After all of that, they lost by giving up a 54-yard screen pass touchdown on a 4th and three.
Talk about an outrageous game.
That went from one of the worst games I’ve ever seen to one of the best games I’ve ever seen, speaking strictly of entertainment value and fourth quarter drama. Both teams really buckled down and made some amazing plays under pressure after struggling for consistency through three quarters of football.
But holy hell, what a brutal way to lose, especially after the Eagles clawed back from a 17-6 deficit and put together a 13-play, 74 yard drive to take the lead. Carson Wentz shook off a slow start, a trip to the medical tent, and the absence of his two best receivers to put the Eagles in a fantastic position to win the football game. The difference was one perfect play call by Atlanta on their final drive.
When you look at the list of guys who left the game at some point, you wonder how the Eagles even kept it close:
- DeSean Jackson (groin)
- Alshon Jeffery (calf)
- Jason Kelce (concussion protocol)
- Dallas Goedert (calf)
- Carson Wentz (concussion protocol)
- Nelson Agholor (concussion protocol)
- Corey Clement (shoulder)
- Tim Jernigan (foot)
- Sidney Jones (concussion protocol)
Jackson and Jeffery lasted a combined 17 snaps and finished with zero targets while Goedert hurt himself pregame and didn’t even get on the field. This was like the body bag game of November 12th, 1990, only this time Philadelphia Eagles were being figuratively zipped up and sent to cold storage.
1. Aggressive Jim Schwartz
The Eagles rarely blitz under Jim Schwartz, and you’ve seen in recent Atlanta wins how his defenses play a “bend but don’t break” style against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones while clamping down inside the twenties.
The defensive coordinator switched it up this time, expertly throwing a variety of blitzes at the Falcon offense until the final play of the final Atlanta drive, when Ryan saw it coming and threw a quick wide receiver screen to Julio Jones instead:
JULIO JONES FOR THE LEAD!
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) September 16, 2019
Sometimes you just have to give credit where it’s due. That is veteran quarterback awareness and a brilliant block from left tackle Jake Matthews, just timed to perfection. If he lays that hit a split second earlier, he’s getting flagged and the Falcons are trying again from fourth and long.
The Birds brought six defenders, didn’t get to the quarterback, and then didn’t have the open-field speed to catch up to Julio Jones while playing man-to-man in a cover-zero defensive setup.
2. The would-be game-winning drive
It’s a shame the defense couldn’t close this game out, because the Eagles’ drive to take the lead was phenomenal.
They went 13 plays for 73 yards while taking 8:29 off the clock, a possession in which they finished 4-4 on third down. Carson Wentz completed eight straight passes before converting two sneaks, one to move the chains on 3rd and 1 and another to put the ball in the end zone. After that score, a quick slant to Zach Ertz was good for a two-point conversion, putting the Eagles up 20-17.
That was originally going to lead this Monday morning column, but unfortunately I had to scrap the introduction and re-write it. Womp.
3. Play calling and whatnot
Should the Eagles have run the ball more last night?
They finished with 50 called passes and 20 called runs, a number grossly skewed by the late fourth quarter drives and the necessity to throw. That resulted in a 71% to 29% pass/run ratio, one week after the Eagles put together a nicely balanced 55/45 skew.
This was surprising, since the Vikings ran the ball all over the Falcons last week, yet the Eagles’ offensive line didn’t seem to fare well against a smaller, if more active, defensive front. The Eagles tried on several occasions to run in the A and B gaps, unsuccessfully, while Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard finished with 46 total running yards:
After two weeks, the Eagles are 23rd in the league with 86 rushing yards per game. Small sample size, of course, but this was an area that was supposed to be much improved this year.
4. Mistakes and breaks
New segment here, identifying how each team shot themselves in the foot over the course of the game. When you go through this list, it’s bonkers to think that the Eagles were even in this game at all:
- Nelson Agholor 3rd down drop on the opening drive
- Wentz first interception (not a killer, it was 3rd down, a good evasive play, resulting field position ended up being the same as a punt)
- Wentz second interception
- Big V with the ‘ole two penalties on one play
- Corey Clement fumble on kickoff return
- 3rd and 1 encroachment penalty in the 4th quarter
- Agholor 4th quarter drop (he said he lost it in the lights)
- Atlanta missed field goal
- Matt Ryan interception before halftime
- Matt Ryan third quarter interception
- Matt Ryan with another third quarter interception
Pretty ugly, and for a while there both teams looked uncharacteristically sloppy. It reminded me of that South Park episode, the one where the school kids have to choose their new mascot and they’re given the option of a giant douche or a turd sandwich. Maybe that’s harsh or immature, but you saw the same tweets I did, i.e., “I’m going to bed at halftime,” and “this game sucks” and “the NFL is a bad product” and la la la.
