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Eagles Climb Over .500 With Quality Win Over Falcons

Ryan Mathews, No. 24 (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Ryan Mathews, No. 24 (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Eagles are really playing with people’s emotions. The Atlanta Falcons came in to town as the number one offensive unit in the NFL. Somehow, they’re headed back to Georgia with a loss, as the Birds downed the Dirty Birds 24-15 at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon and improved to 4-0 at home on the season.

Apparently, all the talk about the Eagles not being able to close out tough games got to the team. They rode their suddenly hot running game to finish off the upset victory. The Eagles gave substantial carries to both RB Ryan Mathews (19) and RB Wendell Smallwood (13) and neither disappointed. Mathews rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns, with the first to open the scoring, and the second to ice the game. Smallwood ran for 70 yards, a welcome sight for a rookie who has shown flashes but hasn’t been given enough touches.  Darren Sproles was key in the passing game as well, going for eight receptions and 57 yards.

This is exactly how the team should be using their running backs. Sproles is a dynamic pass catcher and a brilliant special teams extraordinaire, but they drafted Smallwood for a reason. He and Mathews should continue to split the load.

Unfortunately, no Eagles running back threw any touchdown passes on Sunday. Shout out to ex-Eagle and current Titans RB DeMarco Murray for his first NFL touchdown pass, a 10-yard lob to TE Delanie Walker.

Carson Wentz was absolutely brilliant all game. Despite having junior college level scabs for receivers, Ginger Jesus was a revelation in this massive game against one of the NFC’s best. After the defense forced a quick punt to start the game, Wentz and his guys went to work on a 12-play 81-yard drive resulting in a four-yard touchdown run by Mathews. His most impressive moment was finally putting a game winning drive together. With ten minutes to go, he orchestrated a 76-yard drive, completing five passes, ending with a Mathews touchdown run to retake the lead.  Pederson has said all the right things, about this being a progression offense. Despite not having much to throw to, Wentz was very accurate and continues to build confidence.

“He was seeing the coverage, seeing the leverage,” Coach Pederson said. “His target line with his feet, we talked about mechanics, he’s worked on that the last couple weeks and he was a lot more accurate yesterday with those throws. Zach over the ball a couple times, Sproles in the flat, different things like that, taking advantage of some matchups. Carson working in practice and fixing his feet and target lines and all that have been a big thing.”

WR Jordan Matthews also had a great game, with six receptions for 73 yards and battled all game long, including playing through a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit by Falcons safety Keanu Neal.

“Once I took the hit, I could tell my lip was bleeding,” Matthews said. “And then when I got up, my facemask and my helmet didn’t feel the same, and I went to the sideline and my visor was completely dented and even the front of my helmet was pushed in a little bit. They had to change out my whole helmet. I’ve taken hits before. I’ve played this game a long time, and it’s kind of routine. We call those dingers. You just get dinged, but you’re not knocked out.”

Good thing he’s okay, because an Eagles receiving corps without Matthews could be historically bad. It’s going to be a real treat to watch Matthews with other actual capable NFL receivers, but fans must hope for the best, especially with this organization, one that let ex-QB Donovan McNabb waste away years of his prime with a receiving corps possibly worse than this one. They were incredibly pathetic, and the best part is, one of the members is the current Eagles WR coach, Greg Lewis.

The Eagles defense put together quite the dominant performance. The unit allowed 48 yards rushing, thanks to DT Bennie Logan’s return from injury. Despite the stats not showing it, he really helps clog the middle and destroys runs before they even start.  While WR Julio Jones had ten receptions for 135 and wasn’t exactly held in check, he was at least held out of the end zone. QB Matt Ryan had one of his worst games of the season, completing just 54.5% of his passes and finishing with a 78.7%, both at or near season lows. WR Taylor Gabriel got loose for a 76-yard bomb, Ryan’s only touchdown on the day. CB Leodis McKelvin has fought through injuries all season long and came down with the game-sealing interception late in the fourth.  The Eagles defense also held the Falcons to season-lows in points scored and total net yards, two stats the Falcons led the league in. DE Brandon Graham had another massive game and feels the momentum from this game is certainly going to help going forward.

“That can carry over,” Graham said. “All we gotta do now is bring the energy to the away games and I think we should be fine. We just gotta make sure we just get it done in practice like we’ve been doing, and making sure we don’t beat ourselves. Today, you know, we had a couple turnovers in there. But as a defense we accept the challenge on going out there and try and stop them, and in the red zone we managed to keep them kicking field goals instead of touchdowns.”

Special teams continue to deliver for the Eagles. ST Coach Dave Fipp should be in line for a major pay bump or promotion. Consistently great field position is a blessing in the NFL. Despite losing special team standout Josh Huff, his void has been more than adequately filled by RB Kenjon Barner, who had three returns for 114 yards. Kicker Caleb Sturgis went three for five on field goals on Sunday, but drained a critical 48-yard kick to put the Eagles up by two possessions with two minutes left in the game.

The Birds travel to CenturyLink Field to face the Seahawks to continue their brutal November schedule. The team climbs to 5-4, still good for only fourth place in the NFC East, which is looking more and more like the cream of the crop in the NFC this year. The Falcons drop to 6-4, still good for first place in the NFC South and head into their bye week.

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