The Falcons needed a late interception by free safety Ricardo Allen to preserve a hard-fought 26-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in a thriller on Monday night at the Georgia Dome.
The defense came out strong, but the Eagles tempo nearly wore them out in the second half as they started to take bad angles and got a little sloppy with the tackling.
But when the needed a stop, they got it to help give new head coach Dan Quinn a victory in his first game with the franchise.
Here are the grades from the win.
Game ball: Ricardo Allen. He saved the day for the defense with his late-game heroics. Here’s what he’s doing with the game-ball the team awarded him.
Quarterbacks, C-minus. Matt Ryan was 23 of 34 for 298 yards and two touchdowns. He had two interceptions and nearly tossed two others. He tossed a couple of nice slants and a deep ball to Julio Jones. He finished with a quarterback rating of 90.1 He was not pleased with the offense’s third down efficiency (4 of 14, 29 percent).
Running backs, A. The Falcons used all three backs. Tevin Coleman (44 snaps) had a strong debut. Devonta Freeman (29 snaps) looked a little tentative in his return from his hamstring injury. Terron Ward (four snaps) didn’t get a carry. CLICK FOR story on the running game.
Wide receivers/tight ends, A-plus. Julio Jones and Roddy White helped to carry the offense. Jones dominated his matchup with Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell. He caught nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. White, who was coming back from elbow surgery, caught four passes for 84 yards. Many longtime onlookers noticed that White appeared as fluid, fast and agile like he was before he suffered the high-ankle sprain a couple of seasons ago. Leonard Hankerson caught his first pass in a regular-season game since Nov. 17, 2013 against the Eagles back when he played with Washington. Tight ends Jacob Tamme (3 of 3) and Levine
Toilolo (1 of 1) caught all four of their targets for 23 yards. Nick Williams had one catch for 5 yards. Rookie Justin Hardy was inactive.
Offensive line, B-plus. The unit was stout in pass protection and opened some holes in the run game against a nasty Eagles front. Newly acquired left guard Andy Levitre had a more than respectable showing against Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The Eagles had one sack and three quarterback hits. Levitre did have a bad holding call that erased a 16-yard run. The team is expected to sign Jake Long today.
Defensive line, B. The line helped the Falcons hold the Eagles to 63 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns. The Falcons rotated the group in order to stay as fresh as possible against the Eagles attack. The quicker defensive line men played the most, while the heftier guys – Paul Soliai (14 snaps), Tyson Jackson (16 snaps) and Ra’Shede Hageman (28 snaps – didn’t play as much. Rookie defensive Vic Beasley, who had to battle with seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters, played a defensive-line team-high 49 snaps. The Falcons didn’t record a sack, but laid eight hits on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. Jonathan Babineaux (two), Beasley (one), Malliciah Goodman (one), O’Brien Schofield (one), Jackson (one), Grady Jarrett (one) and Hagemen (one) all had quarterback hits.
Linebackers, A. Justin Durant and Paul Worrilow were all over the field making plays and finished with 22 tackles. Worrilow had a big stop on the third down to force the Eagles to attempt a 44-yard field goal that sailed
wide right. O’Brien Schofield and Kroy Biermann were solid in taking over Brooks Reed’s role.
Defensive backs, B. The secondary had two interceptions and knocked down five other passes. The Eagles stay away from cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford for most of the game. They tried to attack the middle of the field in the Falcons zone defenses. The Falcons played mostly Cover 3 and Cover 1 the entire game. They had to come up and tackle. The Falcons were in nickel, with Phillips Adams as the nickel back, on 57 percent of the 74 defensive snaps.
Special teams, A. Matt Bryant was clutch with two second-half field goals. Matt Bosher boomed his punts. The coverage units were solid and kept dangerous return man Darren Sproles from breaking loose on the final key punt. Toilolo made a nice open-field tackle of Sproles.
Coaching, B. The Falcons came out of fire. The defense delivered some knock out shots, but the Eagles wouldn’t go down for the count. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was on fire early with the play-calling. The defense’s tackling got sloppy in the second half and the offense needed to run out the clock when they got the ball back. But the Falcons got a win on a night when Matt Ryan wasn’t at his sharpest. It was a good start for Quinn’s regime.
Next up: Falcons (1-0) play at the New York Giants (0-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.