‘Nick Foles is the man:’ Eagles get huge playoff win over Atlanta

Foles was the man. The defense was pretty good too.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“Man, oh man oh man oh man. Nick Foles is the man, oh man oh man.”

That’s how Cris Collinsworth explained the Eagles win on NBC’s telecast. The Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons and will host the NFC title game next Sunday. Oh man.

Nick Foles left the field in the fourth quarter after leading the Eagles to a game-securing field goal drive with the lead. And when he got the ball back, he still had the lead, handing off a few times before taking a knee, victorious in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

“We just kept believing in each other. That was it. Our team never wavered,” Foles said to NBC’s Michele Tafoya after the 15-10 win at the Linc. “The defense did an amazing job. Special teams. That’s just been the story of this year. We just all stuck together and we believed we could move the ball and do all those things. We saw it. We made too many mistakes in the first half that hurt us but we limited the mistakes in the second half and, Atlanta played a great game, but it feels really good to get this victory.”

When asked about leading the Eagles to a playoff victory after everyone (read: definitely me) thought he couldn’t do it, Foles said, “It’s a really humbling feeling.”

That’s an understatement.

Foles threw for 246 yards on 23-for-30, but at halftime he had just 101 yards on 11 completions, gaining nearly as much on penalties caused by bad throws than on receptions. The offense mustered just nine points in the first half to Atlanta’s 10, but the final drive of the the second quarter gave the Eagles the momentum (and points) needed to go into halftime with hope.

During that drive, something odd happened. This wasn’t the play that decided the game, but it was undoubtedly a play that gave the Eagles a chance to win it later.

Again, Foles was not sharp in the first half, but this throw was so bad it surprised the Falcons defense, and the deflection landed right in Torrey Smith’s lap, giving the Eagles a chance to complete one more pass to Alshon Jeffery to get into field goal range, where Jake Elliott nailed a 53-yarder as the first half expired. Hope was on the side of the Birds.

The second half was a totally different story. This was the story:

The run game started working. The run-pass option game started working. The Eagles avoided third-and-long situations and, most importantly, held onto the ball. The Eagles dominated time of possession in the second half, holding the ball for 3:28 longer than Atlanta. And when the Eagles’ defense was on the field, they were as good as they needed to be, keeping the Falcons off the scoreboard the entire second half.

The Falcons had just four drives in the second half, two of which were three-and-outs that ended in punts. The 12-play drive the Falcons put together in the third quarter also ended in a punt, and the final drive, which Atlanta marched 74 yards down the field, resulted in a game-ended misconnection in the end zone between Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Jay Ajayi, who fumbled on his first attempt of the game, finished with 54 yards on 15 carries. LeGarrette Blount had nine carries for just 19 yards but scored the Eagles’ only touchdown and the offensive and defensive lines played phenomenally. The players who needed to step up did. Fletcher Cox. Brandon Graham. Ronald Darby. Each had key plays when the team needed them to. And the entire offensive line, but for one or two times the Falcons got to Foles, played exceptionally well.

Really, though, it all came down to Foles. And he stepped up when he needed to, thanks to some stellar play calling by Doug Pederson. What an amazing and unpredictable win. Let’s do it again next week, Philly.

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Sports, Eagles