Falcons fend off hungry Eagles

AP Photo/Mel Evans

“They’re miserable people, and now their football team is miserable, too.” – Chris Dimino, on the Atlanta Falcons Postgame Show

The Atlanta Falcons had plenty of reasons to lose this one.

It had been 24 years since the Philadelphia Eagles had lost to Atlanta in Philly, but the Falcons finally broke the streak with a 30-17 victory on Sunday. It was Eagles head coach Andy Reid’s first career loss when coming off a bye-week, and it was a day of statement-making for both franchises.

For the Falcons, it was a sign that their success could finally be elevating to the next level. It extended their best start in franchise history, now seven consecutive wins, and it was quarterback Matt Ryan’s fifteenth career game with three or more touchdown passes. The Falcons have won all 15 of those games.

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The Eagles also showed the world they are dead in the water, figuratively speaking. They showed little life from the get-go, and they stumbled through their first game since defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired, showing maybe it wasn’t his fault after all.

Falcons fans have to be energized by this victory, because it might have been their best win of the 2012 campaign to date. Philly had a lot to prove coming into this game, and it was assumed that they’d start quickly and try to knock the Falcons down, early and often. Instead, the Falcons took the ball to start the game and embarked on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a touchdown, eight minutes and 44 seconds after it began.

Atlanta couldn’t afford to start slowly in a hostile environment, and they executed their game plan to perfection by controlling the clock — the Eagles held the ball for less than two minutes in the entire first quarter — and tacking on touchdowns in each of their first three possessions.

Now, time to address the concerns. While the Falcons scored points in each of their first six possessions of the game, they failed to put the Eagles away in the fourth quarter. Leading 27-10 at the end of the third quarter, Atlanta could have left their foot on the gas pedal and pulled away from the Eagles, yet they only managed to put three points on the board in the final period of the game.

Call it complacency if you want, but head coach Mike Smith will need to keep his players focused for all four quarters, and his offense needs to put together a complete game going forward.

The defense couldn’t force a single turnover against a very clumsy Philadelphia offense, but they continued to make plays at key times. That side of the ball needs to get more opportunistic, but they deserve credit for putting pressure on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and, for the most part, making sure tackles instead of going for big hits.

Ryan continued his MVP campaign with another impressive performance. He threw for 262 yards, had a quarterback rating of 137.4 and only had seven incompletions all day. Julio Jones led the way with 123 receiving yards and a long touchdown reception. On the defensive side, keep an eye out for an injury report on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who left the game with an ankle injury. If he misses time, it would be a massive blow to the defense, as he is their de facto captain on the field.

The Falcons return home to play on the national stage next Sunday night, as the Dallas Cowboys come to town for a matchup at the Georgia Dome. Based on what we’ve seen from both teams so far, Falcons fans have every right to expect another victory next weekend.

Congratulations are in order for Smith, who won game No. 50 as head coach of the Falcons. He is now the winningest coach in Atlanta Falcons history.

The records continue to fall, which is a sign that this team can do something special. But they have a long way to go, and anything can happen in the final two months of the regular season.

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