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Holding onto a slim four-point lead with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles offense took over with Mike Kafka at the helm. To this blogger's horror, Kafka was surprisingly effective. With the help of a bunch of a few screen passes, he was able to guide the Eagles all the way down to the Atlanta 21 at the time of the two-minute warning.
The Falcons came up with a big stop on third down, courtesy of an exemplary wrap-up tackle by Chris Owens, and the Eagles trotted out to go for it on fourth down. On a night where Jeremy Maclin absolutely shredded the Falcons defense, the Falcons come up with a huge fourth down stop that all but seals the Falcons victory.
And then, Mike Smith does something that shall forever confuse this Falcons fan. Instead of trying to run for the first down with Michael Turner, one of the best backs in the league, Smith elected to kneel the ball three times and punt the ball away with 0:15 left in the game. Keep in mind that Matt Bosher is not a very good punter and DeSean Jackson is one of the best return men in the league. Just something worth pointing out.
Still, a win is a win. Better yet, a win over a very good football team in the Eagles has the Falcons back on track in this 2011 season. Breathe easy, folks. Now is the time to bask in the glow of tonight's win. It's great to see the Falcons "are who we thought they were." Full, glorious recap to come tomorrow.
The Falcons began this last, crucial quarter of football on a third-and-12, but a great completion to Tony Gonzalez by Ryan bailed the Falcons out and kept their hopes alive. Three plays later, a fantastic third-down catch by Julio Jones really kept things moving and really lit the fire under his Falcons teammates.
Atlanta would then come up with a crucial score, responding to 21 unanswered points by the Eagles, on a short TD pass to Ovie Mughelli. That would be Matt Ryan's fourth of the night, and brought the Falcons to within a field goal of tying the Eagles. With Mike Kafka in at quarterback, the game is in the Falcons' hands at this point.
So, the Eagles took over with a three-point lead, and (surprise) continued to hand it off to LeSean McCoy. Tackling wasn't at its best here, and time after time McCoy has been able to turn nothing into a solid gain. Not good news for the Falcons was Corey Peters, who was slow to get up and taken off the field with some sort of injury. Hopefully he hasn't reaggravated that knee injury he suffered in preseason, though it wouldn't surprise me if that was the case.
However, the game continued on, and Curtis Lofton made a great third-down stop that got the Falcons defense off the field. If the Eagles had scored with Mike Kafka, I would have been severely disappointed.
A holding penalty on the next drive had the Falcons on a first-and-17, but right when we needed him Turner The BURNA busted out for a 61-yard run that ended at the Philly 26-yard line. The offense was in business, and a few plays later found themselves deep in the redzone. Then on a first-and-goal at the three, Turner finished what he started running it in for his first score of the night.
All of a sudden the Falcons have put up 14 unanswered points and hold their first lead since very early in the third quarter. With under five minutes to go on this, the Falcons are up 35-31 on the Eagles. Time to close this one out!
Not sure if this is good news for Michael Vick or not, but the injury that knocked him out of the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Atlanta Falcons is being called a neck injury, not a concussion. He appeared alert while moving to the sidelines and being checked out by medical personnel, so a concussion might've been something of a surprise.
A minor neck injury would permit Vick to return to the game if he's able, while any sort of a concussion would rule him out for the rest of the night.
Vick suffered the injury when a blitzing William Moore spun him into an Eagles lineman. He hit face-first and was seen spitting up blood on his way to Philly's sideline. Mike Kafka took over in relief, as backup Vince Young is inactive for this game.
So instead of responding to two consecutive Eagles touchdowns, Matt Ryan got happy feet and couldn't move the chains at all. The Eagles took over, and Dunta Robinson did his whole "I'm gonna hit you with my helmet" skit that resulted in a big penalty and likely a fine for the Falcons cornerback. Fortunately, the defense held up, and Curtis Lofton almost had a pick-six. On a pretty high-scoring night, Mike Vick has not looked his best at times.
But on the ensuing punt, Eric Weems made a crucial mistake by not calling for a fair catch, which then allowed the ball to roll all the way to the one-yard line. A near-safety on third down and a horrible punt by Matt Bosher gave the Eagles great field position at the Atlanta 18-yard line. You heard right: Bosher didn't even hit that punt 30 yards.
