ATLANTA — The Eagles fell to 1-1 with a 24-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Here are five reasons for the Week 2 setback:
The falling bodies
Tight end Dallas Goedert hurt his calf in pregame warmups. Alshon Jeffery played just six snaps before his calf cried uncle. DeSean Jackson’s 32-year-old groin failed him after 11 snaps.
In last week’s win over Washington, Jeffery and Jackson combined for 13 catches, 203 yards, four touchdowns, 11 first downs, and seven third-down receptions for first downs.
By the end of the Eagles’ third possession, both Jeffery and Jackson were out. So were 12-personnel packages (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers) since Goedert’s injury left the Eagles with just one tight end, Zach Ertz.
Doug Pederson had to take scissors to a good part of his game plan. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins, who played a combined 15 snaps in Week 1, combined for 144 Sunday night. Ertz played every snap of a game for the first time in his career.
Even with the losses, Carson Wentz completed 19 of 27 passes in the second half and brought the Eagles back from a 17-6 early-second-half deficit. But the injuries clearly had an effect on the outcome. It’s hard to believe the Falcons would have won this game if Wentz had had his full arsenal of pass-catching weapons.
Another late wakeup call
While the injuries definitely played a role in it, the Eagles again struggled out of the gate. They failed to score in the first quarter for the 12th time in their last 18 regular-season games. They averaged 2.8 yards per play and had two first downs on their first two possessions.
Nelson Agholor, who would drop a potential touchdown pass late in the game, also had a drive-killing drop on the Eagles’ first possession when a third-and-7 pass from Wentz sailed through his hands.
Jim Schwartz’s defense, which gave up scores on Washington’s first three possessions last week, allowed the Falcons to drive down for a game-opening, 50-yard Matt Bryant field goal, which didn’t do much to help quiet the crowd.
The Eagles turned the ball over three times, two of which the Falcons converted into touchdowns.
The Eagles escaped the first of Wentz’s two interceptions without any damage, forcing a three-and-out from the Falcons. But they weren’t so lucky with the second one. He got pressured up the middle on a first-down play and hurried a deep ball that ended up being underthrown and picked off by cornerback Desmond Trufant.
Matt Ryan hit Calvin Ridley with quick 15- and 12-yard completions. A few plays later, Ridley scored on a 34-yard pass, beating cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Andrew Sendejo on a post route.
Darby was playing outside technique, and Sendejo didn’t get back quickly enough to be of any help inside.
The third turnover was a fumble by returner Corey Clement on the opening kickoff of the second half. Clement appeared to lose the ball when he ran up the back of teammate Craig James. The Falcons recovered the ball at the Philadelphia 33.
Ryan hit running back Devonta Freeman for 28 yards, then escaped the pocket, which forced the Eagles to hold their coverage. Julio Jones got away from Darby, who still isn’t all the way back from last year’s ACL tear, and caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ryan that gave the Falcons a 17-6 lead.
Offensive line struggles
The offensive line, which played so well last week against Washington, did not have a good night Sunday against the Falcons. The quickness of Atlanta’s front seven clearly gave the Eagles problems. They had four holding penalties, including two on left guard Isaac Seumalo, who also had a false start on the first possession.
Wentz was sacked three times but pressured way too much by four-man rushes as well as a corner blitz that triggered his second interception.
Seumalo, who is supposed to be the strongest player on the line, got pushed back into Wentz several times. So did center Jason Kelce on the first of Wentz’s two interceptions.
The line also had its problems run-blocking. The Eagles averaged just 2.3 yards per carry against the Falcons. Last week, Eagles running backs averaged 5.3 yards in the second half against Washington.
Averaging 2.3 yards per carry against a team that gave up 172 rushing yards the previous week when you supposedly have one of the league’s top offensive lines and a dramatically upgraded running-back group isn’t good.
The blitz that backfired
Jim Schwartz had high hopes for his interior pass rush this season after the Eagles signed Malik Jackson. But Jackson probably is lost for the season after suffering a Lisfranc foot fracture last week. All-Pro Fletcher Cox, who missed all of training camp and the preseason recovering from his own foot injury, still is trying to get back to where he was. And their other defensive tackle, Tim Jernigan, played just 39 snaps Sunday and was wearing a walking boot on his foot after the game.
So Schwartz on Sunday had to go to Plan B, which was blitzing. He didn’t blitz a ton, but he picked his spots. It was effective until it wasn’t, which was on a fourth-and-3 with 2:20 left in the game and the Eagles up by three.
Schwartz sent six rushers after Ryan. But the Falcons called a quick step-back screen to Julio Jones. When left tackle Jake Matthews came out and flattened helpless slot corner Avonte Maddox, Jones was able to race down the left side for a 54-yard touchdown that put the Falcons ahead.