The Philadelphia Eagles grinded out a gutsy win over the Atlanta Falcons to earn the right to host the NFC championship game. They weathered a sloppy first half and staged a last-minute goal-line stand to preserve a 15-10 victory. Thus, Atlanta won’t get the opportunity to atone for last season’s Super Bowl collapse.
Great Game Plan
The Eagles executed a great game. Head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich implemented a short passing game that kept the Falcons off the field in the second half. While the Eagles were not able to score many points, their ball-control offense proved very effective.
Quarterback Nick Foles missed on some throws early, but they stuck with the short passing game as their primary method of moving the football. Likewise, Jay Ajayi was heavily involved, totaling 98 yards from scrimmage on only 18 touches. LeGarrette Blount scored the Eagles’ lone touchdown on a fourth-and-1 carry in the second quarter.
Falcons Missed Their Chance
The Falcons had an opportunity to win it in the end. They had a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line with just over one minute to play. On first down, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw an uncatchable fade pass in Ronald Darby’s direction. On second down, Ryan tried an ill-advised shovel pass that also hit the turf. The Falcons found success through the air on third down when Julio Jones corralled a slant-in at the 2-yard line.
On fourth down, Ryan rolled to his right at the snap on a play designed for Julio. Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills drew the assignment and stayed with him. Jones slipped but Ryan stuck with him and floated a jump ball toward the receiver along the sideline. Unfortunately, Jones jumped and got his hands on the ball, but could not reel it in. The Eagles survived and their fans were able to exhale.
Philadelphia was the first one seed to be an underdog to a six seed in the Divisional round and they embraced that role. Some players even donned dog masks after the game. Just like those masks, the win was ugly but none of that matters now. Philadelphia showed real moxie dethroning last season’s NFC champs and will now host this year’s NFC title tilt. They will probably be the underdog again and that is just fine with them.