Lots of stuff happened after that. On a third-down passing play that went for an Eagles first down, Vick was hit by a blitzing Williams Moore and subsequently was knocked to the ground by his own offensive lineman. He was seen spitting up blood, and was taken to the locker room a few plays later.
So, the great Mike Kafka came in, and as expected the Eagles relied on LeSean McCoy to punch it in for their third touchdown of the third quarter. The Falcons could've forced a field goal, but a very questionable roughing the passer call gave the Eagles a free first down inside the three.
On the drive that followed, failed pass protection again allowed Ryan to get knocked around. The Falcons need to give him more time in the pocket, lest they'd prefer seeing him end up like Vick. With the Falcons down 10, it'll all come down to the offense in the final quarter of this game. With Mike Kafka now in at quarterback, that should hopefully make that task a little easier. Hopefully...
Update: It's being called a neck injury.
The Atlanta Falcons defense has had one primary objective in this game: hit Michael Vick. He's been hit a lot, and one of those pops knocked him out of the game late in the third quarter. A blitzing William Moore slung Vick face-first into an Eagles offensive lineman. He stood on the sidelines and watched a few plays before being taken to the Georgia Dome locker room.
On the way out, he pointed to the scoreboard in response to booing Falcons fans, the second time he's gestured with his fingers at Atlanta's fans during his NFL career (via @bubbaprog):
With backup Vince Young out for the game, this means third-stringer Mike Kafka is now in charge of Philly's offense. He's good at handing the ball off to LeSean McCoy and drawing iffy roughing the passer calls.
Vick was spotted by NBC's cameras spitting blood as he walked to the sidelines. It's definitely some sort of injury to his head or neck, with some speculating it's a concussion.
As we begin the second half, it's interesting to note that Matt Ryan only has 53 passing yards in this first half despite having two TD throws. The Falcons need to give him more time in the pocket going forward if they want to win this game.
Having said that, on the opening possession of the half Ryan was sacked right off the bat, this time by Jason Babin. The Falcons quickly went three-and-out, which isn't quite the way I envisioned the Falcons beginning this second half.
However, Atlanta's fortunes were turned around, and very quickly at that. On the Eagle's first offensive play of the half, an errant Michael Vick pass somehow found its way into the hands of waiting Kelvin Hayden. There was some contention as to whether the ball came out of Hayden's hands, but there was no challenge and the game carried on. That last-minute signing is looking an awful lot better, considering Chris Owens' sub-par performance against Chicago.
It didn't take long for the Falcons to take advantage of that turnover either. Only two plays later, Matt Ryan would connect with Tony Gonzalez on a 17-yard TD pass, Gonzo's second of the night. That gave the Falcons a 21-10 lead early in this second half.
The Eagles, however, would quickly respond with a score of their own on the ensuing drive. LeSean McCoy, who was almost non-existent in the first half, broke off for a 23-yard run. That was followed with a 36-yard catch-and-run to Jeremy Maclin shortly thereafter that cut the Falcons' lead to 21-17.
And then on the first play of the very next possession was Atlanta's worst nightmare: another Falcons turnover. Asante Samuel made a spectacular interception that looked as if it may have hit the turn. Mike Smith challenged, but all was for nought. The Eagles took over, and with great field position they very quickly scored again.
What was once an 11-point lead vanished in the matter of mere minutes. The Falcons absolutely cannot allow the Eagles to gain any sort of offensive momentum. Even more so, they have to take care of the ball. The offense will have to respond big time on the upcoming drive. Eagles lead 24-21.
As the Eagles pushed all the way down to the Falcons eight-yard line, it looked as if the defense had come up with a fortunate stop as DeSean Jackson dropped a third-down pass in the endzone. But wouldn't you know it, John Abraham was called offsides and Philly got a free first down. Unfortunate timing, to say the least.
Then on second-and-goal, one of either Brent Grimes or Dunta Robinson completely blew their coverage assignment, leaving Jeremy Maclin wide open for the score. Still, the defense has looked downright dominant against the run and have also gotten good pressure on Mike Vick at times.
