By Justin Thomas
The Eagles and Falcons came into this weekend’s matchup with a lot to prove and many storylines on each side. For the Falcons, this season was about redemption. Trying to make up for the epic collapse they had against the Patriots in the Super Bowl a season ago. For the Eagles, the big storyline coming into the playoffs was how their offense would fair without Carson Wentz who had suffered a torn ACL a few weeks before the season ended. Nick Foles struggled in the final weeks of the season which put some doubt in many NFL experts and even some fans. The Falcons came in the game fresh off of their wildcard weekend win against the Los Angeles Rams and were actually the favored team coming into the divisional matchup against the Eagles.
The game started out with a Jekyll & Hyde type of start. Their 1st drive started with a 40 yard passing interference penalty against the Falcons and on the very next play Jay Ajayi fumbled. The Falcons then worked methodically down the field with the drive ending in a 33 yard field goal by Matt Bryant. The Eagles relied heavily on the run game in the first half, dividing carries between Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. The Eagles finally reached the endzone in the 2nd quarter on a Blount 1-yard run on 4th and 1 however they missed the point after attempt. A mix of short passes and a big run by Agholor attributed to the success on the drive.
The Eagles had stymied the Falcons offense for the majority of the 1st half. However a fumble on a punt return set the Falcons up deep in Eagles’ territory and it resulted in Falcons touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Devonta Freeman. Multiple penalties on the drive by the Eagles hurt them as well. A partially blocked punt and a miraculous catch set the Eagles up for a 53 yard Jake Elliott field goal as time expired in the half. His missed point after attempt loomed large as the Falcons went into halftime up 10-9.
The second half started off as a defensive stalemate as neither team could do much on offense. The Falcons threatened to score on their 2nd drive however and Eagles sack knocked them out of field goal range. The Eagles put together one of their best drives of the game toward the end of the 3rd which resulted in another Jake Elliott field goal. The Falcons punted on their first drive of the 4th quarter which led to a lengthy Eagles drive ending in yet another Elliott field goal putting the Eagles up 15-10 with just over 6 minutes left in the quarter. The Falcons drove down the field and got as far as the Eagles’ 2 yard line. However an incomplete pass to Julio Jones in the back of the endzone on 4th down gave the ball back to the Eagles. After a few kneel downs the Eagles ran out the clock thus advancing them to the NFC championship game.
Although Nick Foles wasn’t lights out, he did just enough to help his team win. He finished the game with 246 passing yards completing 23 of 30 passes. Jay Ajayi led the Eagles in rushing with 54 yards on 15 carries. Defensively the Eagles shined, limiting Matt Ryan to only 210 yards and only allowing 86 total rushing yards. The Eagles will now face the winner of the Saints/Vikings divisional game and are one step closer to bringing Philly its first Super Bowl.