The Philadelphia Eagles figured out how to slow the Falcons’ high-octane offense.
They simply kept quarterback Matt Ryan on the sideline and methodically cut up the Falcons’ rushing defense on their way to a 24-15 victory on Sunday before 69,596 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We got out-executed in some of the phases and that’s what makes it so difficult to take,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
The Eagles held the ball for 38 minutes, 10 seconds and the Falcons’ offense was on the field for 21:50. Also, the Falcons were held nearly 20 points under their 33.9 points per game average and couldn’t put together a scoring drive when they had two opportunities late in the game.
“We didn’t nail it today at the end,” Quinn said. “When you have the lead and it’s time to go close it, we didn’t do it.”
The Eagles improved to 5-4, and the Falcons dropped to 6-4 heading into their bye week.
The Falcons still hold a game-and-half lead over New Orleans (4-5) and Tampa Bay (4-5) in the NFC South. Carolina dropped to 3-6 with another loss Sunday.
“It was just us,” said All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who caught 10 passes for 135 yards. “We were doing little things here and there to get us out of whack. Everybody wasn’t on the same page today.”
Here are the five things we learned from the loss:
1. Falcons had chances. The Falcons had the ball twice late, but couldn’t put together scoring drives to pull out the victory. Another failed fourth-down try and poor play on third downs led to their demise.
The Falcons converted on 2 of 11 third downs (18 percent).
With the Falcons trailing 13-9 in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel got behind Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard touchdown to give the Falcons their first lead of the game 15-13. Matt Bryant missed the extra point for just the fifth time over his career. It was his first missed extra point with the Falcons.
After an exchange of possessions, the Eagles, benefited from two Falcons’ penalties, and marched in for a touchdown drive to re-take the lead. Eagles running back Ryan Mathews scored on a 5-yard run and a two-point conversion to make it 21-15 with 6:49 to play.
The Falcons’ ensuing drive stalled when Jones dropped a pass from Ryan with 5:26 to play. The defense held and got the ball back for offense with 4:55 to play.
The Falcons had another opportunity to pull out the win.
The Falcons started at the 35 after a personal foul was called on Eagles linebacker Najee Goode for hitting Eric Weems out of bounds. On third-and-4 from Atlanta’s 41, third-string tight end Joshua Perkins was called for offensive pass interference.
Ryan had completed a pass to Devonta Freeman for a 29-yard gain.
After the penalty, the drive stalled after the Falcons couldn’t convert a fourth-and-5 from their 40. Ryan’s pass for Julio Jones was incomplete.
“We had some opportunities,” said Ryan, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 267 yards and one touchdown pass. “We couldn’t really get into a rhythm offensively and that was a product of not converting enough third downs. We are disappointed.”
2. Both lines were mauled. The Falcons’ rush defense was giving up 91.6 yards per game, which ranked seventh in the league. The Falcons gave up a season-high 231 yards and Mathews became the first player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Falcons this season.
He had 109 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“It was definitely frustrating for us,” Quinn said. “No question about it, to have a team run the ball on us. The physical style that we like to play and have the explosive (plays) in the run game, for sure that was a big factor in this game.”
The Falcons’ offensive line also struggled to protect Ryan and couldn’t get the running game going. Ryan was sacked twice and the Eagles had six quarterback hits.
The Falcons rushed for a season-low 48 yards on 13 carries. The previous was 52 yards rushing against Tampa Bay in the season-opener and against Seattle.
3. Beasley balling out. The bright spot for the defensive line was the play of defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley Jr., who had two sacks and a forced fumble. He now has 9.5 sacks this season.
4. Keep away. It was clear that the Eagles wanted to run the football and keep the Falcons’ offense on the sideline.
They opened the game with a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive.
The Eagles deferred to open the game and got the ball to start the second half and went on a 14-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a 29-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis to put the Eagles up 10-6.
Later in the third quarter, they put together a 10-play drive that carried over into the fourth quarter.
5. Mathews and Matthews show. The Eagles leaned heavily on Mathews and wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
In addition to Mathews’ power runs, Jordan Matthews caught six passes for 73 yards for the Eagles.
Matthews was knocked out of game on a big hit by Falcons safety Keanu Neal.
“That’s just not the type of player that I am,” Neal said. “Coach Quinn always talks about the strike zone. You know, I’m a physical player, but I’m not trying to hit the dude in the head. They didn’t call a flag. I didn’t try to hit him in the head. I don’t think I hit him in the head.”