By Andrew Porter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles were getting outplayed on offense, defense, and special teams. The Falcons were dominating in the trenches on both sides of the ball and first-year head coach Dan Quinn was out-coaching Chip Kelly.
The Falcons took a 20-3 lead into the locker room, as Eagles fans were shell-shocked searching for halftime answers.
But then, Kelly and the Eagles made proper adjustments. And to their credit, they came storming back, just to ultimately fall short as the Falcons held on for a surprising 26-24 Week 1 win.
Throughout the game—mostly in the second half—there were five crucial plays that would have tilted the result and probably have shifted the outcome to the Eagles’ favor. These are the plays that have Eagles fans nauseous on this miserable Tuesday.
*Click to enlarge photos
5. Malcolm Jenkins’ second dropped interception
Jenkins played a solid game, don’t get me wrong, but his two crucial INT drops last night were infuriating. His second dropped INT of the game, was brutal (pictured above).
10:04 left in the third quarter, Atlanta facing a 3rd and long from their own 33-yard line. The Eagles had just scored a touchdown to make it 20-10 and had all of the momentum.
Here it comes, Malcolm—a floating, under-thrown ball right in the break basket! Dropped.
The Falcons punted and the Eagles eventually scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive, but that came with 3:46 left in the third. If Jenkins picks off that ball, it’s 1st-and-10 for the Eagles at the Falcons’ 43-yard line with 9:59 left in the third quarter. It would have saved the Eagles a crucial six minutes in their comeback attempt.
4. Kiko Alonso’s suspect illegal contact penalty
The referees were suspect all game, letting some blatant holds go, and calling some baby fouls.
Here, the back judge throws the flag more in anticipation of Alonso turning around Falcons TE Jacob Tamme. But as ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico called it, it was a “tag,” not a turnaround or a grab. Sure, it was outside of five-yards, but those are let go all across the NFL in every single game all the time. And Alonso’s “tag” had no effect on the play.
Oh, so what happened?
Fletcher Cox threw Jake Matthews out of the way like a rag doll, and got a sack fumble on Matt Ryan. Connor Barwin recovered.
All. For. Naught.
Next play: Matt Ryan to Julio Jones for a 22-yard touchdown and a 20-3 Falcons lead.
Punch to the gut.
3. Jason Kelce’s debatable, but unnecessary, hold
4:15 left in the game. Eagles down 26-24 and moving. Basically, they can’t be stopped and everyone knows it. Jon Gruden won’t stop telling us. Before this play, the Eagles had five straight completions and an 11-yard Darren Sproles run on this drive.
Anyway, 4:15 left in the game, 1st-and-10 from the Falcons 35-yard line. Right on the fringe of field-goal range, on the verge of taking the lead. The Eagles call a perfect screen pass to Ryan Mathews, who picks up 25-yards down to the Falcons 10-yard line. We can see the ligh—
Jason Kelce unnecessarily throws the Falcons player to the ground. Mathews was already three yards passed Kelce and the defender at that point, and while the penalty may be debatable, Kelce—who had an excellent game other than this mishap—shouldn’t even have given the ref a chance to throw a flag here. Hands off Jason!
2. Ryan Mathews trips
This comes two-plays after the Kelce penalty. Mathews, questionably, is still in the game. A 12-yard completion to Riley Cooper set up this 2nd-and-4 Mathews carry, with 3:38 left in the game.
Mathew has a massive hole towards the left hash that he sees. It’s so big, he gets too excited and trips over his own feet and stumbles very close to the first-down marker. I’ve watched this play 10 times, and it’s tough to see if Mathews was touched down. If he wasn’t, he definitely crawled for a first down.
The ref, of course, marked Mathews short, but I agree with Chip in that there’s no way they’re overruling the spot if he challenges. Any phantom leg touch or trip would have Mathews down a yard-short.
On the next couple of plays Andrew Gardner gets blown up, the run gets stuffed, Kelly elects to kick the 44-yard field, and Parkey misses it. Game over, basically.
1. It’s a draw!
This is the play that I can’t get over.
The Falcons are in a 3rd-and-15 from their own 7-yard line, just three offensive snaps after DeMarco Murray’s touchdown catch which cut the Falcons lead to 20-17.
Let thank sink in for a second. The Eagles were down just three points, staring at a Falcons punt deep in their own territory, still in the third quarter!
The three plays in between Murray’s second career touchdown catch (crazy right?) and this crucial 3rd-and-15:
- 1st-and-10: Tevin Coleman two-yard run
- 2nd-and-8: Matt Ryan to Julio Jones for -4 yards, negated by a Leonard Hankerson holding penalty.
- 2nd-and-15: Matt Ryan incomplete to Coleman
Now, again, it’s 3rd-and-15 from their own 7-yard line. There is 2:34 left in the third quarter. The Eagles have the Falcons on their heels, and the Falcons just want room to punt.
An obvious draw is coming, except it wasn’t so obvious to the Eagles.
The Eagles rush four, Mychal Kendricks over pursues and gets blocked/held out of the play. Byron Maxwell gets block/held out of the play, as well. Tevin Coleman beats Kiko Alonso to the spot, picks up 20-yards and Falcons first down.
13-plays and almost seven minutes later, with 10:54 remaining in the game, Matt Bryant nails a 44-yard field-goal to extend the Falcons lead to 23-17. A Falcons punt from deep in their own territory, with more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter—the Eagles down just three points—and I’m certain the outcome would have been different.