Eagles Wake-Up Call: Defenses May Copy Atlanta

How did the Falcons give the Eagles' future opponents a blueprint for success?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

ATLANTA, Ga. — According to the Eagles, Atlanta’s defense didn’t do anything that surprised them. Their 26-24 loss simply came down to one crucial element: execution.

“They didn’t do anything different or special to try and stop us; that’s pretty much the way they do things,” Jason Kelce said. “They weren’t really reading anything. They were just trying to get up field, trying to wreak havoc. We did not handle that well.”

The Eagles ran the ball just 16 times for 63 yards, which players attributed to the Falcons’ defensive alignment. Because one of Atlanta’s safeties consistently played closer to the line of scrimmage, it opened up passing opportunities for Philadelphia.

“They were giving us the pass,” Lane Johnson said. “They do it to try to take away the inside zone, but it leaves space in the middle for Sam [Bradford] to make quick throws and dink and dunk all the way down the field.”

The Eagles failed to capitalize, however, because Bradford’s timing was off early in the game. He appeared hesitant while going through his progressions and often delivered passes late.

Because their offense struggled to take advantage of those opportunities, players think future opponents will try a similar strategy.

“I believe so,” Lane Johnson said. “Teams will make us throw the ball to win games.”

Due to the offense’s early struggles and the ineffectiveness of the inside zone, Chip Kelly called more outside zones and sweeps in the second half. That allowed Kelce and Johnson to block linebackers one-on-one and open up outside running lanes.

Although those plays were more effective, Kelce still has some concerns about the offensive line.

“In the first half, there was a lot of tripping and things that were off here and there,” he said. “We’re still trying to build a little bit of chemistry up front with two new guys being in there.”

The Eagles also committed 10 penalties for 88 yards, including seven holding calls. That helped prevent DeMarco Murray from getting into a rhythm, who carried the ball eight times for nine yards.

Many of those unsuccessful rushes were inside zone plays, which Kelce thinks may have cost the Eagles the game. When they faced a fourth-and-one with 2:32 left in the game, Kelly decided to attempt a 44-yard field goal down two points instead of going for it.

“If we had more success running the ball on inside zone in short-yardage throughout the game, we would’ve gone for it,” Kelce said. “We ran it right before then and we got stuffed so I think coach felt more comfortable going to [Cody] Parkey.”


Chip Kelly backed Cody Parkey after the kicker missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter.

“The Eagles’ offensive line didn’t do a good job of protecting Bradford.” What I noticed from the Georgia Dome.

T-Mac offered up his observations from the Eagles’ loss last night.


Paul Domowitch delivered his grades following the Falcons’ win.

Run Defense: The Eagles did a good job against the Falcons’ run game in the first half, holding them to 41 yards on 17 carries. Gave up 40 yards on five carries to rookie Tevin Coleman in the third quarter.

Grade: B-plus

Pass Defense: Both Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll had their problems against wide receiver Julio Jones early on. Jones had eight catches, two for TDs, in the first half. Linebacker Kiko Alonso made a nice touchdown-saving interception in the first quarter and safety Walter Thurmond set up the Eagles’ first second-half touchdown with another interception. But Maxwell gave up another costly long pass to Jones in the fourth quarter.

Grade: C-plus

Reuben Frank described his 10 observations from the season opener.

I hated the Eagles’ first-half gameplan. At one point, before a few meaningless snaps just before halftime, Kelly had called 26 pass plays and five running plays, and you just aren’t going to get into any sort of rhythm running offense like that. The line wasn’t run blocking well? So what. You stick with it and try to get something going. You have a quarterback playing for the first time in two years and at one point Kelly had Bradford drop back and throw 15 times in 16 plays.

Second half? Kelly started calling some more runs, and you saw what happened. The offense got into a rhythm, the Falcons were no longer able to tee off on Bradford and the whole operation started looking sharper.


We’ll speak to Chip Kelly at 1 p.m.

Adam Hermann contributed to this post.