ATLANTA – Matt Ryan took shot after shot down the field against an Eagles secondary that had been beaten badly at times in the Week 1 win over Washington. Clearly, the Atlanta Falcons felt they could get something going in the matchup of their talented wide receivers against the Eagles’ defensive backfield.
Ryan threw deep 10 times on Sunday night and had some success, like when he threw it over the top for a 34-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley, or a pretty 27-yard completion to wide receiver Julio Jones. But for the most part, the Eagles hung in there, and picked off Ryan twice on deep passes and stunted the deep Atlanta aerial attack.
It was a screen pass, of all things, that resulted in the go-ahead points for the Falcons as Jones caught the ball on fourth-and-3, got a key block from tackle Jake Matthews, and was off to the races for a 54-yard touchdown with 2:10 remaining to give Atlanta a 24-20 victory over the Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"It was about speeding up the quarterback's (processing), keeping the ball in front of us," safety Malcolm Jenkins said of the defense's blitz call on that fourth down. "They just made a really good adjustment to or check to late in the game. Good call by them. You live by it, you die by it."
Nothing came easily for the Eagles on this bizarre night. Injuries robbed the offense of some key weapons and impacted the defense as well, as tackle Tim Jernigan left the game in the third quarter with a foot injury. The Eagles played from behind for much of the game after Atlanta took the opening kickoff and went 11 plays and 43 yards to set up Matt Bryant for a 50-yard field goal to give Atlanta a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles, not known for blitzing during the Jim Schwartz era as defensive coordinator, were aggressive going after Ryan and it helped result in three turnovers, a week after not forcing any against Washington.
"It was part of our game plan," Jenkins said. "We knew if we got certain looks we wanted to send some pressure here and there throughout the day. We timed them up pretty well."
The offense netted 10 points off those three turnovers. The problem is that the Eagles gave the ball away three times as well, resulting in 14 Atlanta points.
The defense helped the Eagles climb back into the game after falling behind 17-6 in the third quarter. The third interception, a Nathan Gerry pick in the end zone, kept points off the board when it was 17-12 Atlanta. Two drives later, the Eagles took the lead for the first and only time in the game as quarterback Carson Wentz sneaked the ball in from 1 yard out.
"If there's one thing we know about ourselves now, it's that we're a resilient bunch," Jenkins said. "It doesn't really matter what happens in a game. We're going to keep competing, keep fighting. It don't matter who is in the game. We got faith in everybody. We got enough guys to make plays. We prepare really hard so we give ourselves a chance every week. Nothing different this week. We just didn't come up with the win."
The momentum was in the Eagles' favor, but Atlanta capitalized on its final opportunity as Jones – who was on the receiving end of incomplete fourth-down pass attempts in each of the past two meetings against Philadelphia – exacted some revenge with the catch-and-run.
Check out the best photos from the Eagles Sunday-night matchup against the Falcons.