There have been many who say that the Falcons did not "deserve" their 35-31 victory over the Eagles on Sunday night. While Michael Vick missing the fourth quarter and of course the questionable Kelvin Hayden interception definitely altered the course of this game, at the end of the day you'll take a win however ugly it may be.
But should we really be blaming the Eagles for losing a game they seemingly had well in hand? Or should we be lauding what was actually some very good offensive game planning against a defense that many consider to be one of the most talented in the league? Let's dive into exactly how the Falcons were able to finally top the "Dream Team"...
First off, you'll remember that the Falcons were able to put together a couple of key drives late in the game, mostly thanks to Matt Ryan's ability to run the no-huddle. Here's what Smitty had to say on the subject:
I think what started quick for us was we got into our no-huddle offense. We were able to do that. We wanted to do it earlier in the football game; we just couldn't because of field position. Behind in the field position battle going into the third quarter was something we talked about doing at halftime and making that adjustment. We didn't really get a chance to get into it until the fourth quarter.
Field position. Perhaps now is when we realize the importance of Matt Bosher averaging 35.6 yards per punt. And of course, let's not forget Eric Weems letting the ball roll all the way down to the one-yard line, which not only almost led to a safety but also limited the no-huddle and the spread. So for those desperately wondering why Mike Mularkey stuck with Turner-reliant offensive packages for so long, that's at least part of the answer.
The other part involved what the Eagles were doing on defense. As we all know, Philly went all gung-ho on cornerbacks, bringing in two great ones (Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie) as well as beefing up the defensive line. Apparently, GM Howie Roseman doesn't believe linebackers are all that important. Wrong, Mr. Roseman!
The Falcons actually employed a simple strategy: to keep Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie off the field and take advantage of a fairly weak linebacking corps, Atlanta ran several offensive sets that featured Ovie Mughelli and two tight ends. This effectively kept the likes of Casey Matthews and Moise Fokou on the field more than the Eagles would have liked.
Mularkey then would either call Turner's number against a mediocre run-defense or have Ryan get the ball out to the big man Tony Gonzalez. The Eagles were at a downright size disadvantage: neither the linebackers nor starting safeties Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman could effectively cover Gonzalez all game. The logic is simple: if you're Ryan, why try to pass against Nnamdi Asomugha when you can pick on Casey Matthews?
As the game wore on and special teams was actually able to provide the offense with some good field position, we then finally saw the no-huddle in all its glory. You can blame it on luck or injury, but when the Falcons put up 35 points on the Eagles during a very sub-par game, clearly the coaching staff was doing something right.
Still, here's to hoping Mularkey doesn't start returning to his old ways.