PHILADELPHIA — The top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles will compete in their first playoff game in four years when they host the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional round Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles lost MVP candidate Oliver Ekman-Larsson Jersey , quarterback Carson Wentz, down the stretch but still managed to finish 13-3 and earn the No. 1 seed with backup Nick Foles. Ironically, Foles was the quarterback in 2013 when the Eagles fell to the New Orleans Saints 26-24.
The Falcons received the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC, then promptly traveled to the West Coast and defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 in the wild-card round.
Philadelphia became the first No. 1 seed to open as an underdog in the playoffs. In the last two regular-season games, the offense sputtered under Foles with a 19-10 win over the Oakland Raiders and a 6-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Foles did sit out the majority of the regular season finale against the Cowboys.
“Yeah, there’s going to be wonder,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said when asked how his team will respond in the postseason. “But I’m going to tell you, ‘Listen, these guys are football players.’ I think sometimes the outside, whether it be the media, the fans, can make it bigger than it really is. When you boil it down, it’s football at the end of the day. It’s football at the end of the day. Just go do your job.
“Do what you’ve been coached to do all week long and give it your best effort on Saturday. If it’s good enough, great. If it’s not, then we focus on next season.”
Foles was 4 of 11 for 39 yards and an interception against the Cowboys and struggled to throw the ball downfield. Third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld was 19 of 23 for 134 yards, but the Eagles have repeatedly made it clear that Foles is the starter.
“As much as we and everybody else wants to run the football, you have to be able to stay aggressive in the pass game and get the ball down the field,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Nick has proven that over the length and entirety of his career. He not only can get the ball downfield, he can do so very well. He wants to throw the ball downfield. He’s aggressive in his mindset, as aggressive a guy as I’ve been around. He’s looking to throw it down the field. Some guys are the dink-and-dunk kind of guys. That’s not Nick. Nick is aggressive.
“So we need to be good in the run game and be able to mix in our play-action, take our shots down the field, keep the defense off guard and keep them guessing and that starts with good production on first down,” Reich added.
The Falcons, who finished the regular season at 10-6 Richard Panik Jersey , are preparing for their second road playoff game. Quarterback Matt Ryan (personal reasons) and wide receiver Julio Jones (ankle, ribs) both missed practice Tuesday but are expected to start on Saturday.
Ryan was 21 of 30 for 218 yards and a touchdown in the 13-point win over the Rams. It was his first road playoff win in three starts.
“We’re not here just to get here,” Ryan told reporters. “We want to make noise while we’re here. This is what it’s all about. It’s about giving yourself the opportunity this time of the year to compete and play in games like this, and to win games like this.”
Ryan led Atlanta to the Super Bowl last season in what wound up being a heartbreaking overtime loss to the New England Patriots. He was able to guide the Falcons back to the postseason once again.
“He’s a hell of a competitor, and those of you that know him know the nice guy you see through the media, but in between those white lines, he is a wolf,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn told ESPN.com. “I love what he stands for as a competitor, and his teammates know that, too. I thought there’s all sorts of examples, getting hit and bouncing back up, getting ready for the next one. He really showed that kind of toughness to his teammates.”
Ryan, who was raised in nearby Exton, Pa., and attended Penn Charter High School — is 1-3 all-time against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
The Falcons forced a pair of huge fumbles and turned them into 10 points against the Rams. Kicker Matt Bryant also booted four field goals.
“We know that they’re a good team, and we know that they beat us last year,” Atlanta free safety Ricardo Allen told ESPN.com of the Eagles. “We know we’re going to have to go there and fight.”
When Brewers pitchers went over the strengths and weaknesses of Cincinnati’s hitters to prepare for their series, they included reliever Michael Lorenzen in the mix.
They need to do more studying.
Lorenzen hit the second grand slam by a Reds pitcher in a week – and his third homer in his last three at-bats – as Cincinnati pulled away to a 12-3 victory Saturday, ending a seven-game losing streak against Milwaukee.
Lorenzen’s pinch-hit grand slam off Jacob Barnes in the seventh inning completed an eight-run rally, Cincinnati’s biggest of the season. Lorenzen’s fifth career homer drew a curtain call from the crowd of 24,640.
”It was a surreal feeling, for sure,” Lorenzen said. ”I love this game and everything about it.”
It was the reliever’s second homer in the series. He also had a solo shot Friday during Milwaukee’s 8-2 win.
”The guy’s swinging the bat really well, that’s for sure Shane Doan Jersey ,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. ”We treat him as a position player. We covered him in scouting meetings. We’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
One week earlier, Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani hit a grand slam off Cubs left-hander Brian Duensing at Great American Ball Park.
Lorenzen avoided the temptation to swing at a slider, and then hit a fastball deep to left field.
”The Reds have always put together some good-hitting pitchers, going back to Travis Wood and those guys,” Brewers catcher Erik Kratz said. ”You have to know who those guys are and where they want the ball and not throw it there.”
Tyler Mahle struck out a career-high 12 batters in 5 2/3 innings, three shy of the Reds’ rookie record. David Hernandez (3-0) pitched the top of the seventh.
The Reds fanned 18 batters, a club record for a nine-inning game.
The Brewers’ depleted bullpen couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the seventh. Cincinnati’s first eight batters reached safely against three relievers, with left-hander Mike Zagurski (0-1) taking the loss in his first major league appearance since 2013.
The NL Central leaders also were missing two starting position players. Christian Yelich left Thursday’s game with back tightness, and Ryan Braun came out of Friday’s game with the same issue. Counsell said Braun could be available on Sunday.
Eric Thames homered off Mahle, his 14th home run in 22 career games against Cincinnati. Thames hit 10 last year, the most by a Brewers player against the Reds in one season.
The last pinch-hit grand slam by a Reds player came from Chris Heisey on April 13, 2014, against Tampa Bay. Lorenzen’s three homers this season are the most by a Reds pitcher since Micah Owings had three in 2009. The last major league pitcher to homer in three straight at-bats was Colorado’s Mike Hampton in 2001.
In the last eight days, Reds pitchers have produced four homers – three by Lorenzen, one by DeSclafani. For the season, Lorenzen is 4 for 6 with three homers and six RBIs.
Mahle’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a Reds pitcher since Amir Garrett also fanned 12 Orioles on April 19, 2017. The club record for strikeouts by a rookie is 15 by Gary Nolan on June 7, 1967, against the Giants.
With the game out of hand, Kratz moved to the mound for the eighth inning – his third career pitching appearance – and gave up a pair of runs.
”I’d rather catch nine innings and do high-fives,” he said.
The Reds sent minor league catcher Joe Hudson to the Angels for cash. The 27-year-old Hudson has never played in the majors. He batted .235 with no homers and three RBIs in 16 games for Triple-A Louisville this season.
Brewers: RHP Zach Davies had a setback in what was expected to be his final minor league rehab assignment as he recovers from a sore shoulder. He lasted only three innings and gave up 10 runs and three hits for Class A Wisconsin on Friday night, leaving after just 48 pitches because of a sore back.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey will make his fourth rehab start Tuesday for Triple-A Louisville. He’s been sidelined since June 2 because of a sore right knee. Bailey is 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA.
Brewers: Freddy Peralta (3-0) makes his fifth start. The Brewers are 4-0 in his starts. Opponents are batting .093 against the right-hander.
Reds: Matt Harvey (3-5) makes his 10th start for the Reds, who got him from the Mets in a trade for catcher Devin Mesoraco on May 8. Harvey has allowed six runs in his last three starts spanning 17 2/3 innings.