However, some great coverage courtesy of that vaunted Eagles secondary snuffed out any chances of putting a drive together very quickly. Nnamdi Asomugha showed why he's considered the best in the league with some absolutely flawless coverage of Julio Jones on third-down.
The Falcons punted from their own 16, but a pretty weak kick by Matt Bosher gave the Eagles some great starting field position. Then after giving up a 29-yard pass to Jason Avant on third down, the Falcons defense came up huge in the red zone and limited Philly to an Alex Henery field goal. Ray Edwards had Mike Vick all alone in the backfield, which in turn caused an ill-advised throw that was tipped by Curtis Lofton and nearly picked off.
After a very forgettable Falcons possession that was ended by (guess what) a third-down sack of Matt Ryan, the Eagles began their drive with (very lucky) 24-yard strike to Brent Celek. Vance Walker was in Vick's face and Celek somehow managed to reel in a one-handed catch. A third-down run by Vick gave the Eagles a first-and-goal, and with the Eagles poised to go up by two scores the Falcons looked as if their backs were against the wall.
Ray Edwards had other plans. Peria Jerry showed off that explosiveness by getting in the backfield almost immediately, forcing Vick to fumble the handoff. Keeping his wits about him, Edwards took advantage of this prime opportunity by scooping up that fumble and returning it for 64 yards, all the way to the Philadelphia 24-yard line.
So, the Falcons offense took over at the two-minute warning with fantastic field position, looking to take the lead in this highly contested game before the half. With only 50 seconds left in the half on a third-and-three inside the Philadelphia five-yard line, Matt Ryan found Tony Gonzalez in the back of the endzone for a spectacular tip-toe TD catch. I'm serious: Gonzo went way up and somehow got both feet down for what is probably the best catch in this short season.
And then we got to see some good, old-fashioned vintage Michael Vick football. On a play where the Falcons only rushed three, Vick looked to make a play with his feet but was subsequently stripped by John Abraham. Matt Ryan promptly followed up that turnover with one of his own, and showed the rest of the league why you don't try to throw against Nnamdi Asomugha. Seriously Matty, think of him as meth: Not Even Once.
The Eagles then tried for a 63-yard field goal which unsurprisingly came up short. That effectively ended the first half, with Atlanta holding a slim 14-10 lead going forward. You have to really credit the defense so far in this one: only 10 points allowed and two turnovers is a far cry from last week's debacle. These are the real Falcons, folks.
The Falcons defense stepped up early, and it didn't take much longer for the offense to follow suit. On only the second possession of the game, Ryan and the gang took advantage of some favorable field position, courtesy of Eric Weems, and marched all the way down the field for a score.
You can actually credit Mike Mularkey for this one (shocking, I know). He made some great play selections, giving Philly a healthy dose of Michael Turner while mixing in a few of his typical short, controlled passes that went to Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. Then on third-and-goal, Matt Ryan found Roddy in the back of the endzone for a tiptoe catch and a score, the first of the game and the Falcons' first offensive touchdown of the season.
As the first quarter comes to a close, Michael Vick and the Eagles offense are now on the move and will look to provide an answer to the Ryan's TD pass. Falcons lead 7-0.
This is the big one, folks! The Falcons will have their backs against the wall as they take on Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles in their home opener of the 2011 season. It won't be easy, and the Falcons have several areas they can improve upon following that disaster of a game last week in Chicago.
Well, Vick & Co. started out with the ball, and the Falcons quickly put an end to any hope of a quick score for Philly. After a quick first down completion to DeSean Jackson, the Eagles turned to LeSean McCoy, but the Atlanta defense put their feet in the ground and forced a punt, including a big stop on third down by Sean Weatherspoon. Spoon wasn't going to have any of that in his house.
In a similar theme from last week's game, the Falcons began their first drive with promise. There was much speculation that the Eagles would see a heavy dose of The Burner, Michael Turner. A not too promising third-and-12 then became a beautiful 15-yard completion to Julio Jones. Things were looking good.
