Depleted Eagles Come Up Just Short in Atlanta
(973espn.com) - Murphy's Law invaded Atlanta on Sunday night and it set its sights on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Whatever could go wrong did go wrong for the Eagles who lost a host of their vaunted skill-position players starting in pre-game warmups when Dallas Goedert went down with a calf injury. From there, receivers DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf) followed in what turned into a war of attrition in which the Eagles came up just short, 24-20.
Atlanta star Julio Jones hauled in a receiver screen on 4th-and-3 and took it 54 yards to the end zone with 2:10 remaining, helped along by a brilliant pancake block by Jake Matthews, in what turned out to be the difference.
The Eagles nearly responded when Carson Wentz threw a perfect pass to a streaking Nelson Agholor down the left sideline but the receiver dropped the football. Agholor recovered to get behind the defense moments later for a 43-yard gain to convert a 4th-and-14. However, Philadelphia's luck ran out when Zach Ertz came up just inches short of the sticks on a fourth down at Atlanta's 8-yard line.
"I've got to make that play." Agholor admitted, saying he lost the football in the lights. "It's something we prepare for in pre-game, we were trying to track it in the lights."
The Falcons (1-1) surrendered a 17-6 advantage against an injury-ravages team, falling behind for the first time when Wentz dove in from a yard out with 3:13 remaining.
Jones became the Falcons' career leader in receiving yards on the winning TD, dropping behind the line of scrimmage to take Matt Ryan’s pass before being sprung by the Matthews block and outracing Rodney McLeod and Andrew Sendejo to the end zone.
Despite subpar statistics, Wentz was brilliant at times without a running game and relying on receivers like Mack Hollins and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, along with his two proven commodities that were left standing, Ertz and Agholor.
Also leaving the game for Philadelphia with injury was defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot) and running back Corey Clement (shoulder) while Wentz, Agholor center Jason Kelce, and cornerback Sidney Jones were all checked for concussions in the hard-hitting game before ultimately being cleared. Wentz also took a big hit from Deion Jones that knocked the wind out of him.
“I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but I feel good,” the QB said.
EAGLES STOCK EXCHANGE:
Carson Wentz - This was a perfect example of why football isn't a game to get caught up in statistics. Wents had one of his worst games from a numbers standpoint but he nearly willed the Eagles to victory with his ability to extend plays.
Doug Pederson - The coach's willingness to stay aggressive and not give up on possessions puts incredible stress on any opponent.
Brandon Graham - The Eagles' unheralded edge player is so disruptive on a weekly basis but many don't notice because they get too caught up in sack numbers.
Isaac Seumalo - Outside of Jones the best Atlanta player is Grady Jarrett and the big defensive tackle gave Seumalo fits as expected.
Ronald Darby - The Falcons seemed to realize that Darby is not feeling like himself just yet and went at him early and often, a surprise because most teams focus on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.
Nelson Agholor - Without the top receivers Agholor put up big numbers -- eight receptions for 107 yards -- but five years in the consistency still isn't there catching the football.
-Clement was spotted in a sling after the game.
-Wentz said it was “super frustrating” how it took so long to go through the concussion test. He said he understands the protocol but believes the league needs to look at the process.
-Pederson said the original game plan was heavy on 12 personnel and Goedert's pre-game injury forced Mike Groh into heavy adjustments early.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen