ReFo: Falcons @ Eagles, Week 8

The first outing for the Eagles' defense after the firing of their coordinator did little to inspire, as Matt Ryan didn't need any heroics to earn the win.

| 5 years ago

The first outing for the Eagles' defense after the firing of their coordinator did little to inspire, as Matt Ryan didn't need any heroics to earn the win.

ReFo: Falcons @ Eagles, Week 8

The Atlanta Falcons controlled this game from the opening drive. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead and scored on their first six possessions en route to the win, moving to 7-0 on the year. For the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s hard to imagine things getting worse this season. Hoping to improve a week after firing their defensive coordinator, the defense struggled outside of the strong play by DeMeco Ryans. On offense, the Eagles continued to underwhelm despite having as much talent as anyone in the league.

Despite the various problems, the Eagles had a chance to get back in the game, as Atlanta wasn’t able to put it away until late. Had Philadelphia been able to recover a Michael Turner fumble, they would have had the chance to blow this game open again. As things are, the Eagles have fallen into a hole in the NFC East, while Atlanta extended its commanding lead in the NFC South.

Atlanta – Three Performances of Note

Get the Ball to Julio

On a field full of elite athletes, no one stood out more than Julio Jones (+1.7), who caught everything thrown his way for 123 yards and a touchdown. His biggest play of the day came on a 63-yard touchdown in the second quarter when he torched Nnamdi Asomugha on a go-route. Even when Jones wasn’t getting the ball thrown his way, he was making an impact. On Atlanta’s first score of the day, Matt Ryan faked a screen to Jones, which drew up the Philadelphia defenders and allowed Drew Davis to get behind the defense for the touchdown. The only negative on the day for the second-year receiver was an illegal touching penalty, which negated what would’ve been his second touchdown.

But even with Jones torching the Eagles’ defense for an average of 22 yards a touch, the receiver was inexplicably targeted only five times — a season low — in addition to one carry.

Ryan is Solid

While Ryan (+1.8) didn’t deliver the type of outstanding performance that would solidify his standing as a top MVP candidate, he was efficient in moving the chains, and kept the Eagles’ offense on the sideline, which helped neutralized what can be an intimidating Philadelphia crowd.

Ryan largely took what the Eagles’ defense gave him, which included a lot of short, easy throws that won’t necessarily make any highlight reels. Importantly, he avoided the costly negative plays that other quarterbacks, such as division rival Drew Brees, have been making this season. He threw 10 of his 27 passes behind the line of scrimmage, completing nine of them for 76 yards and a touchdown, though his lone incompletion was a poorly thrown ball that Eagles tackle Fletcher Cox nearly intercepted. And although he threw just two passes that traveled further than 20 yards in the air, one of them was easily his best play of the day, when he hit Jones in stride down the left sideline.

This won’t be looked on as a career-defining or MVP-winning game for Ryan and the Falcons, but they comfortably controlled the Eagles and are in prime position for a top playoff seed with a 7-0 record.

Keeping Atlanta Safe

Under Mike Nolan, the Falcons continue to get good play from their safeties, Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, and they’ve been much more active than we’re used to seeing. Moore (+3.4) in particular had an outstanding game. Playing in every defensive snap — he hasn’t missed a single snap this season — he picked up a stop and a forced fumble in the run game, and had a pass defense and allowed just one catch for no gain in two targets in coverage. He even made an impact as a rusher, forcing an overthrow from Michael Vick late in the game.

Likewise, DeCoud had a solid game, though he was a little quieter — he wasn’t targeted in coverage, but came away with two defensive stops to go with a sack and hurry in just five snaps rushing the passer.

Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note

Where’s the Rush?

It would be fitting for the Eagle defensive linemen to dress up as ghosts for Halloween, after they were nearly invisible against the Falcons. Coming into the game, Ryan had been pressured on over 29% of his drop-backs. Yet the deep and talented front of the Eagles could only manage to pressure Ryan seven times, just over 20% of his drop-backs, and produced only two sacks (one of which Ryan surrendered on). The problem certainly couldn’t have been fatigue, as the Eagles rotated the group heavily — eight different players played at least 30 snaps on the defensive line. Of the eight, the only above average performances came from Brandon Graham (+1.4 rushing the passer) and Cedric Thornton (+1.1), who together accounted for three hurries and the team’s single sack (that a defender made). With a struggling secondary and a trip to New Orleans next on the schedule, the pass rush needs to bounce back for the Eagles to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.

Quarterback Controversy?

