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The Atlanta Falcons faced 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line with a chance to clinch a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
The Philadelphia Eagles denied them.
After Matt Ryan marched the Falcons 74 yards in 14 plays to set up a potential game-winning score with 1:05 remaining in regulation, his last-gasp fade to Julio Jones sailed high and allowed the Eagles to seal a 15-10 NFC divisional-round win at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
The @Eagles make the stop on 4th down! #ATLvsPHI #NFLPlayoffs https://t.co/t9l2GNuiDK
And none of it would have been possible without some clutch play from Nick Foles.
While Foles was hardly electric in place of the injured Carson Wentz, the Eagles’ stopgap starter shook off a nervy first half and stitched together a pair of second-half scoring drives to propel the NFC East champions to their first conference title game in nine years.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
The Eagles celebrate their 15-10 win over the Falcons! 🍾 https://t.co/D9Y8AHDn2j
Following a 12-play, 74-yard possession in the third quarter punctuated by a 37-yard Jake Elliott field goal, Foles led the offense 80 yards on 14 plays in 7:57 to set up a 21-yarder that gave the Eagles a bit more breathing room with 6:05 to go.
Foles finished the evening 23-of-30 for 246 yards, and his confidence seemed to grow with each second-half drive as he found a rhythm running tempo and making quick reads out of the run-pass option.
Peter Schrager @PSchrags
Nick Foles was terrific tonight. That’s a testament to him, to Pederson, to Reich, and to QB coach John DeFillipo. What a win. @gmfb @Eagles
Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks
Hats off to Doug Pederson for getting his QB2 up and going. He put Foles in some comfortable bedroom shoes with the RPOs (slants) and screens. It will be interesting to see how they build on No.9’s performance going forward. #ATLvsPHI
“No need to say anything to critics,” Foles said after the game, per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. “They’re just doing their job … I have confidence in myself.”
On the ground, Jay Ajayi led the Eagles with 15 carries for 54 yards, and he was able to weave his way through the Falcons’ front seven thanks to superb blocking from his line, as The MMQB’s Albert Breer observed:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
Eagles offensive line deserves a ton of credit. They’ve taken this game over.
The real star, though, was Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Although the Falcons turned two Eagles turnovers—an Ajayi fumble and a botched punt return—into 10 first-half points, Philadelphia pitched a shutout in the second half and refused to let the Falcons beat them vertically.
All told, Ryan completed 22 of 36 passes for 210 yards and a score while mustering 5.8 yards per pass attempt and an 86.6 quarterback rating. By comparison, Foles finished with 8.2 yards per attempt and a 100.1 QB rating.
Atlanta’s inability to run between the tackles also hurt the offense.
While Tevin Coleman (10 carries, 79 yards) burned past defenders on the edge, Devonta Freeman was bottled up inside to the tune of 10 carries for seven yards.
With that performance in the bag, the Eagles and right tackle Lane Johnson made sure to let everyone know they were fine with being listed as home underdogs:
Philadelphia Eagles @Eagles
Appreciate the motivation. (cc: @OldTakesExposed ❄) #FlyEaglesFly https://t.co/1Q0DOQ74NM
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Underdogs, huh? https://t.co/OAV62Htqtw
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz also weighed in on critics’ low expectations, per Ben Livingston of 94WIP: “I was watching ESPN today. All five so-called experts picked the Falcons to win. I’m glad they’re not in charge of my finances.”
Now one win away from their first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years, the Eagles will prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings or New Orleans Saints Jan. 21 at the Linc.