Grayson’s Grades: Eagles vs. Falcons
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off the second half of the season in the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field. This building provided the comfort they needed to get back on track.
The Eagles have not lost at home this season and that streak continued with a solid 24-15 victory over the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons.
The Eagles dominated time of possession to help keep the Falcons potent offense off the field. They also used a strong ground game led by Ryan Mathews. For the first time in his career, Carson Wentz led the team to a fourth quarter come-from-behind victory.
There are mostly A’s and B’s here in Grayson’s Grades. However, a few players did disappoint and earned some poor marks.
Ryan Mathews – Mathews was clearly out of Doug Pederson’s doghouse. His carries had diminished heavily since his fourth quarter fumble in Detroit. That changed in this game as Mathews carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards with two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. He did get three chances to punch it in from inside the five-yard line and failed causing the Eagles to settle for a field goal. Mathews ran hard and hit the holes quickly.
Darren Sproles – Sproles did not see nearly as many carries as he has in the past few weeks, but proved to be a huge asset out of the backfield and a weapon in the receiving game. Sproles caught eight passes for 57 yards. He also carried the ball twice for 19 yards. His speed makes it very challenging for a linebacker to cover him and when Sproles catches any of those passes he is a threat to break it for a big play.
Wendell Smallwood – Smallwood proved to be a very good compliment to Mathews. He saw the most action so far in his rookie year by carrying the ball 13 times for 70 yards. Smallwood showed little to no hesitation and hit the holes quickly. Smallwood is the kind of back who needs some first half carries in order to get into the feel of the game and be more effective in the second half. Pederson did that in this game and it clearly made a difference for him.
Offensive Line – The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the success on the ground. They have received their fair share of criticism this season and rightly so. This game was different. Jason Kelce told me after the game it felt like his unit dominated the line of scrimmage, especially on run plays. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai has settled in nicely now at right tackle. Stefen Wisniewski filled in at left guard for Allen Barbre and played well. Jason Peters was solid at left tackle as was Brandon Brooks at right guard. The holes were there for the backs to hit and they did allowing the Eagles to dominate the time of possession. That does not happen without the offensive line doing its job.
Jalen Mills – Mills deserves a lot of credit for not really being noticed much in the game. For a corner, that is a good thing. Mills started in place of Leodis McKelvin who was active but not entirely healthy due to a sore hamstring. Mills had good coverage in the game, including several plays when he had to deal with Julio Jones. Mills finished second on the team with six tackles.
Malcolm Jenkins – Jenkins got back to making plays all over the field. He did an excellent job to make some open-field tackles on Mohamed Sanu. He got him twice short of the first down marker forcing the Falcons to punt. Jenkins also did a great job blowing up a run play and dropping Devonta Freeman for a two-yard loss. Jenkins led the team with seven tackles including one tackle for a loss. This team has always done well when he is a leader not just off the field, but also on it.
Brandon Graham – Graham continued his solid season with another good game. Graham was able to get occasional pressure on Matt Ryan and recorded a sack on the first play following an Eagles fumble. He was a factor in stopping the run as well as the pass. Graham is doing a good job of winning the one-on-one battle against the opposing lineman. He had three tackles in this game including a sack, a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hit.
Jim Schwartz – Schwartz had a great game plan in place to limit the Falcons on the scoreboard. The Falcons averaged 33 points per game coming into this one and managed just 15 against the Eagles. Schwartz picked his spots to blitz and was able to have his guys in position to limit the Falcons to just 48 yards on the ground. It helped to have Bennie Logan back in his defensive line rotation. They also did a great job of getting off the field when they had the opportunity holding the Falcons to just two-for-11 on third down.
Zach Ertz – Ertz would have earned an ‘A’ in this game if not for three false start penalties. That is inexcusable. It cast a small shadow on what was an otherwise solid performance. Ertz has been asking for more targets and did a lot with them last week. He followed up on that with another good game. Ertz caught six passes for 55 yards. He caught nearly all of those passes working over the middle. Several times he did a good job of sitting in a zone and making himself a big target for Wentz.
Jordan Matthews – Matthews was able to find open space multiple times on intermediate routes over the middle of the field. It helped to compliment a successful running game by the Eagles. Matthews did drop a wide open pass that would have put the Eagles in field goal range late in the first half. He is one of Carson Wentz’ favorite targets and it shows. Matthews was targeted 10 times and caught six passes for 73 yards. He was also the recipient of a helmet-to-helmet hit that was not called a penalty. Matthews admitted after the game his face mask was bent due to the hit.
