32 Degrees/ 16 MPH Wind
Key Decision #1:
- The Eagles made the adjustments on defense that were necessary to win the game.
- The Eagles committed personnel to stopping the run in the second half after not being able to consistently set an edge in the first half. This was surprising as the Eagles had the top run defense in the NFL during the regular season. The Falcons running game was inconsistent at first and was rendered ineffective at the end of the game. Philadelphia shut down the Atlanta running game the second half.
- RB Devonta Freeman was unable to get going in the second half and finished with 10 carries for seven yards. Meanwhile RB Tevin Coleman had the same number of carries for 89 yards.
- The decision to keep Freeman in the game, even on passing downs was a curious decision as he was struggling getting into a rhythm on a grass field and was ineffective in pass protection. Atlanta either ignored this or failed to recognize Freeman’s struggles. Perhaps this game would have been different had Coleman been allowed to run more frequently in the game, especially as Freeman stated after the game that he was suffering from PCL and MCL sprains.
- Freeman was on the field for 56% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps as opposed to Coleman who was on the field for 46% of the snaps.
- Philadelphia’s defense by taking away the running game forced Atlanta to throw into the wind in the second quarter and they didn’t move the ball significantly until the game’s final drive.
Key Decision #2:
- The Eagles play-calling especially in the run game was excellent against a tough Falcons defense that had momentum coming into the game, having shut down the Rams and RB Todd Gurley the week before.
- One of the better play calls was a handoff to WR Nelson Agholor who lined up in the backfield and took a handoff 21 yards for a first down early in the 2nd quarter. The Eagles would later score their lone touchdown on the drive.
- The commitment to the run game helped Eagles QB Nick Foles as he completed 23 of 30 passing attempts for 246 yards.
- It was not just play-calling in the game that helped Philadelphia, but the tempo that they played at during various times of the game.
- For example, Philadelphia, especially after long gains would go up-tempo and call run-pass options. This allowed Foles to get into a rhythm, especially during the third quarter when he completed five passes in a row.
- The run-pass option, or even the threat of it slowed down the Falcons aggressiveness during the game as they had to commit personnel to finding the ball carrier.
Key Decision #3: (PHI trails 3-0/ 4th and Goal ATL 1/ 10:32 Q2)
- Rather than kick a field goal to tie the game, the Eagles attempted to score a touchdown. They were successful as RB LeGarrette Blount ran over the right side for a one-yard score. The Eagles would go on to miss the extra point. This would be the only touchdown they would score all game.
Key Game Decision #4: (PHI trails 10-6/ 1st and 10 PHI 28/ :46 Q2)
- The Eagles moved the ball down to field goal range with quick passes downfield and the used two timeouts that they had saved for the end of the half. Jake Elliott kicked a 53-yard field goal to make it a 10-9 game at the half. Good clock management.
Key Coaching Decision #5: (PHI leads 12-10/ 4th and 1 ATL 3/ 6:02 Q4)
- The Eagles kicked a field goal to make it 15-10 as opposed to attempting a fourth down conversion on the Atlanta three-yard line on fourth-and-1. This capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive. Had the Eagles failed to convert on fourth down, the Falcons would have been able to take the lead with a field goal. This was a big moment in the game as Atlanta would need to score a touchdown at the end of the game to win the game.
Key Coaching Decision #6: (ATL trails 15-10/ 1st and Goal PHI 9/ 1:19 Q4)
- The Falcons final set of downs in the game was the difference in the game. It showed the difference between the Falcons, the NFC Champion from a year ago and the current edition of the Falcons.
- The final set of downs began with an incomplete pass to WR Julio Jones on first down, an incomplete pass to little-used Terron Ward on second down, a seven-yard completion to Julio Jones on third down and on 4th and 2, an incomplete pass to Julio Jones. The Eagles defense came up big here.
- Yet, the Falcons showed their over-reliance on Julio Jones. While Jones finished with 101 yards and nine catches, the Falcons only had 281 net yards.
- Last year the Falcons had the league MVP, Matt Ryan throwing the ball over the field to numerous targets. They’ve spent draft picks and free agent money on skill position players, most of who were largely absent in this game. Tight ends Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper both had one catch in the first quarter. Toilolo was targeted once after the first quarter. Hooper was not targeted after his catch.
- The Falcons became much easier to defend this year than last when the opposition knew that Jones was going to be the focus of the offense.
- Here the Eagles knew what was coming. Specifically Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham who stated about the Falcons fourth down attempt, “When they called that sprint out, everybody knew it. Everybody called it out.”
- It was the first playoff win for the Eagles since the 2008 season.
- The Eagles gave up no points in the second half.
- The Falcons last scored with 5:41 left in the first half.
- The Falcons used two timeouts early in the second quarter, on the same drive, on defense. Both of the timeouts came after Eagles first downs. The Eagles later scored a touchdown on the drive.