Eagles 15, Falcons 10: Five quick observations | Marcus Hayes

Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills (right) knocks away a pass intended for Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (center) during the first half of the Eagles’ playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.

De-Fense

It came down to a fourth-and-goal from the Eagles’ 2-yard line with 1 minutes, 5 seconds to play. Penn Charter product Matt Ryan rolled out and threw just out of the grasp of  Julio Jones. That salvaged a 15-10 win. The Eagles’ defense held a five-point lead with 5 minutes, 57 seconds to play, 76 yards from their own end zone. They allowed 74 yards, a fitting end to a valiant effort. Through the first three quarters the Eagles’ defense allowed just 281 total yards, sacked Ryan three times and gave up those 10 points, seven of which followed a muffed punt. Stymied by good defensive backfield play and good judicious blitzes, Ryan finished 22-for-36 for 210 yards. The top-ranked rushing defense among playoff teams, the Eagles allowed 86 yards on 20 runs.

Dougie Fresh

Doug Pederson used innovative and timely play-calling that maximized Nick Foles’ abilities and twice employed recevier Nelson Agholor, a former running back, as a carrier out of the backfield. Pederson considered going for a touchdown but chose to kick a field goal with 6:02 to play on fourth-and-1 at the Falcons’ 3-yard line to make it a 15-10 game — key, since the Falcons could have won with a field goal late. Pederson also challenged a catch by Mohammad Sanu with 3:30 to play and had the call reversed.

St. Nick

In his fourth start since Carson Wentz’s ACL injury, Nick Foles, preemptively derided as the Eagles’ postseason pariah, looked lousy early but finished 23-for-30 for 246 yards. He was 11-for-15 for 137 yards on the Eagles’ field-goal drives in the third and fourth quarters, but he needed luck in the first half. He launched an atrocious deep pass on the first play of the game, but a pass interference call saved him. Another PI call (this one, bad) on another poor throw gave the Eagles their first third-down conversion. His throw to Zach Ertz near the end of the first half  bounced off the knee of cornerback Keanu Neal and into the arms of Torrey Smith for 20 yards, and a 15-yarder to Alshon Jeffery set up a 53-yard field goal.

Here’s the kicker

Rookie Jake Elliott missed a PAT in the first half but made a 53-yard field goal as the half expired, which sent the Eagles into intermission trailing, 10-9. He made a 37-yarder, into a 19-mph wind, near the end of the third quarter to make it 12-10, and popped through a 21-yarder with 6:02 to play.

The Jay Train, & Co.

Featured running back Jay Ajayi, rested since Game 15 due to a chronic knee issue, had 54 ruhing yards on 15 runs and three catches for 44 yards. He fumbled on his first touch. The Eagles, who led the league in rushing, finished with 96 yards on the ground.

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