Roll the film backward. Send the parade caravan down Broad Street in reverse. Make the confetti fall upward to the ceiling in Minneapolis. Remove the dog masks. Fly the Vikings back home tail first.

Roll it backward and stop in the cold early evening of Jan. 13. The Atlanta Falcons trail by five points, but have a first and goal from the Eagles' 9-yard line with a little more than a minute to play in Lincoln Financial Field.

Nothing that came after – the NFC win, the confetti that dropped two weeks later, the parade – none of it would have happened if the Eagles didn't keep the Atlanta offense of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones out of the end zone at the end of the divisional-round playoff game.

And, of course, they did, and now you can roll the film forward and beat the Vikings and don the dog masks and beat the Patriots and stand in the joyous rain of the confetti and then parade like conquering heroes up Broad Street. So many things to think about and reflect upon and remember happily after that goal-to-go series in the Linc.

Not for the Altanta Falcons, though.

Maybe time itself didn't stop for the Falcons when that game ended, but the 2017 NFL season surely did. They've had nearly eight months to live with that game, and there are both pain and promise in returning to begin the new season in the same place.

For the Eagles on Thursday when the journey begins again with the regular-season opener, they can look to the other sideline and be reminded how much elation and disappointment can ride on one series, one play, one pass that spirals through the air toward a pair of waiting hands.

"All of it might never have happened," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "You look at where they were and you would have thought, 'These boys are about to beat us.' Sometimes in big games, you just resort back to old habits, and luckily the habits we had were pretty good."

It was a defensive game throughout, unlike the wild-card-round game the Falcons played the week before in an authoritative 26-13 road win against the Rams. This time, they met up with a defense that not only was performing at a high level but also was inside their playbook.

"There are a lot of different plays in a clutch situation that come down to fundamental things: reading keys, tackling," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's things we work on every day."

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox ran off the field celebrating the victory over the Falcons.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox ran off the field celebrating the victory over the Falcons.

Still, it was Ryan and Jones and the Falcons right there on the doorstep, nine yards from slamming shut the entire season on the Eagles.

"It isn't what you want, but, in a way, it is. That's what you sign up for," cornerback Ronald Darby said. "You want to go up against the best and prove what you can do. If I do everything right, and a play is still made on me, I can't be upset. They get paid just like I do. More than I do, actually."

Trailing 15-10, Ryan had already taken the Falcons from their own 24-yard line, surviving one fourth-down situation with a 20-yard completion to Jones. It was Atlanta's longest drive of the game, and it gained momentum as it rolled toward the Eagles' end zone.

On first down from the 9, Ryan threw too high on a sideline fade to Jones with Darby covering. Second down was an ill-advised inside shovel pass that zoomed through the hands of running back Terron Ward. On third down, Jones lined up against Darby and ran a slant pattern that, if Darby hadn't been there, might have been the ballgame. Darby tackled him at the 2.

"I just wanted to play it smart and keep him out of the end zone. I played the first move slow because I didn't want to give up no double move," Darby said.

So, yeah, fourth down at the 2 from the right hash. The defense had been coached to expect a sprint-out to the right based on Atlanta's tendencies. Jones was on that side, and when the Falcons sent the tight end in motion from left to right, that sealed the expectation.

"We were pretty confident they'd move the pocket, and we recognized the formation as soon as they lined up," Jenkins said.

"As soon as I saw the tight end come over, I was like, 'There it is.' This is everything you dream of as a player," safety Rodney McLeod said.

Ryan sprinted out, looking for Jones in the end zone, but the receiver slipped as he made a cut toward the sideline. Trailing him, cornerback Jalen Mills almost climbed Jones' back before Jones righted himself and continued. By that time, the Eagles had closed down Ryan's secondary options and forced him to backpedal under pressure. He still got a pass off and it spun toward Jones, who leaped above Mills.

If Jones had caught it, his feet might not have come down in bounds, but we'll never know. The ball, slick in the damp, windy, winter air, went through Jones' hands. The Eagles took over and ran out the clock on Atlanta's season. Their own, in retrospect, was just beginning.

"Obviously, that's a tough spot for a defense, but those are the situations you hope to be in to show what you're about," safety Corey Graham said. "Sure, we needed a stop. But we look at it differently: They needed a touchdown. If they make the play, we lose the game. It's a dynamic offense. They make a lot of plays, so you just try to limit them. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that again."

The stakes aren't quite the same this time, but the teams and the stadium are, and the challenge remains. It all matters. Maybe this is the game that will decide which team gets to stay home in the playoffs. Maybe it is bigger than it appears. Maybe it will come down to just one play or a handful of plays. It did once before.

"There were a lot of plays that changed things," Darby said. "There were a lot of little things that came out on our side last year and helped a lot. That's why it's so hard to win a Super Bowl, because things don't always go your way."