Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (left) catches up to celebrate with wide receiver Julio Jones. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Falcons owe no apologies for getting lucky, winning ugly

Julio Jones scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Falcons on a sensational 54-yard catch-and-dash. After Philly’s Nelson Algohor dropped a touchdown pass, Falcons head coach/defensive coordinator Dan Quinn called a timeout to set up a coverage that the Eagles exploited to convert a fourth-and-14. Then Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver bailed out Quinn with a great fourth-down tackle. 

The Falcons beat the Eagles despite a sloppy effort that included three bad Matt Ryan interceptions and 10 penalties. The Falcons (1-1) owe no apologies for that. Winning ugly and getting lucky is a necessity in the NFL, where the margins are thin. 

And that Jones TD really was a thing of beauty. Ryan saw that the Eagles were bringing extra pass rushers, like they did much of the night, and checked to one of coordinator Dirk Koetter’s clever screen pass plays. Key blocks by Mohamed Sanu and Jake Matthews sprung Jones for the score. 

The Falcons had more good fortune when right tackle Kaleb McGary returned to the game after leaving with a knee injury. The Falcons already are down guard Chris Lindstrom, a first-round pick. It would be hard for the Falcons to also overcome a major injury to McGary, their other first-round pick. 

Falcon offensive linemen were called for four penalties (two holds and two false starts). But the group otherwise held up reasonably well against Philadelphia’s intense pass rush. Ryan dropped back 43 times and got sacked once and hit six times. 

One of those hits contributed to a Ryan interception. He threw behind Sanu for another pick. Ryan’s third interception -- this one in the red zone -- was one of those inexplicably bad decisions that he usually makes maybe twice a year. That’s already two in two weeks. 

Defense kept the Falcons in it. They held the Eagles to four yards per play, intercepted Carson Wentz three times and forced a fumble. But they also blew the coverage on Algohor’s drop and gave up that fourth-and-14 (Quinn can be stubborn with calling zone coverage). Another lucky play: Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant was sitting on the turf when Wentz dropped an interception in his lap, making Ryan’s red-zone pick the second-worst of the game.

The Falcons were called for two defensive holding calls, which are automatic first downs. One of the holds, by Oliver, was on third down. The other, by rookie Kendall Sheffield, was on a second-and-22. The Falcons had three special teams penalties a week after they had a punt blocked in new coordinator Ben Kotwica’s first game. 

The Falcons had a long list of miscues. It wasn’t a pretty victory . It doesn’t matter. The Falcons are 1-1 instead of 0-2. and there are some favorable developments elsewhere in the NFC South.

The Saints lost at the Rams as quarterback Drew Brees suffered a hand injury. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has a bum shoulder. The Bucs beat the Panthers on Thursday night in a game that confirmed that neither team is very good. Four games against those two teams, all of them Week 12 and later, is one reason to think the Falcons could make the playoffs.

The Falcons haven’t looked playoff-caliber in either game. But they followed their poor effort at Minnesota with a better, if imperfect, performance at home. Take the “W” and move on to the Colts.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. 
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