The Falcons-Eagles showdown at Lincoln Financial Field on was supposed to be Atlanta's coming out party as the best team in the NFC. All the NFL experts on the preview shows talked about how well the Falcons were playing. Everyone got all excited about them. There was one slight problem. No one told the Eagles.
There was no question about which team was better on Sunday. The Eagles came out from the start and dominated the game. You actually have to go back earlier in the week to get to the point where the Eagles started to win.
The Eagles coaching staff came up with a great game plan. The players practiced it starting on Wednesday and the excellent week of preparation paid off in a big way. The Falcons were on their heels almost from the start. Defensive end John Abraham was expected to have a big game, but he was a non-factor. Abraham said after the game that the Falcons were completely caught off-guard by what the Eagles did.
A good plan is only as good as its execution. The players did a great job of taking the plan and making it come to life. There were a lot of misdirection plays and several complicated plays. Those types of things only work when they are properly done. You need good blocking up front. The skill players have to carry out their assignments. Fakes have to be sold well so the defense buys the deception. The quarterback has to get the ball out, on time and on target. The Eagles were almost flawless on these plays. They resulted in a couple of touchdowns and some good gains.
Kevin Kolb was masterful. He's now played 11 straight quarters, the most in his career. You can see tangible progress each week. Experience is hugely important at quarterback. Kolb has had moments this year when he didn't look comfortable or commanding on the field. That is in the past. He just has the look of a starting quarterback right now. His numbers were lights out against Atlanta. He was 23 of 29 for 326 yards. He erased any questions about being able to throw the ball vertically. On pass plays of 20 yards or more he was 5 for 5 for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That's getting it done.
Set aside the numbers and let's talk about critical plays. Every game has some moments when one team is trying to break out and build a lead or another team is trying to tighten the game. A mistake here or there can blow a game wide open or tighten up a game that looked one-sided. Anyone remember the Eagles blowing a 24-7 lead on the Giants in 2006? Kolb was at his best in key moments. The first pass came on a third-down play in the red zone. Kolb hit Jeremy Maclin with a short pass for a touchdown that put us up 21-0. He had to throw around a defender and still get the ball to a tightly covered receiver. Kolb did that. Getting a touchdown there was critical. The 17-0 score would have been a good lead, but 21-0 is three full touchdowns and had to feel completely overwhelming to a ball-control team like Atlanta.
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Fast forward to the second half. Our lead had been cut to 21-10. Kolb hit Maclin with a deep ball on a great play-action pass play for an 83-yard score. That wasn't the knockout blow, but it sure staggered the Falcons. The next time we got the ball it was near our own goal line. The Falcons were desperate to force a punt and get good field position. Kolb dropped back into the end zone and hit Jason Avant for a gain of 21 yards. Suddenly the pressure was off. Later, Kolb hit Brent Celek on a couple of third downs to extend drives and eat up more clock. These were critical plays. Completing those passes is a big reason that Atlanta never got closer than 11 points.
Kolb and the skill players couldn't have had all that success without good blocking. The talk all week was about how well King Dunlap would do at left tackle in place of Jason Peters. I told you that Dunlap would have plenty of help. The coaches would use double teams and chip blocks to make sure he was OK. They would call plays to slow down the pass rush. That's exactly what happened. This was part of the excellent game plan. Dunlap has to get a ton of credit for how well he played. I kept track of the plays where he single-blocked Abraham. Dunlap did a very good job on him. I actually quit taking those notes in the fourth quarter because Abraham was so completely ineffective. He had one tackle the whole game. I don't think he ever hit Kolb.
The whole line deserves credit. They gave Kolb a clean pocket throughout the game. The Falcons have a talented defensive front, but it didn't show on Sunday. They were handled way too easily. Mike McGlynn and Todd Herremans were outstanding. The skill players also helped with blocking. Celek did a real good job in pass protection a few times. LeSean McCoy had one real good blitz pickup. He was very good with chip blocks. He actually put defensive end Kroy Biermann on the ground with one hit.
