of this weird-ass fumble return:
Eagles 6, Falcons 3: The Eagles picked up right where they left off at the end of the quarter, running all over the Atlanta defense. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount carried the load, but Nelson Agholor got in on the action on this beauty of a fake-pitch handoff/end-around to get the Eagles a first-and-goal.
On third down, the Eagles got confused, ran into each other, and fumbled the ball. Nick Foles picked it up and ran it to the end zone, but he was clearly down, even if it took a review for the refs to decide that.
In the end, it didn’t really matter. The Eagles went for it on fourth down and Blount ran it in for the first touchdown of the game.
We’re still waiting on the first extra point, though: Jake Elliott doinked the attempt.
First quarter: Falcons 3, Eagles 0
Falcons 3, Eagles 0: As the first quarter was winding down, Jay Ajayi was running STRONG:
Jay Ajayi finished the first quarter with 58 yards from scrimmage, his most ever in a first quarter.
He’s also lost a fumble in each of his last 2 games played after 1 fumble lost this season prior to that.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 13, 2018
And the Eagles finally have a rhythm — just in time for the break between quarters.
Falcons 3, Eagles 0: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones hooked up for a 21-yard gain, prompting NBC to gift us with this delightful graphic:
The Eagles’ No. 1 rushing defense stepped up at midfield, stopping Devonta Freeman short of the first-down marker on third down. The Falcons decided to go for it and caught a huuuuuge break when they were flagged for delay of game. Their fourth-down play was going nowhere fast and the Eagles would have gotten the ball at their own 45-yard line.
Instead, the Falcons had to take the 5-yard penalty, punted, and the Eagles take over at their own 14.
Falcons 3, Eagles 0: Nick Foles has had a rough start to the game, but so have the Falcons corners. After a couple of off-target throws by Foles (to be fair, it’s a bit windy in Philly), Desmond Trufant was called for PI on third down, giving the Eagles a first down — even as Foles has yet to complete a pass.
Jay Ajayi has shaken off the fumble, gaining chunks of yards to get the Eagles another first down. But then LeGarrette Blount caught the fumblitis, losing and then recovering a handoff.
Foles finally completed a pass right after that, but then he took a sack on the next play, putting the Eagles out of field goal range.
The bad news for the Falcons on that play: rookie defensive end Takk McKinley was hurt on the play. Luckily, it didn’t seem serious and he later returned to the game.
Falcons 3, Eagles 0: The Falcons took advantage of the turnover, picking up a couple first downs and getting into scoring position. They stalled around the 15-yard line, but luckily they have ageless kicker Matt Bryant, who knocked a 33-yard field goal through for the first points of the game.
Eagles 0, Falcons 0: Well, this has been an eventful start to the game. Nick Foles listened to our own Geoff Schwartz and took a shot down the field — and oooh boy, it was an ugly pass. But, he was bailed out by a pass interference call on Brian Poole.
And then Poole was bailed out on the very next play, when Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball, recovered by Falcons safety Keanu Neal:
Atlanta got the ball at its own 26-yard line.
What you need to know before the game
The Philadelphia Eagles are the top seed in the NFC, but they’re a much different team without Carson Wentz, who was injured late in the regular season and won’t be participating in the playoffs. They will play their first matchup of the postseason on Saturday as they host the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round.
Saturday’s game is set for 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream).
The Falcons are coming off a solid Wild Card Round win over the Los Angeles Rams. Atlanta won that game on the road, and they’ll have to win two more as they are the sixth seed in the NFC.
In the win, Matt Ryan completed 21 of 30 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown while being sacked three times. The Falcons rushed for 124 yards as a team, 66 of them coming from Devonta Freeman. Julio Jones had a great day, as usual, with nine receptions on 10 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Falcons looked good, holding the Rams to 13 points and allowing Jared Goff to complete just over 50 percent of his passes with only the one touchdown. The Rams lost a pair of fumbles, and that was the turning point for the Falcons.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is well rested after getting a bye for the Wild Card Round. They are the top seed in the conference, but they are without Wentz at quarterback, a major concern. Wentz can keep up with Ryan and handle the Atlanta defense.
Nick Foles, on the other hand, will have his hands full. He played in the final three games of the regular season, throwing for five touchdowns and two interceptions. He went 4 for 11 for a paltry 39 yards and an interception in a Week 17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys where he was replaced by Nate Sudfeld, but is expected to start against the Falcons.
The Eagles have a long way to go, and they have to do it without Wentz.
- The Eagles have signs posted all around their team facilities reminding them that they are actually underdogs despite being the top seed in the NFC. This is, of course, due to the lack of Wentz. Those signs should motivate them pretty well.
- To keep the motivation train going, Doug Pederson is also having Eagles players with Super Bowl rings speak to the team leading up to the game.
- If Foles is to find success against the Falcons, the Eagles need him to be more aggressive, at least according to the folks at Bleeding Green Nation.
Expecting Foles to play lights out in the playoffs just isn’t realistic. The Eagles can’t just count on him to carry the team. Philadelphia really needs to rely on Jay Ajayi and the run game. Jim Schwartz’s defense REALLY needs to continue to be a lockdown unit at home.
But Foles can’t play super conservative and scared. He needs to give this team a chance to make some big plays in the passing game. The hope is he recognizes the difference between aggressive and reckless.
- On the other hand, if the Falcons want to win, what they need is for their starting field position to improve dramatically. Ryan has to begin far too many drives from awful field position.
The Eagles have a truly fearsome defense keyed by one of the league’s most imposing defensive lines, and thus the Falcons are going to have to fight even harder than usual to push down the field. The more drives that start from the 15 or even 10 yard line versus the 25 or even further downfield, the more acute that struggle is going to become. This is a game where every yard and every point is probably going to matter unless Nick Foles completely implodes, so it’ll be incumbent on the return game to make smart decisions and avoid penalties.
- The folks over at The Falcoholic asked the question: What will the Eagles get out of Foles against the Falcons? From their perspective, there are some concerns, but it’s definitely preferable to playing against Wentz.
- Also at The Falcoholic, they took a deep dive on Ryan’s history and his ability to perform in multiple schemes. That makes him an incredibly versatile offensive weapon.