The Eagle has landed. It landed square on the heart of the Atlanta Falcons who had their worst outing of the season as they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-15.
For the first time all season the high-flying offense of Atlanta was impotent as they gained 100 yards less than their season average and less than half their season average of points per game. Their 15 points is actually the least number of points the Falcons have scored since they were shut out by the Carolina Panthers last December.
The Falcons failed to get their motor starting even though they were in the game until the very end. Like a fine-tuned auto the motor kept turning but failed to ignite. “Our inability to create some of the third downs that were shorter I think was a real factor in this game,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said.
The Eagles for their part were no better as they led at the half 7-6 and a non-eventful third quarter saw both teams exchange field goals. And then ever so briefly the Falcons offense ignited. Early in the fourth quarter the Eagles added another field goal to extend their lead to 13-9. All it took was one play and the outlook for the first place Falcons changed.
After the kickoff on their next play from scrimmage Matt Ryan passed to Taylor Gabriel to the right for a 76 yard touchdown and all of a sudden the Falcons had the lead and things started to feel better. But the feeling of joy was apprehensive. Like an omen Matt Bryant who never misses an extra point missed as the Falcons were clinging to a 15-13 lead with 13:15 to play.
The Eagles added 11 points the rest of the quarter as Atlanta’s offense could never get on track.
Ryan had his first sub-par game of the season as he only completed 54 percent of his passes a season low although he added to his league record of 200-plus yard passing games as he threw for 267 yards. But the running game was non-existent.
Whenever Ryan passes for less than 300 yards usually the running game picks up the slack but Atlanta only gained 48 yards on the ground. Add to that the Atlanta defense who only allowed one 100-yard rusher all season allowed Ryan Matthews. Not only that, the Eagles gained 208 yards on the ground, by far the most the Falcons have given up all season. “The run game was huge today,” said Eagles QB Carson Wentz said after the win.
For a rivalry that has been heated for decades this was one of the most pacifist games between the two. This rivalry began getting heated in 1978. 1978 marked the first time in franchise history that the Falcons made the playoffs. They faced off against the Eagles in the Wild Card round winning 14-13. The two met again in the playoffs in 2002 with the Eagles winning 20-6 an again in 2004 in the NFC Championship game with the Eagles winning again 27-10.
The rivalry was so heated at this point the two faced off against each other on Monday Night Football to open the season. Things got out of hand quickly before the game even started as both teams brawled in the middle of the field during warm-ups. The literal slugfest ended with the Falcons winning 14-10. Forward to 2009 when the Eagles came to the Georgia Dome with former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on their roster. Vick had served 18 months in a federal penitentiary for bankrolling a dog fighting operation and after some bad blood between the Atlanta front office and the former star quarterback that included the courts ruling in favor of the Falcons making Vick repay part of his previous contract, the Eagles took a chance on giving him a second chance.
The Eagles won the game easily 34-7 and Vick even scored a touchdown coming on for a play out of the wildcat formation.
Sunday’s loss was tame by comparison to other meetings between the two with less on the line and not as many egos needing to be stroked. But the result wasn’t what Atlanta wanted as they aim to return to the playoffs following a three-year hiatus.
While Ryan had somewhat respectable numbers and Julio Jones had another nice game piling up 135 receiving yards, the fact the Falcon offense only managed 11 first downs spelled doom for the NFC South leaders. But 15 points isn’t going to win you a lot of games in today’s NFL.
Next week is a bye for the Falcons which comes at a good time as there are a few guys that could use the off time to heal some bumps and brusies, however fortunately unlike the past three seasons Atlanta has a lot less injuries and with ten games are in the home stretch with six games to play and four of them being at home.
“As we enter our bye, which is really our midpoint of our season, it’s about our honest self-awareness, things we can improve upon,” said Quinn. “And that’s what we set out to do. As I told the team today, all of us are going to find some things for all of us to improve upon. It’s not simply done, but that’s exactly what will take place.”
The Falcons return to action Sunday, November 27 as they host the Arizona Cardinals at the Georgia Dome. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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