And if that turns out to be the case, the Eagles already are in chase mode. The injuries piled up Sunday night in Atlanta and they failed to match the Cowboys’ 2-0 start. The Eagles dropped to 1-1 when their comeback bid against the Falcons fell short and they lost, 24-20.
“I love the way those guys fought,” Eagles Coach Doug Pederson said, speaking of his players, at his postgame news conference. “It was in our hands …. It stings, obviously, losses like this.”
Philadelphia ran out of comebacks in this one. The Eagles overcame a deficit of 17-6 in the third quarter to grab the lead late. That’s after they came back from being down, 17-0, to defeat the Redskins at home in Week 1.
But they couldn’t hang on this time.
“There’s no moral victories, obviously,” Pederson said.
The Eagles nearly won this game despite quarterback Carson Wentz leaving the field temporarily late in the first half to be examined for a possible concussion. He was replaced briefly by veteran backup Josh McCown. Wentz reportedly was cleared under the concussion protocol and reentered the game. He also was seen holding his ribs after absorbing a particularly rugged first-half hit. All of that is alarming for the Eagles, given that Wentz had his 2017 and 2018 seasons ended early by injuries.
The Eagles nearly won even with injuries to wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Jackson left the game with a groin injury. Jeffery had a calf injury. Agholor returned to the game after reportedly being cleared under the concussion protocol.
“It cuts things way down…. It just limits you a little bit,” Pederson said.
But the Eagles hung in there. Wentz threw a fourth-down touchdown pass to Agholor in the third quarter and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The Eagles added a two-point conversion after Wentz’s sneak to take a 20-17 lead with a little more than three minutes to play.
The Falcons responded, though, with a fourth-down touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to wide receiver Julio Jones with just more than two minutes left. Jones took a short pass from Ryan and turned it into a 54-yard touchdown.
“I threw it to the best receiver in the game,” Ryan told NBC after the game. “And he took it right to the house.”
The Falcons, who evened their record at 1-1, won on a night when Ryan threw three interceptions, one more than Wentz.
“Man, it was a crazy game, just a lot of back and forth,” Ryan said. “It seems like that’s been the case when we’ve played these guys the last number of years. But it feels good to come out on the right side of it.”
The Eagles had their chance in the game’s final minute. They used a 43-yard completion from Wentz to Agholor on fourth and 14 to give themselves an opportunity at a winning touchdown. But Wentz’s fourth-and-eight completion to tight end Zach Ertz with 30 seconds remaining came up just shy of a first down at the Atlanta 8-yard line. The spot of the football was confirmed by instant replay, and the Eagles had failed to keep early-season pace with the Cowboys.
“No one should hang their heads,” Pederson said when asked about the postgame message he’d delivered to his players. “They battled. It was in our hands to win at the end.”
Falcons strike back: It was the Falcons’ turn to make good on a fourth-down gamble. Coach Dan Quinn left his offense on the field on fourth and three, and Julio Jones turned a short pass from Matt Ryan into a 54-yard touchdown. (Falcons 24, Eagles 20 with 2:10 left in the 4th quarter)
Eagles take lead: The Eagles are doing it again, perhaps. They have the lead late in the fourth quarter in Atlanta. Carson Wentz scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to cap a touchdown drive on which he completed all eight of his passes, one of which was thrown just before his knee hit the turf as he was being dragged down by a Falcons defender. Wentz added a two-point conversion pass to Zach Ertz. (Eagles 20, Falcons 17 with 3:13 left in the 4th quarter)
Ryan throws another pick: What is Matt Ryan doing? He’s keeping the Eagles in the game with some bad decisions leading to interceptions. On a second-down play from the Philadelphia 8-yard line, Ryan forced a pass over the middle into heavy traffic and had it intercepted in the end zone by the Eagles’ Nathan Gerry. It was the third interception Ryan has thrown tonight. (Falcons 17, Eagles 12 with 12 seconds left in the 3rd quarter)
Pederson’s gamble pays off: Philadelphia Coach Doug Pederson’s successful fourth-down gamble has gotten the Eagles to within five points. The Eagles, after an interception of Matt Ryan by cornerback Ronald Darby, ended up with a fourth-and-goal predicament from the Atlanta 4-yard line, trailing 17-6. Pederson could have taken a field goal that would have made it a one-score game, with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Instead, he left his offense on the field, and Carson Wentz threw a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor. Wentz appeared to have added a two-point conversion run. But after the officials ruled on the field that Wentz had gotten the football across the goal line as he dove toward the end zone, the call was overturned on instant replay review. Wentz was called down short of the goal line and the conversion was ruled no good. (Falcons 17, Eagles 12 with 4:57 left in the 3rd quarter)
