Instant Observations: Eagles Vs. Falcons

Courtesy of USA Today

Courtesy of USA Today

ATLANTA, Ga. — Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ 26-24 loss to the Falcons Monday night.

* The Eagles were outgained 126-35 in the first quarter, managed just eight yards on the ground in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 20-3. The second half was a different story. They gained control of the game and were set up to take the lead with two-and-a-half minutes to play, but Cody Parkey‘s 44-yard attempt sailed wide. Ryan Mathews was stuffed on third-and-short the play before, forcing Chip Kelly to make a choice. He elected to go with Parkey, who was dealing with a groin injury this preseason but declared himself healthy entering this one.

* Walter Thurmond got the second act off to a good start with an interception and return that set the Eagles up at the Atlanta eight-yard line. Two plays later, DeMarco Murray found daylight along the right side and ran it in for the first of his two touchdowns.

The Eagles embarked on a 13-play, 95 yard drive the following possession that ate up 6:10 of game clock. They overcame four penalties on the series. Jordan Matthews‘ 19-yard catch-and-run got the drive going. Darren Sproles got the offense deep into Falcons territory with a 27-yard scamper. Like he did on the first Murray TD, Jason Kelce got to the second level and wiped out William Moore to spring the play. Murray finished things off with a short receiving TD to pull the Eagles within three.

The Falcons moved the ball on the following possession but had to settle for three thanks to an impressive play by Connor Barwin, who stayed with running back Devonta Freeman on a wheel route and forced the third-down incompletion. Bradford caught fire on the next series and promptly moved the Eagles into striking distance. Mathews finished it with his first touchdown in an Eagles uniform.

The lead did not last long. Julio Jones (9 catches, 141 yards, 2 TDs) beat Byron Maxwell for a 44-yard gain that led to a Matt Bryant field goal, putting Atlanta on top 26-24 with 6:27 remaining.

On the Atlanta possession following Parkey’s missed field goal, Malcolm Jenkins fired into the backfield and dropped Tevin Coleman for a loss with two minutes remaining, allowing the Eagles’ offense one last try. The Falcons’ defense, though, held firm.

* Bradford showed some rust and struggled to get on the same page with his receivers early, but rebounded and ended the game. 36-of-52 for 336 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions — one coming on the team’s final possession.

* The defense was out of sync early as well  but came up with plays in the red zone to limit the damage. Matt Ryan moved the Falcons into the red zone with little effort on the Falcons’ first try. Fletcher Cox responded with a run stuff before Malcolm Jenkins stepped in front of a pass intended for Julio Jones and nearly came away with the pick. Instead, Matt Bryant kicked the field goal to put Atlanta on top.

The second series unfolded in a similar fashion. Byron Maxwell was flagged for pass interference and was later in coverage for a 22-yard Ryan completion to Roddy White. Atlanta was on the doorstep again but Kiko Alonso came up with a spectacular one-handed interception on a pass intended for White in the back of the end zone.

* The Falcons got into the end zone early in the second quarter thanks to Jones, who proved to be a matchup nightmare. On the TD, he took a quick pass from Ryan and raced into the end zone for a four-yard score. Thurmond had a chance at him but took a bad angle and came up with air. Thurmond made a big play later at the end of the half, though, dropping Freeman for a six-yard loss on third down that forced Atlanta to settle for another field goal.

* Lineup notes: Agholor got the start in front of Huff. On the next series, it was Huff and Agholor together along with Matthews while Cooper sat out…DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks started at inside linebacker…Chris Maragos came in when the team went to nickel. He was the high safety while Thurmond and Jenkins played on the interior…Ertz, just four weeks removed from groin surgery, dressed and saw time. He had three catches for 46 yards.

* Seyi Ajirotutu exited play in the first half and has been diagnosed with a concussion. Jason Peters left briefly after his leg was rolled into by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett but quickly returned. Matthews was slow to get up following a pair of big hits on the 95-yard drive. He, too, returned to action.