The Eagles and Falcons take flight against each other Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in what is a decidedly pivotal game for the home team. Coming off the bye at 3-3, the Eagles will move on one side or the other of the .500 mark, and they'll do so with a new defensive coordinator at the helm. Head coach Andy Reid made the clear distinction during the bye week that his team is better than "average," and so he changed course, appointing Bowles in charge of a defense that has been good thus far in 2012, but not great. The thin line between good and great for the defense has come in the fourth quarter of the last two games, when the team surrendered leads late. In his introductory press conference as defensive coordinator, Bowles emphasized the importance of finishing games, and if all goes right Sunday the defense will have that opportunity. Working in the Eagles' favor is that good old record in games after the bye under Reid. Since he took over as head coach in 1999, the Eagles are 13-0 after the bye, though they'll certainly be tested by a Falcons team that is undefeated on the season.
At 6-0, the Falcons too are coming off their bye and will be fully rested for the migration up North. Though the Falcons are unbeaten, their track record is not quite that of a world beater. The Falcons rank 13th in total offense and 22nd in total defense and have won four games by a one-score margin. Of course, that means the Falcons have been battle tested and they won't shy away from a game that comes down to the wire. And on the topic of not being shy, the Falcons will be bringing with them a certain someone known league-wide for his chirping – cornerback Asante Samuel. Traded by the Eagles to the Falcon in the offseason, Samuel will have the tough task of guarding Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, something he's done many times in practice over the years but never in a live game. After two seasons of watching Michael Vick every day, Samuel will assuredly attempt to play some of his games with the Eagles quarterback. But make no mistake, the Eagles know Samuel just as well, and the chess match featuring Vick, Reid and Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg against Samuel will be one of the more intriguing subplots of the afternoon. And, of course, there is always the subplot of Michael Vick facing off against his former team. In the end, though, all that matters for the Eagles is finding a way to bounce back from back-to-back losses and learning once again to fly on that road to victory.
Last Time They Met:
Sept. 18, 2011 -- Falcons 35-31
Michael Vick returned to Atlanta for the first time as the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles led by 10 in the fourth quarter thanks to Vick, but he suffered a concussion and did not finish. The Falcons rallied from behind thanks to Matt Ryan's fourth touchdown toss of the game - a 1-yard dart to Ovie Mughelli - and a 61-yard run by Michael Turner which eventually led to a 3-yard Turner touchdown run. Turner finished with 114 yards and tight end Tony Gonzalez had a pair of touchdowns in the Falcons win. Mike Kafka led the Eagles into Falcons territory on a potential game-winning drive, but his fourth-down pass attempt to Jeremy Maclin was dropped.
|Tale Of The Tape (2012 Stats)|
|Points Scored Per Game||28.5 (6th in NFL)||17.2 (30)|
|Total Yards Per Game||361.3 (13)||379.0 (7)|
|Rushing Yards Per Game||86.5 (29)||122.0 (10)|
|Passing Yards Per Game||274.8 (8)||257.0 (13)|
|Points Allowed Per Game||18.8 (7)||20.8 (11)|
|Total Yards Allowed Per Game||367.2 (22)||330.8 (12)|
|Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game||143.8 (28)||104.5 (14)|
|Passing Yards Allowed Per Game||223.3 (12)||226.3 (18)|
|Turnover Ratio||+10 (3)||-9 (T-30)|
Players To Watch
Quarterback Michael Vick
On Sunday, former Falcons franchise player Michael Vick will once again take on his old team. In their meeting last season at the Georgia Dome, Vick went 19-of-29 with two touchdowns and an interception before being knocked out of the game in the third quarter due to a concussion. While Vick's season has been up-and-down, a strong game Sunday could go a long way. Not only will Vick be looking to give his old team their first loss, he'll be looking to build momentum for the final 10 games of the season.
LB Sean Weatherspoon
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a multi-dimensional defender in the midst of the best season of his young career. Through six games, Weatherspoon leads the undefeated Falcons in tackles with 46, per NFL.com, and is second on the team with three sacks. He has also shown versatility. Pro Football Focus named him one of the best linebackers in coverage and the best in pass rush productivity. Weatherspoon's abilities aren't limited to speed, either – fans may remember the crushing blow he delivered on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in their Week 5 matchup. The Eagles offensive players must keep their eyes on No. 56 at all times Sunday.