It’s easy to let a tough road loss slide when you’re 6-4 and heading into the bye week, but for the Atlanta Falcons, this one will sting.
Atlanta faltered a few times too many in Sunday’s 24-15 loss to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles, losing their fourth game of the season in a contest that very easily could’ve been a win. Doomed by a pair of key drops by wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons just couldn’t overcome the Eagles’ stifling defense.
The Falcons’ offense was averaging 34 points per game going into Philadelphia, but managed just 15 against the Eagles’ No. 7-ranked scoring defense. While many had a feeling the Eagles would do something to slow the Falcons’ top-ranked offense, they held the Falcons to just 303 yards – fewer than Philly’s season average of 325.5 yards per game and way below the Falcons’ average of 429.2.
Atlanta managed just 11 first downs to Philadelphia’s 25, and the Eagles possessed the ball for nearly 40 minutes. In short, they executed their plan to perfection and kept the ball out of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s hands.
Conversely, the Falcons’ defense was on the field so much that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had a multitude of chances to put points on the board. The Eagles ran 76 plays to the Falcons’ 48, and although they were just 5 of 14 on third downs, Philadelphia simply had too many chances to score.
That wasn’t necessarily the fault of the Falcons’ defense, which actually performed pretty well. They held the Eagles to just two points per drive, but the big difference in this game was that the offense was not putting up points when they were on the field. Scoring in bunches has been a given for the Falcons’ offense all year, but there was no chance they were winning a road game in Philly with only 15 points.
Now sitting at 6-4, the Falcons were lucky their loss was matched with a loss from the New Orleans Saints, so they’ll enter the bye week with a one-and-a-half-game lead in the NFC South. In fact, three out of four NFC South teams lost on Sunday, so while there will be few consequences for Atlanta’s loss, a victorious Sunday would’ve been huge for the Falcons.
Atlanta will need to regroup with 13 days off, and they’ll have to figure out how to put up points against above-average defenses, because after the bye, two more strong defenses – the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs – come to town, and the Falcons cannot afford a midseason slide with the standings so tight.
Note: A previous version of this story said all four NFC South teams lost on Sunday. Only three of four NFC South teams lost; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won.Follow @Sean_Breslin