5. Pass of the year, so far
Third and nine on the would-be game-winning drive.
Watch it over and over again:
Wow! Just Wow!
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) September 16, 2019
I’m interested to see what the Carson Wentz narrative is this week on social media and the radio. Maybe “narrative” is the wrong word, but I guess I’m curious to find out if fans focus on his clutch fourth-quarter play, or the early sloppiness and pair of interceptions, the general disappointment in another slow-to-start night from the offense. I wonder how much blame is placed on the absence of Jeffery and Jackson.
We shall see!
Also, I love Nick Foles just as much as the next guy, but can we finally say that the Eagles had two great quarterbacks to choose from? There was no wrong answer. They could have picked either guy and had a chance to win this year. That might sound corny, but non hot-takers knew from the very beginning that this team would be good no matter what Howie Roseman decided to do with the QB1 spot. It was impossible for him to get it wrong.
6. Throwing the challenge flag
We had our first pass interference challenge in a Philadelphia Eagles game.
It came on the second Atlanta drive, a five-yard out route with Julio Jones working against Rasul Douglas, which you can see right here in slow motion:
Pass interference? Nope, according to refs, who upheld the call and charged the Falcons with a timeout. I really thought they’d overturn the call since Rasul seemed to wrap his right hand around Jones’ shoulder early.
7. Ancillary wins and losses
Here you go:
- won time of possession 34:54 to 27:06
- 0 turnover margin (both teams coughed it up three times)
- 9-18 on third down (50%)
- 2-3 on fourth down (66%)
- allowed Falcons to go 3-10 on third down (30%)
- lost 18 yards on 3 sacks
- 2-5 success rate in the red zone
- 7 penalties for 60 yards
- 18 first downs, 19 for Atlanta
- ran 72 total plays, Atlanta 61
Again they posted fantastic time of possession and third down numbers, numbers that usually indicate a win. Atlanta did diddly poo on third down, but the Eagles shot themselves in the foot tremendously with the Clement fumble, which was a field position killer to open the second half.
Otherwise, good again across the board, which makes this loss even harder to swallow. The fact that the Eagles are 1-1 while going about 58% on third down through two games is hard to comprehend.
8. Doug’s best call?
I’d like to say the decision to go for it on 4th and goal in the third quarter was a great idea, but Atlanta gave the Eagles that score with a cheap three-man rush. That’s two times in two weeks the Eagles have scored a touchdown against drop-eight coverage. The ensuing two-point conversion was necessary to make the deficit three points instead of five, so that was an analytical no-brainer of a decision there.
9. Doug’s worst call?
It seemed very un-Douglike that he decided not to run a play around the 2:16 mark in the second quarter, and instead waited for the two minute warning. Usually he’s much more aggressive in those situations. Maybe it had something to do with Wentz’s status, but if there was a quote explaining that, I didn’t see it.
I’m also in the group of people who felt like Josh McCown should have just finished that same drive. He threw the ball well in spot duty and it seemed risky to bring in a possibly concussed Wentz to continue that possession.
And how do we feel about deferring with the coin toss in general? It also seems un-Douglike to give the other team the ball to start the game, especially at home.
I know the absence of Jackson, Jeffery, and Goedert threw things for a loop a bit, so it’s hard to rag Doug for his play-calling considering the personnel situation, but I still feel like we haven’t seen the best of him through eight quarters of 2019 football.
10. I like the nightlife, baby
I know everybody hates Cris Collinsworth, but I really don’t mind him. He does offer good color commentary tidbits, for instance how he talked on the first drive about offenses wanting to move the Eagles laterally to take advantage of vertical penetration. Perhaps ironically, it was that type of sequence that won Atlanta the game.
Plus, the Collinsworth slide-in is really growing on me and I appreciated him questioning the goofy concept of the quarterback “giving himself up” when diving for the goal line on a two-point conversion. It makes zero sense, the way they rule those scenarios. The one thing Collinsworth got wrong that bugged me was when he asked why the Eagles ran Wentz on the first drive of the second quarter, when it was actually the product of a broken play.
Two more things here:
One, big shoutout to the NBC producer who played The Cars out to commercial break last night. Earlier in the evening, frontman Ric Ocasek passed away, joining Eddie Money in the great rock and roll band in the sky:
And two, let’s not get carried away with Atlanta here.
It was a nice Falcons win, phenomenal 4th and three play call, and I’ll give credit where it’s due. But y’all blew a 17-6 lead. You can’t even fill your own stadium. Matty Ice threw three interceptions. Atlanta is a Major League Soccer, NASCAR, and college football town.