Battle of the Birds: Falcons Heading to Philly For Divisional Round
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles opponent for the divisional round of the playoffs was set on Saturday night in Los Angeles when the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons upended the high-powered Rams, 26-13.
Exton native Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, threw for 218 yards and a touchdown to Julio Jones while the athletic Atlanta defense held an explosive Los Angeles offense that had been averaging 29.9 points per game to just one touchdown and a couple field goals.
The Eagles and Falcons will square off next Saturday for the right to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
The good news for Philadelphia is that in four previous appearances at Lincoln Financial Field, Ryan has generally struggled, being held to 58.1 completion percentage with eight touchdowns versus seven interceptions.
Atlanta had the top scoring offense in football last season when they reached Super Bowl LI, building up a massive lead before collapsing against the New England Patriots.
This season things were more difficult after changing offensive coordinators from Kyle Shanahan, who got the top job in San Francisco, to Steve Sarkisian. The Falcons were still top 10 in total offense at 364.8 yards per game, but were just 15th in scoring offense, amassing 22.1 points per game.
On the defensive side, Dan Quinn's team was also top 10, surrendering 19.7 points per game this season, eighth-best in the NFL.
In the postseason, the Eagles and Falcons have faced off three times, starting with a 1978 wild-card game won by Atlanta at the old Fulton County Stadium. The sequels went Philadelphia's way: In 2002, the Eagles hosted the Falcons in the divisional round at the Linc and won 20-6 while Andy Reid and Co. also topped ATL 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game after the 2004 season.
The Falcons are now 4-8 in franchise history during road playoff games with the win over the Rams halting a four-game skid and serving as the team's first playoff win away from Dixie since 2002.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen