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The Linc: Ryan Mathews returns to form in a big way

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The back looked good, just in time.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles news and notes for 11/14

McLane: Ryan Mathews carries the load - Inquirer

On Sunday, Sproles had all of two rushes. Ryan Mathews, meanwhile, paced the Eagles with 19 carries for 109 and two touchdowns as they shocked the Falcons, 24-15, behind a balanced offense and a suffocating defense.

Pederson joked that he rode Mathews "just to keep you [reporters] off balance," but there was clearly more to his plan than just fooling Atlanta into thinking Sproles would be his primary ballcarrier.

The tailback fumbled twice in October, but it's not as if he had been inefficient when given opportunities through the first half of the season. Mathews also has a seven-year record of production. To bury him would have been shortsighted.

"You know what, I've always had confidence in Ryan Mathews," Pederson said. "I think what you saw today is the guy that I kept seeing."

The Eagles also wanted - needed - to return to a ball-control offense that remained balanced. In each of their five victories this season, they had a pass-run ratio that was no more imbalanced than 53-47.

In their four losses, the Eagles' pass-run proportion on average was 63-37. On Sunday, Carson Wentz dropped back to pass 38 times and aside from three game-ending kneels by the quarterback, the Eagles rushed 35 times.

Their commitment to the run was, in part, designed to combat the NFL's top scoring offense and keep Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and company off the field. And they did, finishing with a commanding 38:10 to 21:50 advantage in time of possession.

12 Things We Learned From Philadelphia’s Win - Birds 24/7

5 – Jim Schwartz stopped the NFL’s best offense

The Falcons were averaging nearly 34 points per game heading into Week 10. Atlanta’s lowest point total was previously 23. Now it’s 15 after Schwartz’s unit largely shut down the Falcons’ offense.

This is a really impressive feat. The Falcons were primed for a big day after Philadelphia’s lackluster cornerback situation. Nolan Carroll was dealing with a hamstring injury before having to leave the game early. Rookie seventh-round pick Jalen Mills was matched up against Julio Jones one-on-one quite often. Despite this, the Birds held up pretty well.

The Eagles’ defense wasn’t perfect, but it was a really strong effort from Schwartz’s unit. There was a lot of good tackling from Philadelphia. The Eagles seemed to do a good job of getting pressure and winning in the trenches.

Matt Ryan entered this game with the NFL’s best passer rating at 119.0 and he was held to 78.7. The return of Bennie Logan helped the Eagles’ run defense hold the Falcons’ rushing attack to 3.7 yards per carry.

Bowen: Eagles back to safe, boring, winning football - Daily News

It was Jenkins who said after last week's loss at the Giants that the Eagles needed to get back to safe, boring, winning football, and they did. The defense continued its homefield dominance, three touchdowns allowed in four home games (in which the team is 4-0). The offense played keep-away with a season-best 208 rushing yards on 38 carries, leading to 38 minutes, 10 seconds of possession time - time that Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and transcendent wideout Julio Jones spent stewing on the sideline. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was poised and efficient (25-for-36, 231 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions). The result was a victory the now-5-4 Eagles pretty much had to have to retain credibility as NFC playoff contenders, with a trip to Seattle on tap next Sunday.

Wentz led a fourth-quarter comeback to victory for the first time, engineering a drive for the winning touchdown plus two-point conversion. Later, Caleb Sturgis' 48-yard field goal gave the Eagles their nine-point margin. They had been 0-4 when trailing at any point in the final quarter.

“We know we can finish ballgames," Wentz said. "We know we have the guys to do that. And it's good to show that, finally . . . It's a big game for us as an offense and as a team to pull off a tight win like this.”

Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said that his team, now 6-4, "got a taste of our own medicine" from the Eagles' balanced attack. “It was definitely frustrating for us, no question about it. For us to have a team run the ball on us, with the physical style that we like to play, and (for them to) have the explosiveness in the run game, for sure that was a big factor.”

Eagles play smash-mouth game to win - PE.com

It was a heavyweight bout, pitting the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, Atlanta, against an Eagles defense that had allowed an average of just nine points per game in three home wins this season. Head coach Doug Pederson felt that one of the best ways to slow down the Falcons' offense was to keep it off the field.

So he dialed up the running game, and the Eagles churned out 208 yards on the ground – 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Ryan Mathews, and 70 yards on 13 carries from Wendell Smallwood – and kept possession of the football for a whopping 38 minutes, 10 seconds.

“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 felt the running game was going to be a huge factor,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I just felt, gut instinct, watching the film, knowing our guys, relying on our offensive line, the defense, as well as they played today, the run game was going to be a big part of my plan.”

This was a huge win for an Eagles team that lost four of its previous five games after a 3-0 start. In three of those games – at Detroit, at Dallas and at New York – the Eagles had chances to win in the fourth quarter and failed to do so. A young team, the locker room chatter went, just didn’t close games in the fourth quarter.

Maybe the learning curve accelerated for the Eagles on this Sunday, then. The Eagles held a lead in the fourth quarter of this slugfest in the Salute to Service game, lost it on a Matt Ryan 76-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and then got it back on a nifty eight-play, 76-yard drive that featured a little bit of everything.

Finally - Iggles Blitz

The Eagles trailed in the 4th quarter…and won.

The Eagles held a tight lead in the 4th quarter…and won.

The team was 0 for the season in those categories prior to today. This was not the prettiest win, but the Eagles made a few clutch plays and finally came out on top in a tight contest. There were times it felt like they tried to give it away. There were times it felt like the officials were trying to give it away. But in the end the Eagles got the job done and it was the Falcons who made some crucial mistakes.

The final score of 24-15 makes it look like great defense. This was a combination of ball control offense and very good defense. The Eagles were on the field for 38 minutes. That meant Matt Ryan and Julio Jones were on the sideline discussing last night’s episode of SNL or who the hottest chicks in the stands were. Last week Atlanta scored 43 points. Today they had 48 snaps.