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Home, Sweet Home Works For The Eagles

Saturday's NFC Divisional Round game is the first postseason matchup the Eagles have hosted at Lincoln Financial Field since January 4, 2014 when New Orleans came to town and escaped with a 26-24 victory. It's been too long.

And so much has changed since then, of course, and so much has changed in the time since Doug Pederson became head coach after the 2015 campaign. But one thing has not changed: The Eagles have been very good at Lincoln Financial Field the last two years. Let's dig into a six-pack of pertinent numbers (thanks to John Gonoude, Eagles public relations coordinator, for doing all the work!) that apply to this game against the Atlanta Falcons.

13-3: Philadelphia has gone 13-3 at home since 2016, marking the best home record in the NFL (including 7-1 in 2017).

It all began against the Cleveland Browns in 2016 with quarterback Carson Wentz making his debut in the NFL, as a starter, and it's just been kind of rolling since then. The Eagles were 6-2 at Lincoln Financial Field in 2016, losing only to Green Bay and Washington, and this season the Eagles were 7-0 in South Philadelphia before falling to Dallas in the regular-season finale that had no bearing on the playoff seeding.

"The home crowd definitely makes a difference," tight end Zach Ertz said. "The energy the fans bring helps this football team. I feel we have a strong home-field advantage. It's a unique fan base that has shown its love for the team every week. They bring their best on gamedays."

5-1: The Eagles are 5-1 vs. Atlanta at Lincoln Financial Field, including a 27-10 win in the 2004 NFC Championship Game.

The victory that sent the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX was, without question, the most significant. But there were some other fun moments against Atlanta, too (the only loss at Lincoln Financial Field to Atlanta happened in 2012).

    2006: The Eagles end the regular season against Atlanta at home and quarterback A.J. Feeley throws for 321 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles win, 24-17. Feeley's 89-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hank Baskett provided the winning points and the defense held late as the Eagles, resting many starters, prepped for a playoff game the next week. FYI: The Eagles beat the Giants at the Linc in the Wild Card playoff game with Jeff Garcia at quarterback and David Akers winning the game on a walk-off field goal.

    2008: On October 26 of that season, the Eagles defeated Atlanta, 27-14. Brian Westbrook, who keyed the team's vault to a late-season surge that carried it to the NFC Championship Game, rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The victory gave the Eagles a 10-0 record under then-head coach Andy Reid in the games immediately after a bye week.

    2010: Kevin Kolb started in place of the injured Michael Vick at quarterback in a season that was supposed to be all about Kolb, but wasn't, and the Eagles trampled Atlanta, 31-17, as Kolb threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

    2016: Last season, of course, the Eagles ran the football for 208 yards and controlled the clock and beat Atlanta, 24-15.

+192: Since 2016, Philadelphia ranks 1st in the NFL with a +192 scoring differential at home (including +122 in 2017).

Particularly this season, the Eagles have overwhelmed most of their opponents at home. Of the team's seven wins at Lincoln Financial Field this season, five of them were by double digits, one was by nine points (Oakland, 19-10, when the Eagles didn't kick the extra point) and one came on Jake Elliott's franchise-record 61-yard field goal.

"We feel very comfortable playing at home," tackle Lane Johnson said. "We've played our best football at home. This is what we've worked for all season, to get the home-field advantage. Now that we have it, we need to make the most of it." 

231: The Eagles have allowed just 231 points at home since 2016, marking the fewest such points allowed in the NFL.

The defense has had its ups and downs this season, but at home it has been dominating. It's been a stark difference. Home-field advantage is certainly working for the defense.

"It's the energy from the crowd, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "That's the way it's supposed to be at home. We've played our best football at home, defensively for sure." 

74.4: Since 2016, Philadelphia's 74.4 opponent passer rating at home ranks third in the NFL, behind the Chiefs (71.2) and Ravens (73.0).

Communication is critical to successful offensive football, and offenses have had a tough time doing just that at Lincoln Financial Field. Teams use the "silent count" on the road, relying on hand signals and timing to get the snap off effectively.

Crowd noise certainly plays a part in the tough times opposing quarterbacks have had in South Philadelphia. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, for instance, was just 18-of-33 for 267 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass, compiling a passer rating of 78.7 in last year's win. He had a big play of 76 yards to Taylor Gabriel for a touchdown against cornerback Leodis McKelvin, but otherwise struggled to make impact plays. Atlanta scored a season-low 15 points, 11 first downs, and 303 total net yards.

"We played really good football in that game," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We had a good plan and we executed it. Last year is last year, though. We are a different team and they are a different team and just as dangerous, so we have to play our game. We are a capable defense. We are all on the same page. I'm excited about this."

30: The Eagles have produced 30 takeaways at home since 2016, which is tied for second in the NFL, trailing only Kansas City (39).

So how do you combine being aggressive and being sound at the same time? It's a formula defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has used with great success in his career and it's one we expect to see against Atlanta this time around. The Eagles are going to attack. They're also going to make sure the back end of the defense is secure.

"You want to go get the football but you also don't want to give up the big play and give up easy points," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "It's a mindset, being aggressive. From day one, that's what the coaches told us: Fly around. Go to the football. That's the way we play. We've also been able to get our hands on the football and that's something we love to do."

Home, sweet home. For the Eagles, indeed, Lincoln Financial Field has provided home-field advantage these last two seasons and when they've played the Atlanta Falcons.

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