Deja Vu in Philly: A Special Play and a Walk-off Win
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - They couldn't. They wouldn't.
Doug Pederson woke up a stagnant offense in the third quarter by greenlighting Philly Special: The Sequel.
With Trey Burton in Chicago, this time it was Nelson Agholor, who was the triggerman, taking a reverse from Corey Clement before dropping the ball to Nick Foles for a 15-yard gain.
It wasn't a scoring play and it wasn't on a stage like Super Bowl LII but it was the longest passing play of the night to that point and woke up a listless crowd while energizing what had been a moribund offense to that point.
"That was a little bit of the Philly Special brought back to life," Clement said. "I'm pretty sure they weren't expecting it. It was a great time. A great call for it. It just felt like the Super Bowl once again. I'm like 'Oh yeah, I know what to do.' This is easy. Pitch it to, well now it's Nelson, it used to be Trey. So it was comfortable."
From there the ebbs and flows of the game continued but the Falcons' defense ultimately wilted down the stretch and the Philadelphia stop unit rose up when it was needed most, stopping Atlanta in the red zone as time expired during an 18-12 win.
Lincoln Financial Field has proven to be a house of horrors for Matt Ryan in the past and proved to be again as the Exton native finished a dismal 21-of-43 and didn't even give his All-Pro receiver a chance to win the game on the final play.
Ryan lofted the football for Julio Jones but didn't keep it in bounds so Atlanta went off similarly disappointed like the last time it was in South Philly, a 15-10 setback in the divisional round of the playoffs back in January.
"It just felt like January," All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said. "It felt identical. We got off to a sluggish start and had some turnovers. I felt toward the end of the game we started running the ball effectively. ... It wasn't pretty, it was sloppy but at the end, we got a win."
Nick Foles wasn't that much better than Ryan, finishing 19-of-34 for just 117 yards but two Jay Ajayi second-half touchdown runs were enough on a night where Jim Schwartz's defense carried the water with three different red-zone stops, a goal-stand, an interception by Rasul Butler and the walk-off when the jittery Ryan misfired for the last time.
"As a competitor you live for those type of moments," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "You want to be that guy that makes that play like Ronald Darby just did."
The Eagles had four sacks -- 1 1/2 each by Chris Long and Jordan Hicks.
Jones was really the only playmaker for Atlanta, catching 10 passes for 169 yards.
"He was fresh," Mills said. "He was running some good routes out there."
The Eagles had trouble pushing the ball down the field as Agholor finished with eight catches but only gained 33 yards. Zach Ertz caught five for 48 yards but uncharacteristically dropped a pair of opportunities.
"I mean I didn't have a great game," Ertz admitted. "I had drops that just don't happen. I don't think I've ever dropped that many balls in my life."
After not touching the football in the first quarter Ajayi was the bell cow late with 15 totes for 62 yards.
"The offensive line set the tone," Ajayi said. "... I knew I would have a good day if I just stayed being myself and being the Jay Train. It was exciting to start the season off right."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen