Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL playoffs: Eagles overcome wind, Falcons; Patriots rout Titans

PHILADELPHIA — Fly Eagles Fly. With the wind and against it.

With Nick Foles engineering several long drives, Jake Elliott converting three field goals, and the defense getting stingy in the tightest spot, Philadelphia moved into the NFC Championship Game with a 15-10 victory over the Falcons on Saturday.

Foles directed drives of 74 and 80 yards in the second half — one into the whipping wind, the other with it — and Elliott atoned for missing an extra point by converting from 53 yards at the end of the second quarter, and from 37 and 21 in the second half. Then the Eagles (14-3) held when Atlanta (11-7) got to the 9-yard line with a first down, and to the 2 on fourth down.

When Matt Ryan’s final pass sailed through a leaping Julio Jones’ hands in the end zone, Philly celebrated its first playoff victory since the 2008 season.

"I mean, we just kept believing in each other," said Foles (23-of-30, 246 yards), who became the starter when Carson Wentz injured his knee in December. "That was it. Our team never wavered, defense did an amazing job, special teams — that’s just been the story this year is that we just all stuck together."

The top-seeded Eagles embraced their underdog role. All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson wore a dog mask while teammates barked after the game.

"It’s what makes sports fun," Johnson said. "Anything more we can use to motivate us, we’ll use."

Receiver Alshon Jeffery said of Foles: "We never doubted him. We believe in anybody lining up back there at quarterback. We believe we still have 21 other guys out there."

Jones had nine receptions for 101 yards, and Ryan was 22-of-36 for 210 yards.

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who was a force all game, said of Atlanta’s final drive: "Man, just stay calm.’’

Before the final incompletion to Jones, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins had one thought racing through his mind. "This is the season," he told his defensive teammates. "One play. Two yards."

Ryan said of the play: "Certainly in those situations you want to go to your best players. Had an opportunity to Julio. It just didn’t work out."

Receiver Nelson Agholor, a former Berkeley Prep standout, had a 21-yard run on an inside counter that helped set up Philadelphia’s first touchdown.

PATRIOTS DOMINATE: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski achieved milestones as the host and top seed Patriots fell behind 7-0, then scored 35 straight and rolled past the Titans 35-14. Brady had his 10th playoff game with three or more passing touchdowns, passing Joe Montana for the most in NFL history. It’s the 21st time Brady has thrown for at least two touchdowns in a postseason game, extending his record. Gronkowski’s 10th postseason touchdown tied five others for third all time. It’s the most for a tight end. He also moved into second all time for a tight end with 835 postseason receiving yards, passing Keith Jackson. He trails Dallas Clark. "A great team win overall,’’ Gronkowski said. Tennessee opened the scoring on Marcus Mariota’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis, who made a one-handed catch in the end zone. Mariota added an 11-yard TD pass with 1:55 left to play.

49ERS: Linebacker Reuben Foster is free on bond after his arrest Friday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on a charge of second-degree possession of marijuana. The team said it is gathering facts in the incident involving the 2017 first-round pick out of Alabama.

SEAHAWKS: Brian Schottenheimer will be named offensive coordinator, according to reports. In nine NFL seasons as a coordinator, with the Jets and Rams, the former UF backup quarterback’s units ranked as a top-10 scoring offense once.

TEXANS: Brian Gaine was hired as general manager, getting a five-year deal, and coach Bill O’Brien had his contract extended four years through 2022. Gaine has 19 years of NFL personnel experience. This season he was Bills VP of player personnel.

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