Whew. There was so much going on during Atlanta’s wild 35-31 victory on Sunday night, we need to take a second look.
Here are eleven takeaways from the fun:
1. Mike Kakfa probably showed enough in a quarter to be the starter next week should Michael Vick miss any time with his concussion. Consider that many Philly writers (and their sources) thought Kafka out-played Vince Young in camp. Young hasn’t practiced fully in weeks because of his hamstring injury. Kafka knows the offense better.
2. Life without Vick is painful for the Eagles to think about. But it comes with the Vick package. Vick has been hit hard repeatedly in both of his starts this year. In this game, he took his shots mostly when he was in the pocket.
The recipe to beat Philly: beat Vick up.
3. The Eagles showed why they are so dangerous, even in a losing effort. Despite three turnovers from Vick in a five minute span just before and after halftime, Philly dominated the action for the first three quarters. The score could have been a lot worse than 31-21 Philly heading into the final frame.
4. Few teams have the weapons to make up for mistakes like Philly. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy were the key offensive guys in this game, helping to put up three quick scores in the third quarter. McCoy has taken his game to another level. He’s a top-five running back.
Maclin’s drop ended the game, but he showed that he’s truly over his offseason health issues.
5. Matt Ryan kept firing and he played very well in the red zone. That’s the best thing you can say about a scattershot performance. For much of the game, Ryan seemed the opposite of “poised” in the pocket. He felt pressure that wasn’t there and didn’t deal well with the pressure that was there.
6. Of course, a lot of that pressure was very real. Trent Cole absolutely manhandled Falcons left tackle Sam Baker all night. It was a one-man show. Cole had four tackle for loss and a pass defensed. The box score doesn’t show all the time Cole pushed Baker back into Ryan.
7. It may seem like I’m praising the Eagles a lot in a losing performance. That’s true, but the reality is that Philly left the game with more to feel positive about despite the final score and Vick’s injury.
8. Philly’s rush defense held up very well for most of the game, but finally lost steam on Michael Turner’s big run in the fourth quarter. The pass rush got great pressure without blitzing. The cornerbacks covered Julio Jones and Roddy White like glue.
Basically, the game mostly went as defensive coordinator Juan Castillo drew it up. Really, it was the short fields that killed the Philly defense more than anything.
9. Atlanta entered the offseason looking for more playmakers on offense. On Sunday night, they found some on defense. If Peria Jerry, Sean Weatherspoon, and William Moore can keep making impact plays to complement the usual suspects (John Abraham, Curtis Lofton), then this defense could be pretty good.
10. We may have buried Tony Gonzalez too soon. On a night where the Falcons receivers couldn’t get open, Gonzo made all the difference in the red zone.
11. This game ultimately meant more to the Falcons. Losing to Vick and Kafka despite all the turnovers at home to go 0-2 would have been devastating. Atlanta looked so flat and out of it to start the fourth quarter. They deserve a lot of credit for igniting late in the game.
Good teams find a way to win without their best effort. The win could go a long way to stablizing Atlanta early this season.