Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Penalties too tough to overcome against a good team
It was a sloppy game for the Falcons in Philadelphia. We'll start with the penalties. Too many fouls, no team is going to be able to overcome 135 yards of penalties. It comes down to those 15 penalties. You can't make those kinds of errors and those kinds of fouls and win a game. It's attention to detail. Where do I put my hand when I'm coming down to make a tackle? I can't grab face mask. Things like that.
First play of the game is a good example. You have Julio Jones on a reverse. Philadelphia was not expecting Julio on a reverse and Logan Paulsen gets called for moving too early. Those are attention to detail type penalties and you can't do that. Now, Atlanta got back to it on the third play. It was cool that Steve Sarkisian got back to it. But who knows, that play may go out the gate the first play of game.
Robert Alford is becoming one of the best cover corners
Late in the fourth quarter with the Eagles trailing 12-10, Nick Foles took a shot deep to Mike Wallace, who remains one of the league's fastest receivers. After initially losing a step to Wallace, Falcons cornerback Robert Alford recovers and knocks the ball away to save what may have been a touchdown.
It was an amazing play by Alford to do what he did on the play where he's covering Wallace on a post. He baits Foles into thinking he's going run with him all the way and then he falls off right in front of the pattern when he's trying to get the ball to Nelson Agholor. Just a big time play by Alford. He made another play on a deep throw where he rotated his head in the right moment—he's trusting his skills—he's rounding in to one of the best cover corners in the NFL.
Red-zone execution needed to be better against that defense
Well, one, the Eagles are really good. Let's not discount that. They are the defending champs. They were the No. 3 or 4 defense in the league a year ago. They were number one against the run a year ago. That being said, the Falcons have to find a way. Atlanta's inability to get a yard, to come off the ball and get some push and create something where the backs are slippery and elusive and create some kind of crease to get in the end zone. And then when you throw the ball, especially late in the game there, Atlanta had a tough time against the Eagles four-man pass rush. At the end of the game, the Eagles were picketing along the goal line, and Matt Ryan had to throw the ball in the end zone or out of bounds. So you have to have time to let the route develop and the Falcons just didn't protect well enough late in the game.
When you get a really good defense like this and you don't hit the opportunities when you get them, they're not going come around 5 and 6 times. You're going get a couple of shots. The Devonta Freeman play, the Falcons go to a really cool formation, looks like short yardage—explode to a formation where Devonta is in the slot you get him isolated on a linebacker. And I don't know if Matt had somebody that leaped in front of him or whatever, but he was too tall with the throw—and he's got Devonta open for a touchdown and missed him. Those opportunities don't come around very often. It's too good of a defense. They're one of the best in the league in red zone. That's what affected the offense.
Disappointing, frustrating, I know that the fans have heard all camp long that the Falcons were working on the red zone and how there will be improvement in the red zone. I think that Steve Sarkisian did a really good job of mixing personnel groups, I thought he came up with some really cool plays. The Falcons just didn't execute well enough. That's on everybody—that's on the offensive line, the quarterback, the backs trying to find a crease to run. So nobody's to blame but the whole team.
Falcons defense controlled the line of scrimmage
Defensively, the Falcons held on to the rope all night. I thought that these guys played outstanding all night. Philly got a little bit of run game going late in the football game, but it wasn't enough to make you break because obviously you have a chance to win at the end of the game. You hold a team to 18 points or under 20 points—you're gonna have a chance to win the game. I think I'd like to see a little bit more pressure on the quarterback, but I just thought that Atlanta's defense played with a lot of confidence.
And what I thought would be a deficiency for Atlanta ended up being outstanding in the middle. I thought we were going to be a little vulnerable against the run in the middle. The Eagles got a couple of plays—but nothing where you're like "wow they're really pushing Atlanta around". The only play that only looked like they had their way with on the falcons defense was the touchdown run at the end. That was the only play they looked like they got their hat on everybody and got everybody blocked—other than that, I thought Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat, Jack Crawford, Terrell McClain, all those guys in the middle were actually controlling the line of scrimmage and I thought it was pretty cool to watch. It was superior effort. The defense did well against the run and against the pass.
Pass defense contested everything
I thought they kept Eagles quarterback Nick Foles off balance all night long—he struggled to find anybody. And that area you were concerned about, the RPO, where he rides, pulls the ball out and throws it—it completed some but they were for minimal gains because our guys were right there to make the plays. They knew they were going to run a little RPO, pull it, try to through the quick slants—and Atlanta's pass defenders were all over it, so I think that more than anything else they trusted the scheme and they played it to perfection. They played their techniques, trusted their techniques, the game plan that Marquand Manuel and Dan Quinn came up with was perfect. It was a winning game plan on defense.