It’s nearly impossible for a team to win in the NFL when its quarterback plays poorly. This game was no exception to the rule, with Vick (-4.3) struggling, as he has far too often in the first half of the season. The numbers weren’t horrible, as Vick completed 21 of 35 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown, but Philadelphia certainly needed more from its quarterback to keep with Atlanta’s offense. Whether by forcing throws or simply being off target, including numerous under throws late in the game, he missed throws far too often. And the trouble hitting the deep ball was nothing new — he has completed just 9 of 29 on passes thrown over 20 yards in the air on the season, including 0-2 on Sunday — but Vick’s struggles on the short throws are worrying. On throws over the short middle of the field, passes that are the bread and butter for many of the league’s quarterbacks, he completed just 4 of 10 passes for 33 yards. And though he took care of the ball, going without a turnover for only the second time this season, it may not have been enough to keep the Eagles from going to Nick Foles.

Marvelous Mathis

While the offense never got going, it was little fault of the offensive line, which played quite well for most of the game. Though Vick was pressured on 14 total plays, the offensive line was responsible for just seven pressures and a single sack of its QB. The line’s effort in run blocking was excellent as well, led by Evan Mathis (+5.7), who, after allowing two pressures in pass protection to start the second quarter, was nothing short of dominant the rest of the game. A perfect example was the play at 10:37 of the second quarter, when he manhandled Vance Walker, sealing him inside to open up a huge hole for LeSean McCoy. While that play exemplified Mathis’ strength, the very next showed his quickness as he got to the second level extremely quickly to put a block on linebacker Stephen Nicholas and completely cut off the pursuit of the Falcons’ linebacker.

Despite the strong run blocking and good running by McCoy (+2.9), Philadelphia called only 19 designed runs in the game.

Game Notes

Matt Ryan had a rating of 158.3 when targeting Nnamdi Asomugha, the third such time a QB has had a perfect rating when targeting Asomugha in his last 11 games.

Jeremy Maclin dropped two passes on Sunday, the first time in his career he’s dropped more than one in a single game.

— After doing so just 13 times all of last season, DE Kroy Biermann has already dropped into coverage 22 times in seven games, including on seven snaps against the Eagles.

PFF Game Ball

He only touched the ball six times, but Julio Jones made the telling impact in this game. His deep catch on Asomugha is one that is likely to be replayed for the rest of the week.


  • Coormiah4

    How many times was Nnamdi targeted? Missed the game but saw the Jones td.

    • JM

      He was targeted 5 times, with all 5 completed.

    • Ryan

      3 of those were screens though in his defense.

  • KMarch

    Many Falcons fans thought Ryan had his best game of the season last Sunday. Can you give a bit more explanation on why this is only his 5th best graded game of the season according to your rankings?

    • AK

      In the games against DEN, CAR, WAS, and OAK, he and the offense didn’t click like they like to at the beginning of games, and more-or-less throughout those games as well, until the end. On Sunday, Ryan, Koetter, and the rest of the Falcons offense wrapped up the Eagles game very quickly. In the first quarter, Atlanta possessed the ball for 13 out of the 15 minutes. By halftime, Matt Ryan had completed 17 – 20 passes for 197 yards and 3 TDs while the Falcons outgained the Eagles 252 to 92 yards of offense. Score: 24 – 7. Statistics could have been gaudier, but ball management came into effect very quickly after the Falcons had scored a TD, TD, TD, FG, FG, FG in their first 6 possessions. Also, the fact that the dome team Falcons executed so well in conditions similar to their humiliating loss to the Giants (hostile away game, windy, rainy) was very encouraging to Falcons fans.

    • tom

      He threw over a third of his passes behind the LOS, only went deep twice, only had a couple of really impressive throws. In short, he was good and efficient, but not outstanding.

      The stat line and 7-0 record speak for themselves, he had a really good, clean game and no one will say he didn’t, but he largely took what the defense gave him with mostly short, easy throws. He made just 2 negatively graded throws, one of which was a terrible decision on his first pass of the game that should have been intercepted, but on the other side, he didn’t make many “wow” throws. Most, not all, of what he did were passes that you would expect most quarterbacks outside of Tebow to make – his average pass traveled 4.2 yards in the air, they gained 65% of their receiving yards after the catch. They did well in the weather conditions too, but mostly shut it down on offense when the rain was coming down.

      Again, Ryan was very efficient at moving the chains, getting the ball out quickly, where it was supposed to go. He’s clearly playing at a high level this season and although his stat line is really good, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a high grade on PFF.

  • Brandon

    McCoy and the OLine are getting an awful lot of praise for averaging 2.8 YPC. Something doesn’t add up