But then on a third-and-5 at about midfield, Cullen Jenkins completely overwhelmed new starter Garrett Reynolds and nailed Matt Ryan for a sack. I'd also like to mention that there was crystal clear helmet-to-helmet contact on the play, and yet no flag. Alas, the evil referees strike again.
So, the Eagles took over on offense for the second time, and the defense continued to look strong early, forcing the completely unstoppable "Dream Team" offense to a three-and-out. Sean Weatherspoon again was all over the field.
This was followed up by a nice 19-yard punt return by Eric Weems. Now, its time for the offense to step up. As we stand, this Sunday night matchup remains scoreless with six minutes left in the first quarter.
Michael Vick returns to Atlanta in an early season nail-biter, Cam Newton faces his first non-Arizona defense, and Indianapolis is a home underdog - to Cleveland. Your bookie eagerly welcomes you to the NFL's second week.
Tonight we see the most intriguing match-up of the week on NBC Sunday Night Football (8:20 pm ET) as the Atlanta Falcons welcome home Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles to try and determine which team belongs in the discussion as one of the top teams in the NFC.
Without a doubt the biggest story line for Sunday's game is Michael Vick, who will return to the Georgia Dome for the first time as a starter since his unceremonious exit from the Falcons following the 2006 season. While Vick has been back once since becoming a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, it remains to be seen how the home crowd will react to him. While the organization has moved on and had success with Matt Ryan under center there's still a very definite group of fans who still hold Vick in high regard. I think it's safe to say we'll still see a fair share of Michael Vick Falcon jerseys in the stands on Sunday night.
Both teams have been bitten with the injury bug as Atlanta will be without starting center Todd McClure and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, while Philadelphia could be without cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who is currently listed as 'questionable'. It's hard to know which of these players means the most to their respective teams, but I'm leaning towards Jonathan Babineaux who would have been a huge benefit to helping contain Vick.
For Atlanta the key to the game will be to stop the Eagles' big play ability. This means both keeping Michael Vick from getting big gains through the air and with his feet, while also keeping LeSean McCoy in check. As McCoy showed last week vs St. Louis he can break a big run on any occasion. His 49 yard run last week was the highlight of a game filled with great running as he finished the game with a 8.1 YPC average.
Meanwhile for Philadelphia it will be vital that they don't overlook the Falcons Sunday night. Atlanta's game against Chicago last week is by no way indicative of their skill, and if the Eagles move forward thinking any less of the Falcons then they could very well be setting themselves up for a loss on the national stage. Furthermore, they'll need their offensive line to step up and protect Vick who they allowed to be hit an inordinate amount of times against the Rams. They will see two very talented defensive ends in John Abraham and Ray Edwards, and will be in for a definite test.
While Las Vegas is fairly certain the Eagles will win on Sunday, NFL experts aren't quite as convinced. The dissent among experts and fans alike shows just how fluid this game between two of the NFC's top teams will be. It's easy to see how one could be in two minds about which way this game will go; on the one hand you have the Falcons who on paper looks to be one of the top three teams in the NFC, while on the other you have the Eagles in the exact same situation.
What further muddies the water when trying to look at these teams is that both were fairly lackluster in their week one contests. The Eagles were able to win their game, but they weren't nearly as dominant as pundits had predicted, and while the box score may not reflect it the game was closer than it appeared. The same can be said for what happened in Chicago, as five turnovers off fumbles sunk the Falcons. We're left with two teams and we're not 100% sure what they can bring to the table yet in 2011.
Over on ESPN we have all but one expert (Marcus Allen) predicting a win by the Falcons. The Accuscore gives the Falcons a 52% chance of winning, while the fan vote is currently trending towards the Eagles.
Away from the four-letter-network it's a different story, where at CBS 3/5 experts are predicting an Eagles win.
Finally we have Peter King, whose feelings on the game mirror my own
this feels like an upset pick. I just think it's a backs-against-the-wall game for Atlanta, for a lot of reasons. They can't have Mike Vick come into his old house and own it, and Matt Ryan has to prove he can take the pressure of a game like this.
