The Falcons’ bid to return to the Super Bowl is over.
In an upset, the Eagles, playing with their backup quarterback, defeated the Falcons 15-10 in a NFC divisional-round playoff game Saturday at Lincoln Financial Stadium.
Nick Foles, playing for the injured Carson Wentz, engineered two second-half scoring drives. Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense was shut out in the second half after holding a 10-9 halftime lead.
Shoddy blocking and the lack of precision in the passing game foiled the offense. Also, the Falcons had a weird bounce of the ball right before halftime that led to an Eagles’ field goal.
After the Eagles went up 15-10 in the fourth quarter, the Falcons mounted a last-ditch scoring drive that fizzled at the Eagles’ 2-yard line. On a fourth-and-goal, a pass intended for Julio Jones was incomplete with 1:05 to play.
Here are the grades for the game:
Run offense: The Falcons were determined to run the ball outside against the Eagles. They tested defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan on the interior sparingly. During the opening drive, on first-and-10 from the Eagles’ 17-yard line, they tried to run up the middle, but Cox split a double-team block from center Alex Mack and right guard Wes Schweitzer. Cox dropped running back Devonta Freeman for a 1-yard loss. Cox had his way most of the day. The Falcons continued to use tackle Ty Sambrailo as a blocking tight end. Freeman struggled on his stretch runs, while Coleman was able to work the edges a little better. The Eagles entered the game with the league’s top ranked run defense, which gave up 79.2 yards per game in the regular season. Freeman rushed 10 times for seven yards. Coleman rushed 10 times for 79 yards. Grade: B
Pass offense: The wind was a factor, but that didn’t stopped offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian from calling a bomb to Jones that hung up in the air in the second quarter. Jones broke up the pass that was nearly intercepted. Ryan’s touchdown pass to Freeman looked like part-shovel pass and part-shot put as he bounced up on one leg and heaved it across his body into the end zone. Ryan moved the ball around to six receivers. Mohamed Sanu had a 24-yard reception in the second quarter. With the Falcons down 12-10 and needing a drive, Freeman failed to pick up a blitzing cornerback Rodney McCloud on first down. The Falcons couldn’t overcome the 10-yard loss and were forced to punt. Jones caught nine passes for 101 yards. Ryan completed 22 of 36 passes for 210 yards. Grade: C-minus
Run defense: The Eagles fooled the Falcons early with an inside hand-off to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Eagles ran LeGarrette Blount outside. Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was working his way over to the play, but Eagles tight end Trey Burton leveled him with a block. The Eagles stayed with the run and started to grind out some yardage late against the Falcons. Grade: C-minus
Pass defense: After a punt late in the second quarter, safety Keanu Neal had a potential interception clank off his knee. Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith caught the deflection and ran 20 yards to the 50. A 15-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery got the Eagles in position for a last-second 53-yard field goal from Jake Elliott. The Falcons had the Eagles backed up at their 7-yard line in the third quarter. Foles completed five consecutive passes, three to Jeffery to move the Eagles into field-goal range to retake the lead 12-10 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Foles completed 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards. Grade: C-plus
Special teams: The Falcons’ punt-coverage team, for the second game in a row, came up big. Bosher’s punt hit Eagles defensive end Bryan Braman. Reynolds recovered the loose ball. The Falcons converted the turnover into a touchdown. Grade: B
Coaching: The Falcons wasted two timeouts in the first half to get the defense organized. When the offense was driving right before the half and needed a timeout after a sack, it didn’t have one. The Falcons ended up punting back to the Eagles, who drove down for a field goal. The Falcons were 2-of-6 on third downs in the first half. In the red zone the Falcons had seven plays in the first half, and only one went to Jones. The final play was a rollout to Ryan’s right to cut the field in half. A more powerful team could have pounded out those final two yards. The short-yardage package failed them again. This should have been fixed after the failed third-and-1 in the Super Bowl last season. Grade: C
Next up: The next important date for the Falcons is the Senior Bowl, which is set for Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala. The teams will be coached by the staffs from the Broncos and the Ravens. The scouting combine is set for Feb. 27-March 5 in Indianapolis. The official list of players invited will be released in February.