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  • Eagles QB Nick Foles put up a solid performance, but it was the Philadelphia offensive line and pass rush that truly excelled, vaulting the NFC's No. 1 seed into the conference championships.
By Robert Klemko
January 13, 2018

Three thoughts after the Eagles’ 15–10 win against the Falcons in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs...

1. Eagles QB Nick Foles should get credit for going 23-of-30 for 246 yards and no turnovers, but the driving force here was this Eagles offensive line. Whether they were protecting Foles on run-pass option plays that simplified things for the backup quarterback, or opening up lanes for running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, this was a tremendous performance by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s unit. Lane Johnson stood out at right tackle for a group that allowed just one sack, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who replaced Pro Bowler Jason Peters at left tackle midseason, held up admirably against Falcons’ talented DE Takk McKinley. Just imagine what this team could have been with a healthy Peters and QB Carson Wentz.

2. This was a coaching showcase for Doug Pederson and Philadelphia coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz. Reich installed a healthy mix of power running and run-pass option plays that put Foles in comfortable situations and helped Wentz’s replacement overcome some first-half yips, and his effective gadget plays for WR Nelson Agholor were the cherry on top. Schwartz mixed appropriately timed linebacker and nickel blitz pressure with an effective four-man rush and a focus on limiting Falcons WR Julio Jones’s opportunities, keeping Matt Ryan on the run for much of the day. To win without Wentz, the trio of Pederson, Reich and Schwartz had to put on a clinic, and they did.​

3. Steve Sarkisian has absorbed a ton of criticism over the course of the season as the Falcons have fallen short of 2016 production levels, but it was painfully obvious that Atlanta doesn’t have the offensive personnel to deal with disruptive defensive line presences like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. A passing game filled with laterals and short throws put the Falcons in position to win on a fourth-quarter drive that fell short inside the five-yard line, but this offensive performance was a continuation of the disjointed play we’ve come to expect from Sarkisian’s unit in 2017. Atlanta made surprisingly little use of tight end Austin Hooper (one catch for three yards) and Taylor Gabriel (two catches for four yards), who should have been viable short and intermediate passing options against an overwhelming pass rush.

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Eagle (-2)
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