Julio Jones' 2 TDs Power Falcons to Narrow Win vs. Carson Wentz, Eagles on 'SNF'

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IISeptember 16, 2019

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs toward the end zone for a touchdown against Philadelphia Eagles free safety Rodney McLeod (23) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Atlanta Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak against Philadelphia dating back to 2016 with a 24-20 win over the Eagles on Sunday Night Football at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and it wasn't without drama.

The Eagles had erased an 11-point deficit to take a 20-17 lead with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter. But just before the two-minute warning, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan converted a 4th-and-3 with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.

Down 24-20, the Eagles were threatening again but came up short on a 4th-and-8 at the Atlanta 16-yard line with 38 seconds and no timeouts remaining.

As a result, Ryan is now 11-1 all-time in home openers (h/t ESPN's Field Yates). He finished with 320 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions on 27-of-43 passing.

Jones was Ryan's most productive target with 106 yards and two touchdowns, catching five of his 10 targets. However, Calvin Ridley was right behind Jones with 105 yards and one touchdown on eight catches.

In the loss, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had an injury scare late in the second quarter before nearly leading Philly to a comeback win. He finished with 231 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 25-of-43 passing.

Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor, who briefly exited the game to be evaluated for a head injury, led all receivers with 107 yards and one touchdown. Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) left the game in the first half for the Eagles and did not return.

     

Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley Turning into NFL's Most Dynamic Receiving Duo

Prior to reaching an agreement with Jones on a three-year, $66 million extension a day ahead of Atlanta's regular-season opener, the Falcons had insurance in second-year receiver Ridley.

Now, they have both stars through at least the 2022 season. That is ideal for the Falcons and scary for the rest of the league.

Ridley racked up seven of his eight catches in the first half Sunday night, including his 34-yard touchdown:

Ridley's development requires opposing defenses to account for him on every play, which prevents them from going all out on a double-team of Jones, as the Falcons coyly pointed out. The reverse is true, too. For example, the Eagles held Ridley to one catch for 14 yards in the second half. Their reward? Jones popping off for two touchdowns, including the 54-yard game-winning touchdown on a 4th-and-3:

Jones surpassed Roddy White as the franchise's all-time leading receiver with that touchdown grab, and the Jones-Ridley tandem won the Falcons the game to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2007.

In the bigger picture, Atlanta looks to have the most dynamic receiving duo in the NFL.

There are several other teams who have a case, though—the New England Patriots first and foremost. Tom Brady has the likes of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and Julian Edelman at his disposal, though Brown's future remains uncertain amid sexual assault allegations and Gordon is currently under a conditional reinstatement by the NFL because of a history of substance use.

Earlier Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams showed off in the passing game with 120 yards from Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks' 74 yards and a touchdown. In Kansas City, reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes makes any set of receivers on the field with him look like the best ever to play the sport.

Like Jones and Ridley did against the Eagles, Dallas Cowboys receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup each put together at least 100 yards receiving in Week 1 against the New York Giants.

Arguments can be made throughout the league, sure, but Jones and Ridley are as sure a bet as any of them.

And with Atlanta's running game only accounting for 130 yards through the first two weeks, Jones and Ridley may be the most important receivers to their team of any in the league.

      

Carson Wentz Shows His Risk and Reward

It truly was the tale of two halves for Wentz on Sunday night.

With 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Josh McCown trotted on the field while Wentz was being evaluated for a concussion. McCown ran the offense for six plays before Wentz returned to see out the final drive of the half—resulting in a field goal.

Wentz was 6-of-16 for 47 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions at halftime, and there was reason to worry that his well-documented injury history since entering the league as Philly's No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was bleeding into 2019.

It was not revealed that Wentz was in the concussion protocol until he met with reporters after the game.

However, Wentz didn't appear to show signs of injury in the second half:

The dichotomy Wentz displayed in this particular game plays right into why the Eagles' decision to extend him on a four-year deal worth up to $144 million this spring could just as easily bust as it could pay off.

During the 2017 campaign, Wentz suffered a season-ending torn ACL on Dec. 10. The Eagles went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history with backup quarterback Nick Foles leading the way and claiming Super Bowl MVP.

Prior to the devastating knee injury, Wentz was in the conversation for league MVP with 3,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 60.2 percent completion.

Wentz's ACL recovery cost him the first two games of last season, and he missed the final three contests with a stress fracture in his back.

Sunday night brought back to the forefront the risk involved with committing to Wentz long-term. At the same time, while Philadelphia isn't leaving Atlanta with the desired result, seeing Wentz nearly gutting out a comeback after such a disappointing first half is reason to feel good moving forward. In fact, the Eagles will probably exhale after every game that Wentz makes it out healthy.

That said, the franchise's investment in Wentz proves that Philadelphia believes the potential reward outweighs any risk.

     

What's Next?

The Eagles (1-1) will host the Detroit Lions (1-0-1), while the Falcons (1-1) will travel to take on the Indianapolis Colts (1-1) next Sunday afternoon.

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