"We didn't play very well that day, and Philadelphia did a great job," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said this week at the Super Bowl. "We didn't have many plays."
In retrospect, it was the Eagles' finest performance of the season, even better than their Week 3 victory over the Steelers. The Falcons entered the game 6-3 and with the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. They're now just a win over the Patriots away from claiming the franchise's first championship.
The Eagles, who had lost two in a row going in, almost flawlessly executed a game plan that kept the ball in their hands much longer than in the hands of Ryan and his explosive offense. With running back Ryan Mathews eclipsing 100 yards on the ground for the first time, Eagles coach Doug Pederson used ball-control play-calling to gobble up 38 minutes to the Falcons' 21 minutes in time of possession.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, meanwhile, utilized an umbrella zone that kept Ryan and receiver Julio Jones from going off on deep routes. But the Eagles defense also effectively slowed the run, pressured Ryan, and tackled even when passes were completed underneath.
"I've got a lot of respect for Jim Schwartz. I think he's as good as there is," Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "They had a good game plan. They controlled the ball and we didn't go on long drives. It was kind of a perfect storm."
Joe Douglas discusses what he values in players - Philly Voice
On what he and Jim Schwartz are looking for in a cornerback:
"Corner is a position, next to quarterback, that's probably the toughest position in all of sports to play. It takes an elite level athlete. They're the best athletes in the world. It takes a high level of confidence. Those guys have to be able to shrug off negative plays and be able to bounce back and pretend it didn't happen. Me and Jim have had a lot of conversations about not only the corner position, but every position."
While it's been pointed out endlessly here that Schwartz prefers corners who are confident and competitive, it is interesting that the first thing Douglas noted was elite athleticism.
Fans calling plays? New indoor football team giving it a try - Associated Press
The team says about 38,000 people used the voting app when McCarthy was picked over a three-week period in August. Fans can choose from prices ranging from $10 to $40 per month for different levels of engagement.
But a fan's involvement also depends on a time commitment. Those willing to spend more hours scouting players by watching film and communicating with McCarthy are apt to be more involved in the long term.
"What's interesting is these fans are paying us to do work for the team," Farudi said. "If you just give them the opportunity to participate, they're going to provide you incredible value. I really think there's something there, especially looking at semi-pro, minor league type of organizations. They never have enough resources."
After preseason camp starts in February, McCarthy will make the first roster cut to about 32 from the original 40. Fans will help get the final list to 25, and will have a vote to choose the starting quarterback, running back and receivers. Farudi figures those skill positions interest fans the most.
When the Screaming Eagles offense takes the field Feb. 16 at home against the Nebraska Danger, fans will use an app to pick plays. They will see a field marking down and distance, with roughly six choices for plays.
McCarthy is in charge of what plays are in the system, so it's just like any other game plan in football, with a twist at the end.
2016 All-Keep Chopping Wood Team - Football Outsiders
Kick Returner: After being released by the Eagles in November following his arrest for DUI and unlawful possession of a firearm, Josh Huff joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just as they looked primed for a playoff push. In his first game with his new team hosting the division rival New Orleans Saints, he fielded a bouncing Wil Lutz kickoff ... with his face. The ball bounced out of bounds at the 1-yard line, leading to a safety on the next play from scrimmage. In his third game, again facing the Saints, he again muffed a Wil Lutz kickoff to set his team up inside their own 5-yard line -- leading less directly to a Jameis Winston interception two plays later. In between, he returned kickoffs from the end zone to his own 14 (against Dallas) and his own 15 (against New Orleans), meaning he somehow managed to average 12 yards per kickoff return for the Buccaneers while posting a 50 percent catch rate as a receiver. He was cut by his second team in December, after only three games.
For those who don’t know what Keep Chopping Wood refers to...
The Jaguars punter needed surgery to close up a gash on his right, non-kicking, leg Thursday after he miscalibrated while using an ax to hack at the massive tree stump that coach Jack Del Rio placed in the locker room a few weeks ago.
Del Rio used the stump as a symbol for the mantra he has adopted for the Jaguars (1-4) this season: "Keep chopping wood."
Hanson took the message literally, and wound up being rushed to the hospital, where he received several stitches, team spokesman Dan Edwards said. Hanson's leg will be in a boot for four to six weeks, and the team hasn't decided whether to place him on injured reserve, Edwards said.