Falcons extend lead after Eagles’ fumble: It went from bad to worse for the Eagles right after halftime. Corey Clement lost a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half. The Falcons recovered and cashed in with a four-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. The Eagles must try to come back for a second straight week. But this time, they have Carson Wentz coming off a first half in which he completed six of 16 passes for 47 yards, threw two interceptions and had a passer rating of 6.2. Nelson Agholor has returned to the game but it’s not clear if the Eagles will get DeSean Jackson or Alshon Jeffery back. (Falcons 17, Eagles 6 with 13:23 left in the 3rd quarter)
HALF: Falcons 10, Eagles 6
Halftime in Atlanta: It has been a rough first half for the Eagles in Atlanta. Quarterback Carson Wentz, who had the previous two seasons cut short for him by injuries, left the game in the final minute of the half and was examined in the medical tent on the sideline. Wentz, after being replaced temporarily by Josh McCown, returned to the game, reportedly after being cleared under the concussion protocol. The Eagles ended the half with their top three wide receivers — DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor — on the sideline. Jeffery has a calf injury. Jackson has a groin injury. Agholor absorbed a jarring hit in the end zone late in the half. Dallas Goedert, the team’s No. 2 tight end, also has been out. Wentz threw two first-half interceptions, both to Desmond Trufant, and the Eagles managed only a pair of field goals by kicker Jake Elliott, including a 41-yarder as time expired in the half. One of Trufant’s interceptions set up the game’s lone touchdown, a 34-yard strike from Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley for the Falcons. (Falcons 10, Eagles 6 at halftime)
McCown at QB for Eagles: Josh McCown has taken over at quarterback for the Eagles, with Carson Wentz being examined in the medical tent on the sideline. (Falcons 10, Eagles 3 with 43 seconds left in the 2nd quarter)
Wentz interception sets up Ryan-to-Ridley TD: Carson Wentz’s second interception of the night, both to Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, set up the game’s first touchdown, a 34-yard connection from Matt Ryan to wide receiver Calvin Ridley for Atlanta. Trufant made his interception while sitting on the turf, as Wentz’s badly underthrown pass went directly to him. Ridley made a very nice leaping catch in the end zone for the Falcons’ touchdown on a third-and-six play. (Falcons 10, Eagles 3 with 4:56 left in the 2nd quarter)
Falcons have o-line woes: The Falcons used two first-round picks in this year’s draft on offensive linemen. Both of them are now hurt. Offensive tackle Kaleb McGary, chosen 31st overall in the draft from Washington, was helped from the field with a knee injury. Guard Chris Lindstrom, taken 14th overall from Boston College, already is on the injured reserve list after undergoing surgery for a broken foot suffered in the season opener. The Falcons wasted a great catch on the sideline by wide receiver Julio Jones when Matt Ryan missed connections with receivers on consecutive plays on would-be touchdown passes, then kicker Matt Bryant missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. (Eagles 3, Falcons 3 with 7:42 left in the 2nd quarter)
Eagles get even: The Eagles reached the Atlanta 8-yard line, but they were pushed back when Carson Wentz was sacked and had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by kicker Jake Elliott. Wentz remained in the game after holding his ribs following a hit on the previous possession, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson returned to the game after making a trip to the medical tent on the Eagles’ sideline. (Eagles 3, Falcons 3 with 10:45 left in the 2nd quarter)
Wentz, D. Jackson hurting?: It’s another slow start on offense for the Eagles. Carson Wentz threw an interception to the Falcons’ Desmond Trufant after trying to avoid the Atlanta pass rush. Wentz came to the sideline holding his ribs. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson was being examined in the medical tent on the Eagles’ sideline. (Falcons 3, Eagles 0 with 1:36 left in the 1st quarter)
Falcons jump in front: Atlanta’s offense moved the ball well early, with four first downs on its opening possession. But the Falcons’ drive stalled before kicker Matt Bryant connected on a 50-yard field goal. (Falcons 3, Eagles 0 with 9:28 left in the 1st quarter)