Carson Wentz – Wentz has struggled at times early in games. A solid running attack on the opening drive helped him settle into the game. He completed all four passes he threw on that opening drive for 47 yards. Wentz started feeling a lot more pressure as the game continued. He held onto the ball a little too long on occasion and fumbled it due to pressure late in the first half. Overall, Wentz made some very good passes. He was a victim of some dropped passes by his receivers once again. For the first time, Wentz led his team to a fourth quarter come from behind victory. He was efficient running the offense and remained calm as the team took the lead and eventually ran out the clock. Wentz completed 25 of 36 passes for 231 yards. He also had a huge 13 yard run to move the chains as the team was driving in the second half.
Doug Pederson – Pederson did a good job of going back to what was working earlier in the season. He let the running game set the tone and help open up the passing game. It helped the Eagles control the clock and limit opportunities for the Falcons. With more than ten minutes remaining in the game and the Eagles down by three, Pederson elected to attempt a 55-yard field goal. It missed and gave the Falcons great field position. I think that was the time to punt and hope the defense could keep you within a field goal of winning the game. Pederson thought about going for it on fourth and two where a first down would have won the game, but he chose to let Sturgis kick a 48-yard field goal and it was good giving the Eagles a two possession lead. Pederson made the right choice and the Eagles got a huge win they definitely needed. Credit to the Eagles offense for long drives that chewed up the clock. The Eagles won time of possession 38:10 to 21:50.
Fletcher Cox – Cox did a better job of affecting plays on the line of scrimmage. He continues to be double-teamed, but was able to occasionally get through and force Matt Ryan to move around. Brandon Graham benefitted from Cox’s pressure and recorded a sack late in the first half. Cox was credited with one tackle and one quarterback hit. His effectiveness does not always show up in the stats and his play helped his teammates make things happen for the team.
Caleb Sturgis – Sturgis has been extremely reliable this season. He missed a 44-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter, but redeemed himself in a big way by drilling a 48-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining to put the Eagles up by nine. Sturgis also booted field goals from 25 and 29 yards out. Aside from his role kicking field goals, Sturgis has also been excellent on kickoffs. All six of his kickoffs reached the endzone and three went for touchbacks.
Nigel Bradham – Bradham was a big reason the Eagles were able to help stop the run. He was constantly attacking the line of scrimmage. Bradham also did a great job in coverage to break up a pass intended for Julio Jones along the sideline on their second drive. Bradham was credited with four tackles and a pass successfully defended.
Connor Barwin – Barwin was a force at the line of scrimmage in this game. He was winning his one-on-one battle at the line and getting into the backfield to record two tackles for a loss. Barwin also created a lot of pressure forcing the pocket to collapse and earned a sack in the second quarter to help slow down a Falcons drive.
Leodis McKelvin – Let’s begin by saying that McKelvin told the coaching staff prior to the game that he did not feel great on that injured hamstring, so he sat while Jalen Mills started in his place. McKelvin had to come into the game when Nolan Carroll left due to a concussion. He got burnt in a bad way by Taylor Gabriel for a 76-yard touchdown to give the Falcons the lead in the fourth quarter. He gave up multiple touchdowns last week against the Giants. It has been a poor couple of weeks for McKelvin who also dropped a potential interception in the first half on a deep ball. McKelvin did try to redeem himself and intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the final two minutes to put the exclamation point on the victory, but he cannot keep getting burned. That trend has to stop. If his hamstring can ever get healthy, perhaps the trend would come to a halt.
Nelson Agholor – Agholor did not do very much in this game to help the Eagles. He came up with a couple of drops including one that would have moved the chains on third down with less than four minutes remaining in the game. Agholor was targeted five times and only came up with two receptions for seven yards. He is struggling mentally and if he can ever get over that and focus on the ball, he has a chance to at least become a more reliable target.
Dorial Green-Beckham – DGB followed up a poor performance last week by not even earning a target in this game. He continues to appear lazy at the line of scrimmage and struggles to break free of the defender. I continue to maintain that DGB should be a huge advantage for the Eagles in the red zone, but he is almost invisible out there. His performance has been disappointing to date; however, there is still time for him to turn his season around.