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11 things we learned in the Eagles win over the Falcons

High flying Eagles stay grounded

Atlanta Falcons v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

1 The Eagles can beat anybody... at home

They’ve beaten every team that has come to Philly, and done it by at least two scores. And while they’ve lost four games, they’ve all been one score games against teams that are, at worst, 5-4. Good teams put away bad teams and play close games against other good teams, and the 2016 Eagles habit of putting away visiting teams and playing close games against good teams on the road is an encouraging sign for the future, when they get Carson Wentz some help.

2 They need a full effort to do it

The wins against the Falcons and Vikings required the entire team to show up to pull off the win. The kick return unit had a touchdown against Minnesota and strong returns against Atlanta, the defense kept both teams to just one touchdown and the offense ground out long scoring drives. When firing on all cylinders, this team can stand up to anyone.

3 They finally played a 60 minute game

The Eagles first and fourth quarters were their strongest all year. After the defense caused the Falcons to go 3 and out, the 7:14 scoring drive on their first possession was a thing of beauty: 5 different players touched the ball, all gaining either a first down or scoring a touchdown, and they forced the Falcons to use a timeout early. The fourth quarter was just as good. The Falcons 76 yard touchdown could have been a back breaker. Instead, both sides of the ball responded. The Eagles drove into long field goal range on the next possession, they missed, but they moved the ball. The defense came back with a three and out, and then the offense drove 76 yards on 13 plays to take the lead on a touchdown. And then at the end of the quarter, a FG to take a two score lead with just enough time where a quick score/onside kick recovery was possible was followed up by an interception. From start to finish, both sides of the ball played good games.

4 The defense staked a claim to best in the league

Who’s the best defense in the league? By points per game, it’s the Vikings. It might be them. By yards per game, it’s the Ravens, but no one in their right mind would argue they are the best defense. By yards per play, it’s the Cardinals, but it seems a stretch this season to say they’re the best. By DVOA, it’s the Eagles, but fancy stats don’t appeal to many. The Broncos and Seahawks can also lay claim to the best defense by talent and coaching, and few would argue. However you want to determine it, there’s a few defenses that lay claim to being the best in the NFL. The Falcons though, by pretty much every measure, have the best offense. They are 1st in points, 2nd in yards, 1st in yards per play, 1st in DVOA, they have an MVP candidate at QB and one of the two or three best WRs in the game and a top RB... and the Eagles gave them their worst game of the season.

They held the Falcons to 15 points, the Broncos could only hold them to 24, the Seahawks 24. They held Atlanta to 303 yards, Denver 372, Seattle 362. The Falcons also had season lows in first downs and rushing yards. And all three games were on the road. The Eagles did it in part by keeping the Falcons offense off the field, limiting them to season lows in plays and time of possession, but with the Falcons going just 2 for 11 on third down, the defense was a big contributor to that.

The Eagles have the stats and a common opponent with other top defenses to argue they are the best in the league.

5 Carson Wentz can pull out the fourth quarter comeback

Wentz has had a very good rookie season, and done a lot more than you can reasonably ask a rookie to do. One thing he hasn’t done yet is come from behind late in games. He hasn’t really had a lot of chances though, the Eagles offense never took the field in the 2nd half against the Cowboys while trailing, so he’s had three games where he could potentially have a 4th quarter comeback, and 0-3 isn’t a big deal for a rookie. Peyton Manning was 1-6 in the fourth quarter his rookie year.

On Sunday he notched his first come from behind win, leading the team on a touchdown drive that ate up 3:36 of clock, going 5 of 7 for 65 yards. Yeah, it was the Falcons defense and they were missing Desmond Trufant, but it’s nice to check another box off the list in Wentz’s rookie season.

6 Ryan Mathews lives

After playing 8 snaps in each of the previous two games, Mathews roared back with 109 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Welcome back.

7 Officials: still awful

You know the officiating is bad when you’re legitimately complaining about it after a good win. The NFL will ignore it until the end of the season then quietly make an empty gesture change to procedure. Do better.

8 Fans are getting their money’s worth

At the end of the Andy Reid era and the beginning of the Chip Kelly era, the Eagles were awful at home, going 5-15 from 2011 to midway through the 2013 season. The Doug Pederson era has no such issues, they are a deserved 4-0 at home. They need to play better on the road, but so far if you’ve seen the Eagles at the Linc, you got a good deal.

9 Next week probably won’t be fun, but then it gets good

The Eagles visit Seattle on Sunday, who just toppled the Patriots in New England and like the Eagles are undefeated at home. But then the home stretch is the imploding Packers, the lousy Bengals and Ravens, and the rest of the NFC East, who the Eagles lost to by one score. 8-8 is doable, 10-6 not impossible.

10 Carson Wentz can do the game manager thing

“He’s just Alex Smith” is an insult, but not for a rookie. Wentz had a nice, quiet, calm game, and that was enough to both win and bounce back after a shaky game against the Giants last week. He didn’t try to do too much, his turnover wasn’t entirely his fault as Halapoulivaati Vaitai got bulldozed, and he would have been even better if his receivers didn’t once again let him down. Job done, and that’s satisfactory.

11 2016 draft class stock is rising

Carson Wentz had a fine game, Wendell Smallwood and Jalen Mills looked like the players the coaches think they are, and Isaac Semualo got some playing time too. Hal Vaitai still looks like just a guy at right tackle, but if the Eagles get a franchise QB and a few complimentary pieces out of the draft, that’s a hell of a haul. On Sunday, that’s what they got.

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