McCoy only ran for 64 yards, but the running game as a whole did well. Eldra Buckley got some carries and gave us what we needed. He ran 12 times for 40 yards. DeSean Jackson had a touchdown on a 31-yard end-around. He also had a 13-yard run on a third down that moved the chains. That was an old school West Coast offense rushing attack. Several guys carried the ball and produced good yardage.
Jackson was electric early in the game. He had three touches for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is the very definition of an impact player. He was the victim of a vicious hit and was knocked out of the game. That was a brutal moment. I was curious how the team would react. There were a few plays where we got sloppy, but that didn't last long. Kolb stepped up and so did Maclin. He had his best day as a pro. He caught seven passes for 159 yards. He provided big plays. He caught short passes that moved the chains. Maclin came up huge when we needed him. Well done.
The defense had an outstanding day. It wasn't as dominant as the offense, but there was a lot to be happy about. We held the Falcons to less than 300 total yards. Matt Ryan was only 23 of 42 passing. Michael Turner was bottled up all game long. We did give up 17 points, but one touchdown came on a short field after a turnover and the other touchdown came late in the game when Atlanta was desperate. The Falcons came into the game as a great ball-control offense. Their plan was to run the ball well and convert on third downs. Neither happened.
Turner finished with 15 carries for 45 yards. We played excellent run defense as a unit. There wasn't just one player who dominated up front. The whole defense swarmed to the ball when Turner had it. Gang tackling is important against a runner like him. He has a thick, powerful build and normally breaks a lot of tackles. That didn't happen on Sunday. Turner also is a dangerous cutback runner. Our players were disciplined and didn't leave big cutback lanes. Backside defenders hustled, but played under control.
Welcome back Stewart Bradley. He played his best game of the year and looked like the guy we grew to love in 2008. Bradley was credited with seven tackles by the official stats guys, but he was in on more plays than that. He was all over the field. Bradley got off blocks. He flowed to the ball. He was stout when inside run plays came right at him. Bradley was also big on passing downs. He got a sack early in the game. Bradley blitzed through the A-gap and put Ryan on the ground. I'm sure that was a big confidence booster for him. Bradley had missed sacks and interceptions in recent weeks. He needed to finish a play. McDermott used Bradley to cover tight end Tony Gonzalez quite a bit. Bradley acquitted himself quite nicely. Gonzalez was limited to three catches for 19 yards. He did have a couple of touchdowns, but neither came when covered by Bradley. Seeing Bradley play like that was very encouraging. At his best, he becomes one of the better inside linebackers in the league. He has a tremendous impact on our defense.
Trent Cole was a force up front. Maybe all the talk about John Abraham got on his nerves. Cole became a starter in 2006. Since that time he's got more sacks than Abraham (44 to 40). Eagles fans love Cole to death, but I'm still not sure the average fan appreciates what a good player he is. Cole had a pair of sacks against Atlanta. He stripped the ball away from Ryan late in the game to finally seal the deal. Cole also was a force against the run. He got to Turner several times in the game. He was disruptive on other plays.
On offense we had a backup tackle start and play well. Same for the defense. Antonio Dixon took Brodrick Bunkley's place and had a strong showing. Dixon was stout against the run. He blew up a third-and-1 play where the Falcons tried to run up the middle. Dixon pushed his blocker into Turner a couple of yards in the backfield. Cole swooped in to make the tackle. Dixon also hustled on plays where the ball went to the outside. He looked like a capable starter.
Asante Samuel came up big in this game. His tackling was highly erratic, but he did make his presence felt in coverage. He picked off a pass just before halftime. He broke up three others. Samuel came close to another couple of interceptions. The Falcons didn't have a lot of success throwing to his side.
This was a real good performance by the Eagles. It was a team effort. Our stars delivered in a big way, but role players like Chad Hall and Dimitri Patterson also made plays for us. That is when a team is at its best. The Eagles have now won two games in a row. Injuries continue to be an issue, but the team can overcome them if they play well as a unit. The next test for our young squad is to see how they handle success. We had a two-game winning streak earlier in the year that was snapped by a flat performance against Washington. It will be interesting to see how the guys handle the upcoming game against Tennessee.