Good morning! Welcome to The Cover 9@9 blog. It’s our weekly blog of nine things at 9 a.m. Wednesday that you need to know about the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons (11-6). The defending NFC champion Falcons are set to face the number one-seeded Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) at 4:35 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
1. PLAYOFF HISTORY WITH EAGLES: The Falcons have never won in the playoffs in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Falcons are 0-2 in Philadelphia in the playoffs and 1-0 at home.
The Falcons (11-6) and Eagles (13-3) will meet for the fourth time in the postseason in a NFC divisional round playoff game at 4:35 p.m. on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
I remember the last playoff meeting vividly. Because of a snowstorm, flights to Philadelphia were canceled on Saturday.
The AJC team — about 12 deep — re-routed to Washington, D.C. to National Airport and some to Dulles. We took cabs – there was no Uber nor Lyft back in 2005 — from the respective airports to Union Station.
From Union Station we stuffed our computer bags with snacks and libations and took the Amtrak into Philadelphia. We arrived well after midnight for the 1 p.m. kickoff.
After coming up from the train stop, we marched through the snow and piled into a cabs. We picked up Associated Press’ Paul Newberry somewhere along the way and headed on the downtown Marriott. Newberry is funny and kept up in stitches with his jokes.
It was cold (17 degrees at kickoff) and there was a bunch a snow. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was clearly affected by the weather conditions and Eagles safety Brian Dawkins hit tight end Alge Crumpler so hard that it knocked the life out of the Falcons in that NFC championship game.
Vick was sacked four times and they were outgained 362-202. The Falcons trailed just 14-10 at the half, but they couldn’t move the ball in the second half. Every drive ended in a punt except for the one where there was an interception.
The good news is that it supposed to be 50 degrees with a low of 19 in Philadelphia on Saturday. More importantly, no snowstorm has been predicted.
2. LAST SEASON’S MEETING: Last season, on the way to the Super Bowl, the Falcons blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-15 at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 13, 2016. It was their third blown fourth-quarter lead of the season and foreshadowed what would happen in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons were 6-3 and headed into their bye week when they were tripped up by the Eagles. The Falcons lost to Buffalo heading into their bye week this season.
Here’s the report card from the last meeting of the Falcons and the Eagles:
Falcons coach Dan Quinn was not very happy with the loss to the Eagles.
Just when Quinn thought he had the team on a path to greatness, it took a step backward and blew a fourth quarter lead for the third time this season when the Eagles bullied the defensive front and took their lunch money.
If the Falcons could close out games, they would be 9-1 and be talking about going after one of the top seeds for the NFC playoffs. The Falcons took a 15-13 lead in the slugfest with the Eagles, but couldn’t hold it.
They also blew fourth-quarter leads against the Seahawks and the (Chargers).
Quinn was not happy with the run defense getting steam rolled and the special teams giving up 146 yards on kickoff returns, including a 52-yard return.
No game balls were awarded in the loss to the Eagles in the report card.
The players were not too happy after this one, either:
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
3. CHECK BACK FOR RYAN UPDATE: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did not practice in order to attend to a personal matter on Tuesday.
It was believed to be the first practice that Ryan missed since a turf toe injury in 2009.
Ryan was in the team facility early in the day before leaving for an appointment. The team said he may have returned before the end of practice, but did not.
“Matt will be listed as a ‘did not participate in practice for a non-injury related matter,’” team spokesman Brian Cearns said after practice. “Our goal is to make him available to (the media on Wednesday.) The same schedule that it would have been today. There is no other update. … If anything changes, we’ll let you know.”
4. RYAN IN THE PLAYOFFS: Ryan has a postseason quarterback rating of 102.4, the best mark in franchise history and third all-time in the NFL behind two Hall of Famers.
Ryan also holds quarterback franchise records for games played, passing yards and touchdowns.
The only quarterbacks with a higher postseason rating are Bart Starr (104.8) and Kurt Warner (102.8).
Ryan is set to play his 10th career postseason game when the Falcons play at the Eagles in an NFC Divisional playoff game on Saturday.
