Tag Archives: Atlanta Falcons

NFC Divisional Playoffs: “Underdog” Top-Seeded Birds ready for Atlanta

12 Jan
AH6B8622 copy

The Eagles will need a huge effort from running back Jay Ajayi (36) to keep the pressure off quarterback Nick Foles for Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report.

Despite being the number one seed with a 13-3 record, the Philadelphia Eagles are a two-point underdog to the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons in their NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday.EaglesFalconsPlayoffLogo

This perception, based mainly on the belief that next to no one believes that the team has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm, has fans (and a few players) smarting a little.

The disrespect is real, and the Birds have had enough of it.

“It’s surprising … But we ain’t worried about underdog, overdog; none of the that,” Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. “It comes down to us versus them. You can’t shake it. You can’t look at it any other way.”

Added Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery: “I’m done talking about it. I don’t care nothing about Vegas and underdogs.”

Despite their denials to the contrary, the Birds are motivated by the apparent disrespect.

“They can all pick them if they want to, but at the end of the day, we know what we got here,” said running back Jay Ajayi. “Our mindset is we all we got. We’re all we got, we’re all we need.”

The team’s protestations notwithstanding, the perception of the Birds as a shaky number one seed comes from the fact that Foles hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence.

Foles struggled against the Oakland Raiders in week 16, completing just 50 percent of passes and threw one interception. He also didn’t look sharp In an abbreviated performance against the Dallas Cowboys, going 4-of-11 for 39 yards and one interception.

But Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he and the rest of the offense has confidence in Foles ability to lead them against a Falcons defense that was ranked ninth against the run and 12th against the pass.

Pederson wants Foles to be himself, he said.

“My message to Nick is: Listen, we have a great opportunity.  Let’s go be Nick. Let’s go play. Let’s go execute the offense,” Pederson said at his press conference on Tuesday. “[My message] to the team is the same thing: We have a great opportunity. Back’s against the wall. Let’s come out swinging and see what happens.”

Pederson is hoping to find the Foles who completed 24-of-38 passes and threw four touchdown passes against the New York Giants in a week 15 win.  Now if the Foles that threw 27 touchdown passes against four interceptions back in 2013, they really could make a strong run to the Super Bowl.

It’s not like the former Arizona star doesn’t have playoff experience. In the Eagles’ 26-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints back in 2013, Foles completed 69 percent of his passes and threw two touchdown passes and left the game with the lead before Saints quarterback Drew Brees drove his team to the game-winning field goal.

Meanwhile, Foles said having the last two weeks of practice has helped him to regain his focus and belief that he can lead this team to victory over Atlanta.

“I haven’t executed as well as I wanted to in the last couple of weeks,” Foles said. “Having this time to self-scout, go through practice and everything, you realize that you just go out there and play. Maybe I wasn’t do that as much in those games. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes, the hardest things are the simple things. Basically, get out of your own head and play the game you know how to play.”

What’s going to help Foles stay on his feet and have time to find receivers downfield is consistency in the running game.  The Eagles might have an advantage with Ajayi. When Ajayi was with the Miami Dolphins back in week five, he rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries. He averaged five yards per carry.

The Eagles also have Pro Bowl offensive lineman in Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson to open up holes for Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.

For the Birds to win this game, they have to establish a consistent running game against Falcons defense that’s going to have eight men in the box.

“We’re going to need our room (running backs) to produce. It’s been that way all year,” Ajayi said. “When we’re successful, the running back room is successful because we’re helping to keep the tempo of the game, keep the defense off the field, making big plays. That’s not going to change. All of us are going to be counted to make big plays.”

The Eagles and Falcons take the field at Lincoln Financial at 4:35 pm on Saturday.

 

Advertisements

Eagles are in Must-Win Mode Against Unbeaten Atlanta

24 Oct

Although Michael Vick needs to cut down his turnovers, his offensive line has to do a better job of protecting him.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

After losing two straight games in heartbreaking fashion, the Philadelphia Eagles come off the bye week into the fire of a must-win game against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons Sunday (1:00 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It’s a big game for us,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. “The last two games, we were in position to win the games and we didn’t close it out.  We’ve got to put it all together as a team and the teams that do that are the teams that are sitting on top right now.”

While the Eagles are unbeaten (13-0) after a bye week during head coach Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach, they will be facing an explosive Falcons team that averages 28.5 points per game. Quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFC’s third-rated passer and has weapons at his disposal like running back Michael Turner, who gained 114 yards against Birds in last year’s game in Atlanta.

Ryan, a product of Penn Charter High in Philadelphia, also has wide receivers like Julio Jones (30 reception, 376 yards and four  TDs)  and Roddy White (37 receptions, 576 yards, four TDs) and veteran tight end tight end Tony Gonzalez, who burned the Eagles defense with seven receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 35-31 win.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming off a tumultuous week in which they fired their defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and put everyone on notice that their jobs are not safe.  At 3-3, the Eagles are fighting to save their season.

“It’s not the offense or the defense, it’s everybody doing their job better,” Reid said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. “You know the obvious. You can’t have the turnovers and you can’t have the big plays and you’ve got to have field position in order to win the game.”

On offense, the Eagles have to figure out a way to protect Vick. The Eagles will be getting left tackle King Dunlap back from injury. The good news for the Eagles line on the injury front is that they could be getting Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters back in about three weeks.

Peters has been on the reserve non-football injured last since August after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Reid said Peters has been moving around and is making progress.

Nnamdi Asomugha intercepts Matthew Sfafford in the end zone for a rare forced turnover by the defense. The Eagles are hoping to get more turnovers in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The next biggest subject of scrutiny during this bye week was whether or not Vick was going to lose his starting job because of his 13 turnovers. While some of those miscues aren’t his fault, Vick told reporters that it’s just a matter of him protecting the football.

“It’s not hard, It’s not a science to it, just protect the football at all times,” Vick said. “Despite the circumstances, I still sit back there and try to make the plays that I know I can make and that’s just me and my confidence in myself and confidence in the guys.”

And speaking of confidence, Reid said he still trusts Vick to get the job done. He said that his quarterback has gotten better at recognizing and beating blitzes, something he’s had some trouble with earlier in the season. This week, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will dial up a number of different blitzes to stop Vick and the Eagles offense.

“He’s done fairly well against the blitz, he’s been sharp there,” Reid said. “You saw that against Detroit and you saw it against Pittsburgh who throws a lot of things at you. It’s different scheme than (Atlanta), but he’s done a respectable job in that area.”

For all of Vick’s turnovers, the good thing for the Eagles is that Vick has been responsible for the Eagles three wins and has put them in position to win two more.

With new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm, the defense, which hasn’t had a sack in the last three weeks, is looking to redeem itself after coming up in the short in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

“The main thing is we have to finish,” said rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “That’s the biggest thing. This week we’re going to come out and just play hard, but at the end of the day, we just have to finish.”