Grayson’s Grades: Eagles at Falcons
ATLANTA - The Philadelphia Eagles not only battled the Atlanta Falcons, but they also had to deal with injury after injury. Moments into the game, the Eagles were without their top two Wide Receivers (Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson) as well as their backup Tight End (Dallas Goedert). That left Doug Pederson's offense working with just three Wide Receivers and one Tight End. Essentially, an entire portion of the playbook had to be scrapped.
Despite the lack of weapons, Carson Wentz found a way to not only keep the team in the game, but even take the lead late in the fourth quarter. The Philadelphia defense forced three turnovers, but gave up a 54 yard touchdown to Julio Jones on fourth and four with just over two minutes remaining. That proved to be the winning score.
The Eagles fell to 1-1 on the season after losing to the Falcons 24-20.
Here is the latest edition of Grayson's Grades:
Nelson Agholor - The lasting memory of this game for Eagles fans will be Agholor dropping a pass when he got behind the defense in the final two minutes of the game. That play would have surely gone for a touchdown. Agholor did rebound and made a great catch on fourth down to get the Eagles inside the Red Zone and still have a chance at victory. Without Jeffery and Jackson, Agholor had to step up and help move the ball down the field. He had one other drop in the game, but Wentz kept coming back to him and most of the time it paid off. Agholor caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Carson Wentz - Wentz likely deserved a 'C'; however, grading on a curve includes doing what you can to lead your team from behind in the fourth quarter. He did that to the tune of a 14 play, 73 yard drive milking 8:29 off the clock to give his team the lead with 3:13 remaining in the game. Not only that, Wentz was eight-for-eight passing on that drive for 72 yards and even scored the touchdown himself on a Quarterback sneak. Even after the Falcons miraculously took the lead back, Wentz engineered another drive that ended with the Eagles nine yards short of retaking the lead. Prior to that second half excitement, Wentz looked downright awful. His passes were off the mark perhaps due to the injuries and lack of reps with some of the other receivers who replaced Jackson and Jeffery. There were at times the indication of miscommunication between him and his receiver. Wentz also faced a stingy pass rush and multiple blitzes with the Falcons not terrified of the Eagles receivers that did play in the game. Wentz completed 25 of 43 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown coupled with a pair of interceptions.
Rodney McLeod - McLeod was all over the field and delivering some big hits. In fact, he led the team in tackles with seven of them. He also had one pass successfully defended. McLeod looked pretty good flying around the field and appears to be getting more and more confident after missing significant time last season due to injury.
Zach Ertz - Due to the injuries to Jackson, Jeffery and Goedert, Ertz became the primary target for Wentz. The two have great chemistry. Despite the Falcons likely knowing the ball would be going to Ertz a lot, they still could not shut him down. However, Ertz was emotionally dejected and drained after the game. He caught a fourth down pass right at the first down marker, but review showed that he was just short of a first down and the Eagles turned it over on downs to end the game. Ertz said after the game that he "let his team down." It is hard to say that after he was targeted 16 times and caught eight passes for 72 yards.
Doug Pederson - Pederson was tough to grade given a portion of the Eagles' playbook had to be scrapped due to the injuries. We will start with the negatives. The Eagles continued to struggle in the first quarter to get anything going offensively. They put up another zero in that quarter and remain scoreless this season in the opening frame. Pederson has to have a better offensive plan to start a game. This team cannot keep playing from behind. All that being said, he found a way to get Wentz to move this offense in the second half and nearly win it late.
Offensive Line - The Eagles Offensive Line faced a defensive front that was not at all afraid of Philadelphia's receivers. It allowed them to feel confident covering man-to-man as well as commit to flushing Wentz out of the pocket. Ultimately the Falcons racked up ten Quarterback hits, three sacks and six tackles for a loss. The line could not get leverage and could not consistently protect Wentz. They also struggled to find any running room for the ground attack. The longest rush of the game for the Eagles was just five yards. All total, the Eagles rushed for just 49 yards in the game. On the plus side, they did a great job winning at the line and pushing the defense back on a pair of Quarterback sneaks.
Sidney Jones - Nice job to stay home on a screen pass and bring down the receiver for no gain forcing a long field goal attempt. A little later, Matt Ryan chucked a pass deep and Jones did a great job to maintain concentration and the interception. Jones finished second on the team with six tackles, one interception and three passes successfully defended. All in all, not a bad game. However, I refuse to give any defender higher than a 'B' after giving up some costly plays downfield.
Ronald Darby - Darby had Sanu one-on-one and Sanu beat him to get enough yardage to move the chains. Darby was tested deep and the Falcons just missed connecting for touchdowns in the second quarter. They tested Darby again on their next possession and connected when Matt Ryan found Calvin Ridley for a 34 yard touchdown. Darby hung with Jones in the third quarter on a deep route and read it perfectly for an interception and returned it 13 yards to the Atlanta 27. Darby finished with two tackles and three passes successfully defended.
Injury Tent - The injury tent played a major role in this game. Nobody likes to see the injury tent get a lot of the attention. It may have spent more time up than down dealing with what appeared to be a revolving door of injured players going in and coming out. Carson Wentz, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Dallas Goedert, Sidney Jones, Nelson Agholor are among the long list of players who needed to be evaluated for some sort of injury.