5. INJURY REPORT: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle) and quarterback Matt Ryan (personal matter) did not practice on Tuesday, according to the team’s official injury report.
The injury report also included tight end Levine Toilolo (knee) as a full participant and running back Devonta Freeman (knee) and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (knee) were limited.
6. ARMSTRONG INTERVIEWED FOR CARDINALS POST: Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong interviewed for the Cardinals’ vacant head coaching position on Monday in Atlanta.
Armstrong interviewed with Arizona president Michael Bidwell and general manager Steve Keim. The Arizona contingent stayed in the city to watch the college national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Cardinals have interviewed their own defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
“As far as Keith Armstrong, yes, he did visit with Arizona this week,” Quinn said. “That’s a great topic for him, but we totally respect how the league’s process goes. Certainly, one where he would make an excellent candidate based on, as a special teams coach, all the influence that you have over an entire team, and he’s an excellent coach.”
7. STOPPING FLETCHER COX: The Falcons’ offensive line has another difficult task this week. After contending with the Rams’ Aaron Donald last week, they must face the Eagles three-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox this week.
“Fletcher is a load,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s getting a lot of double teams. They are trying to slow him down, his pass rush. He’s the leader of that defensive line. He gets the guys going. I have a lot of respect for he and his game and what he can bring to the table. A good player and does a great job for us.”
8. WAY TO GO NAJEE GOODE: Happy for Eagles linebacker Najee Goode, a special teams maven.
He’s the son of childhood friend and football P.A.L. 6 teammate John Goode, who was drafted in the fifth round by the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1984. He played 30 games in the NFL with the Cardinals and Eagles.
His uncle Frank Goode was the center for the Pee-Wee P.A.L. 6 that was quarterbacked by Lightning Led. (We were 5-1-1, Lightning Led was 5-0-1 as the starter after moving to Cleveland from St. Louis and taking over after we dropped the opener.) John Goode went on to play at Youngstown State as a tight end and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1994.
Najee Goode was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by Tampa Bay. After being cut by the Bucs, he’s carved out a niche on the Eagles roster. He’s played in 64 games and made four starts.
“He’s one of our core special teams players,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s been a role player and situational guy at linebacker. He’s really done a nice job for us. Joe Walker was hurt there for a couple of weeks and Najee had to fill in defensive and he did a really good job for us. Yet, his role is special teams and he’s committed to that aspect.”
9. DEPTH CHART: The Falcons released the official depth chart for their divisional round playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which is set for 4:35 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
WR 11 Julio Jones, 14 Justin Hardy, 19 Andre Roberts
LT 70 Jake Matthews, 74 Ty Sambrailo
LG 63 Ben Garland, 64 Sean Harlow
C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland
RG 71 Wes Schweitzer, 75 Jamil Douglas
RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 68 Austin Pasztor
TE 81 Austin Hooper, 80 Levine Toilolo, 85 Eric Saubert
WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 17 Marvin Hall, 15 Nick Williams
QB 2 Matt Ryan, 8 Matt Schaub
RB 24 Devonta Freeman, 26 Tevin Coleman, 28 Terron Ward, 25 Terrence Magee
FB 40 Derrick Coleman
DE 50 Brooks Reed, 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takk McKinley
DT 92 Dontari Poe, 79 Ahtyba Rubin
DT 97 Grady Jarrett
DE 90 Derrick Shelby, 91 Courtney Upshaw
SLB 44 Vic Beasley Jr. , 53 LaRoy Reynolds
MLB 45 Deion Jones, 56 Sean Weatherspoon
WLB 59 De’Vondre Campbell, 42 Duke Riley, 36 Kemal Ishmael
CB 23 Robert Alford, 33 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 34 Brian Poole, 35 Leon McFadden
FS 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Damontae Kazee
SS 22 Keanu Neal, 20 Sharrod Neasman
K 3 Matt Bryant
KO 5 Matt Bosher
P 5 Matt Bosher
KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy
PR 19 Andre Roberts, 18 Taylor Gabriel
LS 47 Josh Harris
H 5 Matt Bosher