Eagles 20/Falcons 24
September 18, 2019
Photos and Article by Allison Smith
There is nothing more Atlanta than the way the Sunday Night Football game went down against Philadelphia.
With 2:10 left, and down by 3, the Falcons are near midfield with a 4th and 3. Quarterback Matt Ryan falls back and throws to Julio Jones for the 54-yard game winning touchdown.
Naturally, the Eagles have too much time left on the clock, drive back down, until 2nd year Cornerback Isaiah Oliver makes the tackle of the game, keeping Zach Ertz from gaining the needed yardage on fourth down. After a review, it is confirmed that Ertz did not gain the yards needed and Mercedes Benz Stadium was the second loudest it has ever been….the first loudest was moments early during the Julio 54-yard run.
There was a yard that each fan saw Julio reach when that fan knew he could not be stopped. For Mohammad Sanu, it was as soon as he had his guy out of the way and saw Jake Matthews flatten another defender. As we all know, no one can catch Julio if they are not already next to Julio. Possibly the fastest to him was actually Calvin Ridley who joined him from across the field to celebrate in the tunnel that Julio had run into. When you are going 20.7 MPH, it is hard to stop, even in the end zone.
With this touchdown, Ryan threw the 300th touchdown of his career, while Julio became the all-time leading receiver, surpassing his big brother, mentor, and friend, Roddy White. Julio finished the day with 10,868 receiving yards, with Roddy wrapping his career in 2015 with a total of 10,863. Of course, Julio had no clue, but when asked after the game, Julio said he was “Honored to be mixing it up with him.”
Julio was also asked about being double covered so often, and he replied that he was just “Trying to play each play at a time, because that means Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy are out there 1 on 1.” Note that Julio was being double covered when Calvin Ridley hauled in his touchdown.
While the end of the game was action packed and exciting, the real story, to me, was the redemption of the team as a whole and many individual players. After the ugly Minnesota loss, fans and experts alike were picking apart numerous players for looking unprepared and definitely not playing up to their potential. Almost every one of those players not only played better, but really stepped up and had significant contributions against a tough Philadelphia team. Most, redeemed themselves.
Takk McKinley was in the right spot all night, had 2 tackles, both for loss, 2 quarterback hits, lots of pressure and energy. Vic Beasley was in the backfield all day with near sacks, 3 quarterback hits and an actual sack. De’Vondre Campbell had 8 tackles and great movement all game. Desmond Trufant was finally back looking like the Tru of old, hauling in 2 interceptions, one returned for 10 yards and 3 passes defended, 1 of his 2 pass break ups forced an early punt for the Eagles. Trufant credited the corner’s successful day with the defensive line play.
Overall, the defense had 10 quarterback hits, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions. The defense did not allow anyone outside this week. They may have allowed receptions, but all receivers knew they were stopped immediately with this physical Falcon D. Note that many Eagles did not practice yet this week due to bumps and bruises. The D had big stops on 3rd and goal and a 4th and goal, included a monster hit by Ricardo Allen on Nelson Agholorin the end zone to dislodge the touchdown pass. Naturally, Rico read that one all the way and told Kendall Sheffield to push the WR to him because he had jumped the seem earlier and knew Carson Wentz would try to take advantage.
Keanu Neal led the team in tackles with 9, followed by Campbell, then Damontae Kazee that really stepped up this week, tallying 8 tackles, but was much more affective this week, mostly because of the catch up the Falcons played last week.
In the first quarter, Grady Jarrett’s sack forced the Eagles’ first field goal vs. allowing the Eagles to continue to drive for a possible touchdown. Grady played even better than game 1 and had a special salute to his Mom, that was in attendance, just days after surgery. She wasn’t going to miss a Grady game. Grady finished with 5 tackles, 1 for loss, and 2 quarterback hits.
The offensive line only allowed 1 sack and 6 quarterback hits while Ryan dropped back 34 times. And the bulldozer leveling that Matthews did to open the lane for Julio proved he was redeemed for his opening play sack from the previous week. Jamon Brown had a solid day at right guard, in for the injured rookie Chris Lindstrom.
