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Eagles tried to hand the Falcons the game, and won it anyway

SB Nation logo SB Nation 1/14/2018 Jeanna Thomas

a football player holding a bat © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports The most obvious storyline heading into this one was Nick Foles starting in place of Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL in Week 14. But the Eagles finished the regular season with the third-best run game in the NFL. The ground game had some momentum in the first half, but the Falcons slowed them down, holding the Eagles to 96 yards and one touchdown on the ground. 

Philadelphia opened things up with the run/pass option in the second half, and they took advantage of the fact that the Falcons expected them to run it. Nick Foles hd some errant throws, but finished with a respectable 23-of-30 for 246 yards and no picks.

It was windy at Lincoln Financial Field, and the Falcons were stuck trying to move the ball against the wind in the second half. The Eagles defense keyed in on the run, just like they did all year to finish No. 1 in the league, and pretty much shut Atlanta down for most of the second half.

The Eagles settled for a field goal after a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. Atlanta made some big-time plays on the next possession, but a crucial fourth-down stop from the Eagles on fourth-and-goal saved the day.

This one had some very strange plays that shaped the outcome, and things ended up bouncing the Eagles’ way just enough to get the win.

Falcons caught a break with a Jay Ajayi fumble

And they made life a lot easier for Nick Foles by interfering with his receivers consistently. The Falcons had two pass interference calls for 63 total yards in the first quarter alone, including this one on the first play of the Eagles’ first possession.

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That was Falcons nickelback Brian Poole who drew the flag. He made up for it on the next play when he stripped Jay Ajayi and forced a fumble.

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Julio Jones had to play DB to prevent some Matt Ryan interceptions

Matt Ryan was the league’s MVP last season. Not so much this year. The Falcons offense has been inconsistent, and Ryan’s play has been part of it. Julio Jones had to come to his rescue a couple of times, not with big catches, but by knocking down almost certain receptions.

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The Eagles might have been able to run away with this one if Jones hadn’t knocked these balls down.

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Keanu Neal’s assist gave Nick Foles his best passing play of the day

Foles is not the world’s most accurate passer, and he had to throw against the wind in the first half, which did not improve his aim. But he got some help from Falcons safety Keanu Neal on this one, which bounced off of Neal’s knee and into the waiting hands of Torrey Smith.

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Nick Foles recovered his own fumble and almost scored

This may be the play that ultimately decided the game in the Eagles’ favor. Foles fumbled on the 2-yard line and third-and goal, recovered his own fumble on the 1-yard line, and it was ruled a touchdown. It was overturned on review.

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It didn’t matter, because LeGarrette Blount scored anyway. The Eagles decided to go for it on fourth down. Blount walked into the end zone

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A muffed punt swings luck in the Falcons’ direction

The Falcons had just given up a touchdown to the Eagles, and they were trailing 6-3 thanks to a missed PAT by Philadelphia. They got another boost from the Eagles special teams when they muffed a punt.

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The Falcons recovered and were able to drive down and score to take a 10-6 lead.

Tipped punt negated a running into the punter call

The Falcons almost got a redo on this one. But on review, it was clear that the punt was tipped.

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It would have moved the Falcons up five yards and given Matt Bosher a chance to punt it again. Instead, the Eagles got it on their own 28, and they went down and scored a field goal to go up 12-10.

This Nelson Agholor run was play calling at its finest

The Falcons finished the season ranked in the top 10 for run defense. But they didn’t have much of an answer for the Eagles on Saturday no matter who was running the ball. Nelson Agholor even got a shot and made the most of it.

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This game was the first time a No. 1 seed came into the playoffs as an underdog. But creative play calling like this helped lock this up for the Eagles.

Mohamed Sanu drops a crucial first down

The catch rule bit the Falcons with just over three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. Trailing 15-10, Matt Ryan completed a pass to Sanu for a first down on third-and-6. Except the pass was incomplete.

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Sanu didn’t control the ball all the way through the catch, and the Falcons had no choice but to go for it. Matt Ryan completed a clutch pass to Julio Jones for a fresh set of downs.

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But the Falcons couldn’t punch it into the end zone, and the Eagles will host the NFC Championship Game.

Related slideshow: NFL postseason (Provided by photo services)

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