The Falcons' run defense, which recently went 14-straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, has been a bright spot for most of 2016. That wasn't the case on Sunday, however: Ryan Mathews tallied 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles; Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles added 70 and 19 yards on the ground, respectively.
By composing such an effective rushing attack, Philly's offense was able to stay balanced, eat a lot of clock, take pressure off its rookie QB and, ultimately, put up enough points to win.
"I wish it was one thing, we could say it was one thing and we would have corrected that," head coach Dan Quinn said about his team's woes against the run. "When there's some technique errors and some big plays that happen, usually that's when we're out of a gap or didn't play it well. So the explosive runs that happened today — trap, the outside run — for us not playing it like we like. Like I said we'll tip our hat to them, but I think there will be some corrections that we'll want to make on those tomorrow and be disappointed in how we played on a number of them."
Defensive end Tyson Jackson expressed a similar sentiment.
"They were just able to exploit us. They found some weaknesses. And whatever it was they based that on they pretty much attack that throughout the game," Jackson said. "Us as a defense, especially us in the front seven, we have to do a better job of stopping the run. I think that recipe does not change no matter how many sacks you get, or how many interceptions you get. If you can't stop the run in the National Football League, you are going to have a long day in any game."
The Eagles' run-heavy approach allowed them to be on offense for 38:10 of the contest and run 76 plays — 28 more than the Falcons ran. Maintaining possession for extended periods of time was a top priority for Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson, who knew how important it was to keep Matt Ryan and Co. off the field.
"Well, listen, that's an explosive offense on that side. Atlanta has a great offense, and I felt coming into this football game that we were going to have to possess the ball, and in order to do that, I thought that the running game was going to be a huge factor in this game," Pederson said.
"You know, they've got a good, young football team on defense, and they're going to obviously win a lot of games this year. But I just felt gut instinct, watching the film, knowing our guys, relying on our offensive line. Defense, as well as they played today, the run game was going to be a big part of my plan."