NFL Divisional Weekend: Eagles Defeat Falcons, Reach NFC Championship Game
The Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles outlasted the Atlanta Falcons for a 15-10 win on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, solidifying their spot in the NFC Championship Game.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan scrambled for time, as Eagles defenders swarmed towards him. He threw a lob in wide receiver Julio Jones’ direction right on the edge of out of bounds. Jones leaped high enough to catch it, but the pass sailed right through his fingers, all but sealing the gutsy victory.
A sloppy first half could’ve lead way for the Eagles to take an early lead, but early fumble issues allowed the Falcons to cash in two scores, both off turnovers.
On the first play, the Eagles were bailed out on a long pass interference penalty by the Falcons, after quarterback Nick Foles threw a pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith that hung in the air far too long. They were quick to blow their opportunity with a fumble by running back Jay Ajayi on his first carry.
With the penalty, the Falcons were back in their zone but were still able to drive down the field for three that got the scoring started.
After his fumble, Ajayi ran with a vengeance, churning for 49 yards through the first quarter. Eventually leading to a bold call to go for it on fourth-and-goal, which paved the way for LeGarrette Blount to pass the pylon, giving the Eagles their first score. Kicker Jake Elliott ricocheted the extra point off both the side and bottom post before the ball eventually dropped short of the goalposts.
Ryan was able to dump off a pass while being pulled in reverse by defensive end Derek Barnett to running back Devonta Freeman, who scored easily after safety Malcolm Jenkins came up to harass Ryan, putting the Falcons up 10-6.
Despite a false start that forced the Eagles to take one of only two remaining timeouts to avoid a ten-second runoff, they were able to set up kicker Jake Elliott who cashed in from 53 yards, making it 10-9 going into the half.
The Falcons were unable to get much going offensively through most of the second half, while the Eagles were able to put together an impressive drive giving them a 12-10 lead.
Another long drive lead by Foles put the Eagles in a tough fourth down position. With about 6 minutes, left a field goal would make it a five-point game. In turn, forcing the Falcons to go for a touchdown, but a touchdown of their own would just about put the game out of reach.
After taking a timeout to think it over, head coach Doug Pederson ultimately decided to rely on his defense to come up big, something he hasn’t done much of the year, and it paid off.
The Falcons were able to drive down to set up a goal line situation that would basically decide the game. The fourth-down pass from Ryan that went through Jones would also signify the end of their playoff run and their season.
Now, the Eagles have reached their first NFC Championship Game since 2008, where they await the winner of this Sunday’s Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans Saints game.