"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …"
The opening line of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities translated onto the gridiron as a Tale of Two Halves for the Eagles in Atlanta on Monday night. After just 125 total yards and six points in the first two quarters, the Eagles turned it around and stepped on the gas pedal in the second half, racking up 274 total yards and putting 18 points on the board.
This time around versus Dallas, the Eagles are hoping that the second-half success will transfer over to a quick start against the Cowboys.
"Hopefully, we can pick up right where we left off in the second half," said quarterback Sam Bradford. "I thought the second half was great. We got things rolling and that's kind of what we want to do. We want to push the tempo. We played fast and we put a lot of pressure on them, so hopefully that's how we can feel the whole game this time.
"We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the first half. We missed some opportunities, some negative plays and it just felt like we were playing from behind the whole first half. … We put that one behind us as soon as it was over. You can't let that linger and we can't think about that. I thought it was a great response by our guys. It would have been easy for us to come out in the second half and put our heads down, but that's not what we did. We came out and we fought and played the way that we knew we were capable of. Hopefully, we can just start that way this week."
The key now for the Eagles is turning the page on Atlanta and squarely focusing all attention on the task at hand – defeating the Dallas Cowboys. According to Bradford, a short memory is best for a short week of work.
The Eagles were back on the practice field preparing for their home opener against Dallas. View the full gallery here...
"In this league you have to have a short memory," said Bradford. "Win or lose, the next opponent is coming quick, especially when you're on Monday Night Football. It's a short week and a quick turnaround. We have to get going on the game plan and what we're going to do against Dallas. Everyone came in and we watched the tape and we're going to learn from our mistakes. We're already on to Dallas."
While the Falcons' swarming defense had a lot to do with the Eagles' slow start on Monday, the Eagles were also their own worst enemy, penalized five times for 48 yards in the Georgia Dome in the infamous first 30 minutes. If the Eagles want to get off to a flying start against Dallas, cleaning up those penalties will be at the top of the to-do list.
"If you go out and you have 10 penalties against Dallas, and you're probably going to end up on the wrong side of the stick," said head coach Chip Kelly. "You've got to clean up things that we can control. We didn't do a very good job from that standpoint. We also had a turnover that we created that we had to call back because of a penalty on the defensive side of the ball.
"So when you really look at how many yards we lost on the offensive side of the ball and the turnover on the defensive side of the ball, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. … That part of it has to be cleaned up. If you're going to be a good football team, you can't be a highly penalized team."
The big second half for the Eagles in Atlanta certainly has the team feeling confident heading into Week 2, but according to tackle Lane Johnson, confidence was sky high against Atlanta before penalties grounded the offense.
"We had confidence heading into the Atlanta game," said Johnson, "but with the holding penalties, I think we had an extra 100 yards that we lost, so that's pretty much what it was, just penalties and negated yards that hurt us."
According to tight end Zach Ertz, if the Eagles can clean up the yellow flags and focus on starting their drives the right way, things could swing in their favor come Sunday afternoon.
"I hope (the first half is behind us)," said Ertz. "We had positive plays on first down (in the second half), and if you have positive plays on first down the offense is going to have the advantage."