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.
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.
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.
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.
— 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.