When it's all said and done I just think the Falcons have more to play for on Sunday night. While the Philadelphia may be looking to solidify their place as a 'dream team', Atlanta are playing for pride and trying to prove that they are still a part of the NFC elite. When these game arise it's normally teams in the Falcons' position who wind up on top.
Not much has changed in regards to the Falcons' projected success against their week two opponents, as the Phildelphia Eagles remain anywhere from 1- to 3-point favorites in this Sunday night matchup. With the loss of Jonathan Babineaux, now coupled with Todd McClure also officially being ruled out of this week's game, the Falcons will walk into the Georgia Dome on Sunday night a little wounded, both in pride and player.
For the Falcons, there's no way to sugar-coat this: last week's performance against the Chicago Bears was U-G-L-Y. In terms of what everyone, including the players and coaches, expects of this team, another stinker like that simply won't fly given how talented of a team the Falcons possess. Another loss would, in the eyes of the national media, be a serious blow to their legitimacy as Super Bowl contenders.
However, should the Falcons come away with victory this Atlanta team has everything to gain. A win would put both losses to Green Bay and Chicago behind them, hopefully providing some closure to a disappointing playoff run in 2010. By winning, the Falcons would also prove that this team can finally beat the Eagles. Mike Smith has yet to outsmart Andy Reid as a head coach.
And finally, lest we forget, Michael Vick will be returning to Atlanta just as he left: a starter, a Pro Bowl player, a $100 million quarterback. Never has a city had so much love for their player as Atlanta had for No. 7, and never has a player (whose head was clearly not in the right place) cared so little about his fan base. It should be interesting to see his reception in the Georgia Dome, to say the least.
As for this matchup, the Falcons are 20-2 at home under Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. Both are highly talented, championship-caliber teams that look to provide must-see TV in what will be a close week two matchup.
If there's one saving grace to the Falcons' injury report this week, it's the potential return of DT Corey Peters. In the wake of Jonathan Babineaux's knee injury Peters' limited participation in today's practice should hopefully result in having at least one starting defensive tackle on the field Sunday night.
WEEK 2 INJURY REPORT
DNP- C Todd McClure (knee)
DNP- DT Johnathan Babineaux (knee)
DNP- WR Harry Douglas (concussion)
DNP- CB Chris Owens (ankle)
DNP- FB Ovie Mughelli (knee)
Limited- DT Corey Peters (knee)
Full- WR Roddy White (knee)
As it stands, the aforementioned Babineaux is the only player who is guaranteed to miss the game vs. Philadelphia, even though the organization is only committing to a 'DNP' at this time.
There's nothing unusual about having 5 non-participating players mid week, however for the Falcons these names carry some weight. The absence of Todd McClure last week weakened the interior line allowing for the Bears' DEs to have free reign, and while replacement Joe Hawley played well he doesn't hold a candle to the stalwart McClure.
Harry Douglas will be of great importance Sunday, especially if Philadelphia CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie misses the game (he failed to practice today). Having Douglas on the field should help alleviate some of the pressure on Matt Ryan giving him another option when his primary targets will be covered by the nightmare duo of Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel.
If Ovie Mughelli can't play there are reports Jason Snelling will fill in at FB. Though he is a large tailback, he really doesn't have the blocking acumen that Ovie has. If this is paired with Hawley at center it could severely limit the effectiveness of Michael Turner, especially as he deals with a defensive front that features Cullen Jenkins
While it's too early to make any determinations on Chris Owens' condition I think most would agree that he's the least significant loss on this list. At this point Kelvin Hayden should be ready to go, a represents a definite talent upgrade at the nickel.
It appears Las Vegas has lost some faith in the Atlanta Falcons this week following the loss to Chicago, coupled with the injury to Jonathan Babineaux. As it stands the Philadephia Eagles are ranging anywhere from 1.5 to 3 point favorites, despite being on the road in the Georgia Dome.
While Sunday night's game will definitely be a major test for the Falcons, I think bookies are being a little too harsh on Atlanta. Granted, the game against the Bears was ugly for a variety of reasons, but this is still a team with an immense amount of talent, and it's highly unlikely the ball will bounce their opponent's way five times on five different fumbles, as it did against Chicago.
