My five top reasons why the Eagles were able to beat the Falcons Thursday night without Carson Wentz, Nigel Bradham and Alshon Jeffery:
The fact that the Falcons had five red-zone opportunities against the Eagles isn't a good thing. That's the most any team has had against them since Week 3 late year when the Giants also have five.
But the fact that the Eagles held the Falcons to one touchdown and nine total points on those five trips inside the 20 is a very good thing.
The Falcons had a second-and-goal at the 1 on their first possession of the game, but failed to get in. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill came off two blocks and held the edge on a fourth down run around left end by running back Devonta Freeman, stopping him for a one-yard loss.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had a third-and-three at the Philadelphia 15. Cornerback Ronald Darby had to leave the game with cramps and was replaced by Rasul Douglas, who hadn't played a defensive snap all night.
With Darby out, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called a zero blitz against Matt Ryan. Ryan tried to get the ball to his go-to receiver Julio Jones, who was matched up against Douglas.
But the pressure from the seven-man rush affected his throw and Douglas was able to step in front of Jones and pick pass off.
"I threw it with too much touch,'' Ryan said. "It was too soft and gave them an opportunity [to make a play on the ball]. I think if I could've thrown that on a line a little bit higher, it would've given [Jones] a chance to make a play on the ball.''
They made it as far as the Philadelphia 5 on their final possession. Just like the January playoff game, Ryan turned to Jones on the final play of the game. Unlike last year, he caught the ball. But Darby knocked him out of bounds before he could get his feet down in the end zone, preserving the win.
Doug Pederson apparently is going to make this throw-the-ball-to-the-quarterback thing a regular part of his offense.
Trey Burton, who threw the "Philly Special'' touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl, is playing for the Chicago Bears now.
So, wide receiver Nelson Agholor did the honors Thursday, throwing a perfect 15-yard pass to Foles on a third-and-five play in the third quarterback that totally caught the Falcons defense off-guard and kept alive a drive that ended with Jay Ajayi scoring on a one-yard run to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead at the time.
This wasn't the "Philly Special.'' This actually was the play that the Patriots ran before the "Philly Special'' where a wide-open Tom Brady dropped a pass from Danny Amendola.
Foles didn't drop it. He looked it into his hands and picked up a key first down. Three plays after that, Foles completed an 18-yard, third-and-8 pass to tight end Zach Ertz. Two plays after that, Jay Ajayi ran the ball in from a yard out to give the Eagles a 10-6 lead.
Fletcher Cox wants to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and if he continues to be as dominant as he was Thursday night, he'll win the award going away.
He almost certainly will get the votes of Falcons left guard Andy Levitre and center Alex Mack, who fought a losing battle trying to keep Cox away from their quarterback, Matt Ryan.
Cox's influence on the game was so much greater than his one sack and four hurries. The inside pressure he was able to create forced hurried throws and allowed the Eagles' edge rushers to get to Ryan.
The Eagles sacked Ryan four times and had 13 hits on him. Two other sacks were negated by offsides penalties. Ryan finished the game with his lowest completion percentage in seven seasons and failed to throw a touchdown pass in a game for only the sixth time in the last six years.
Cox played 93 percent of the defensive snaps Thursday. No other Eagles defensive lineman played more than 66 percent. Yet, there was Cox on the Falcons' final possession, beating Levitre for a sack on one play and getting past five-time Pro Bowler Mack and popping Ryan to force an incompletion on a third-and-10.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had the best season of his career in 2016 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Led the league in passing (117.1) and yards per attempt (9.3) and had a career-best plus-31 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential.
Then Shanahan left to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach following the '16 season, and he was replaced by former University of Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian has managed to turn one of the league's best quarterbacks into, well, into just a guy. Under Sarkisian last year, Ryan's passer rating plummeted 26 points and his touchdowns-to-interceptions differential dropped from plus-31 to plus-8.
The Falcons, who averaged 33.8 points per game in '16 under Shanahan, averaged just 22.1 last year under Sarkisian.
On Thursday, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz always seemed to be one step ahead of Sarkisian. The Eagles were able to get consistent pressure on Ryan. They held Ryan to 5.8 yards per attempt and held him without a touchdown pass.
The Eagles, who had the third best third-down defense in the league last year, looked every bit as strong in that area on Thursday night.
The Falcons managed to convert just four of 15 third-down opportunities, and were 2-for-11 at one point. They didn't have a lot of third-and-manageables. Nine of their 15 third downs were eight yards or more.
Ryan completed just six of 13 passes on third down. His one interception came on third down. So did one of his four sacks.
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