On the negative offensive side, Ryan had another 3 interceptions. A bad pass to Sanu, who was triple covered, another bad decision into the end zone – which stopped a touchdown, and when Julio was in cover zero, but the pass was still picked off. All bad throws/decisions on Ryan’s part. Julio did have a WWE like tackle on the Ronald Darby INT, so, there is that.
Also not redeeming or even helping the justification for being on the team vs. other TE’s that were traded….Luke Stocker tried to leap over a defender (ala Austin Hooper) which led to no more yards gained, but a fumble. Naturally, Sanu was right there and saw the ball come out and instantly jumped on it, saving what could have been a disastrous turnover in the Falcons’ territory.
In the toughness category, rookie starter Kaleb McGary went out with a knee issue, was actually helped off the field. Ryan was shoved into him/rolled up on his leg and Ryan commented later, “I feel bad, I thought I hurt him.” Meanwhile, Ty Sambrailo came in and was a solid back up for McGary. After being evaluated, McGary told coaches that he was going back in, his team was depending on him and he was ok and needed to be out there with his brothers.
While the numbers are not overly impressive for the running game this week, it was actually a successful week on the ground, gaining necessary yards at crucial times. Devonta Freeman had 11 runs for 22 yards, one being a long 9-yarder, and several for loss when the O Line wasn’t so good. Ito Smith had 4 carries for 32 yards, one was a 28-yard break out that was nearly a touchdown. Often overlooked, Free had 3 receptions (which often look like runs – shovel passes) for 42 yards, a 28 of his own that was nearly a touchdown, and Ito caught 2 passes for 13 yards. The Eagles using Cover Zero most of the day, while appreciated, didn’t make much since, playing Ju, Calvin, or Sanu 1:1 is never a good plan; leading to Julio’s 2 touchdowns and Calvin’s 1 on the day.
Julio had 5 receptions for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns, while 2nd year receiver Ridley had 8 receptions for 105 yards. Sanu had 4 receptions for 16 yards, and tight end Austin Hooper finished with 4 catches for 34 yards, another big 14 yarder on the day. Stocker was targeted once, caught, then fumbled that one.
Last week, the fourth play of the game was a blocked punt and the Falcons had 2 failed 2-point conversions. While the return game was all but non-existent, we did finally got to see Matt Bryant’s leg, possibly more than we had hoped. Matt Bosher pulled a hamstring in warm ups and did punt twice, but did not perform any of the kick offs in the game. Bryant kicked a successful 50-yarder to give the Falcons the early lead, but then also handled all of the kickoff duties in the game. Kicks were good, not touchbacks, but several times, the Special Teams over pursued and the returner gained more yards than preferred, but nothing crippling.
On the second half kickoff, rookie Sheffield forced a fumble that was recovered by Sharrod Neasman providing the Falcons with excellent field position at the Philly 33. Three plays later, Ryan threw a 4-yard pass to Julio for the touchdown. A definite improvement from the first week.
In 2 games, the Falcons have committed 19 penalties, 10 this week. A couple were questionable, so I will give them 8….either way, still needs to be cleaned up as several were costly on yardage at the wrong time.
After seeing the play on the field this Sunday night, not just the fact that the Falcons won, but how they won against a really good Philadelphia team, I feel better about the season, but hope we do not start to play to our opponent. We have seen some insufferable games against some mediocre AFC opponents in recent years.
- Kaleb McGary – knee issue is being nursed, but not a deep concern.
- Matt Bosher – groin is being monitored, another punter has been signed to practice squad to watch throughout the week.
- Kenjon Barner – ankle issue is being monitored and did not practice Wednesday.
- Matt Gono – back issue is improving and was limited.
- Keanu Neal – groin issue, also limited.
Most people would say Trufant with his 2 interceptions, but I would have to say De’Vondre Campbell for his relentlessness, pursuing, 8 tackles and overall awareness of the day. Also, Mohamed Sanu for his receptions, tackle after an interception, and constant blocking for his teammates. Sanu is a leader on the team in so many unsung ways.