In the over/under, odds-makers are predicting a high scoring affair setting the mark at 49½ points. While Michael Vick may have been overreaching when he described his Sunday performance vs. St. Louis as 'lights out', he knows the turf in the Georgia Dome well. This should be an incredibly fast paced game that should suit Philadelphia's play style, but don't count out Matt Ryan who will stretch the field far more at home.
The national spotlight may be shining on Michael Vick and his 'dream team', but this is a statement game for the Atlanta Falcons. Not only in terms of coming out and sending a message to one of the top teams in the NFC, but to send a message to the football world that last week in Chicago was an aberration. In these situations where the lines are close I tend to look at who has the most to lose, and who wants to win the most. In both cases I keep coming back to the Atlanta Falcons. Under Mike Smith this team is 20-2 at home, let that sink in... I sure wouldn't want to bet against them.
As if the Falcons weren't already thin enough at at defensive tackle, it has been reported that Jonathan Babineaux will be out of action for the next 3-5 weeks due to a partial MCL tear suffered during week one's matchup against the Chicago Bears. In a brief statement, Babineaux's agent Jack Bechta mentioned that he fully expects U.S.S. Babs to make an on-time recovery.
For the Falcons, this is exactly the type of news they didn't want to hear. Babineaux is without a doubt the best D-tackle on the team, and his injury comes with Corey Peters still yet to have made his return from a knee injury suffered during training camp. Without his ability to provide pressure inside, this looks to be a huge blow to the Falcons defense.
As for replacements, if Peters is not able to return this week Vance Walker will most likely fill in as the starter opposite of Peria Jerry whilst Babineaux recovers. I also wouldn't be surprised for the Falcons to bring in a veteran backup sometime soon, considering there are now only three completely healthy tackles on the roster (*knocks on wood).
With this week's matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles looming, Mike Smith will have to employ some creative gameplanning in order to give this banged up line a fighting chance.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.
You all knew it was coming. Last year the Falcons thought they would get a chance to redeem themselves against Michael Vick, only see the Eagles pull the switcheroo on us and send out Kevin Kolb. One injured Dunta Robinson later, and we all remember how that agonizing game turned out.
However, this season's Sunday night matchup with the Eagles looks to be even more interesting because apparently "the Dream Team" is the single best football team ever to be assembled. If the Falcons can even manage to get a first down against Philly's vaunted linebacking corps of Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, and Moise Fokou I'll be impressed.
Record: 10-6, NFC East Champions, lost to Packers in the Wild Card round
Last Meeting: Week 6, 2010 (Falcons lost 17-31)
Notable Additions: CB Nnamdi Asomugha, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DE Jason Babin, DL Cullen Jenkins, QB Vince Young, RB Ronnie Brown, WR Steve Smith
Notable Losses: LB Stewart Bradley, QB Kevin Kolb, S Quentin Mikell, K David Akers, G Nick Cole
Regardless of how I or anyone else may feel about the Eagles, the Falcons will certainly be put to the test early on this season. Nnamdi Asomugha is the best cornerback in the league, that much is true. They're not the '07 Patriots, but the Eagles still look to be a very good football team.
However, one thing to remember about the Eagles is that they somewhat cooled off towards the end of 2010. Teams started pressuring Vick, getting to him with the blitz and forcing him to make bad plays. The offensive line, while solid, isn't exactly stacked either. If the Falcons pass rushers can get to Vick and Brian VanGorder has finally figured out how to scheme against a mobile QB, the Philly offense can be contained.
Also remember that with so many new players and such a short offseason, I feel like there's bound to be some sloppy play early on for the Eagles. Either that, or we'll be commending their players for learning a new system in little over a month.
Finally, the Falcons get to face the Eagles at home this time. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have gone an astonishing 20-2 over the past three years at home. Come Sunday night, the Dome will be rocking and Matthews the Younger won't find it quite as easy to call out the defenses. We might start to see some chinks in the Eagles' collective armor.
While the Bears will be a tough matchup, I feel like this game against the Eagles could be the year's defining moment, as it will dictate both national attention and how the rest of the season plays out. Ray Edwards, this will be the game where Atlanta needs you the most.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.
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