ATLANTA (CBS) — There were times when you wondered where everyone was. A whole side of the Eagles’ defense was gone, whether it was through getting blocked, or taking wrong angles. It didn’t matter. Atlanta Falcons’ roly-poly tailback Michael Turner would waddle through a gaping hole without anyone around, before being eventually pushed out of bounds or slowed by a handful of Philadelphia defenders hanging on for dear life.
And so it went Sunday night in Michael Vick’s momentous return to Atlanta. It was supposed to be Vick’s comeback party. It wasn’t. Vick left the game late in the third quarter with a concussion (and after turning the ball over three times, two that led to Atlanta touchdowns), while the porous Eagles’ run defense couldn’t uphold a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in dropping their first game this season, 35-31.
Mike Kafka filled in admirably for Vick. The second-year quarterback out of Northwestern, making his NFL debut, drove the Eagles with less than two minutes to play to the Atlanta 22, where the series stalled. The Eagles failed to convert a fourth-and-four when Katka’s pass bounced off the extended arms of Jeremy Maclin (who had a career-best 13 catches for 171 yards).
“That was my fault, my fault, it was a catchable ball that I should have come up with,” Maclin said.
Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense continues to struggle stopping the run. Turner finished with a game-high 114 yards on 21 carries, the real backbreaker coming on a 61-yard run on a first-and-17 at the Atlanta 13. Turner’s long run brought the ball to the Eagles’ 26, and five plays later, Turner scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 4:53 left to play.
Though Atlanta was a perfect 5-for-5 against the Eagles in the red zone, a major issue last year, this was still a very winnable game for the Eagles, especially after scoring 21 unanswered third-quarter points to take a 31-21 lead entering the last quarter. The Eagles also piled up 27 first downs and 447 yards of total offense–enough to win most of the time.
For the second-straight week, however, Vick was pounded. After a completion to Maclin, the toll came when Vick was whirled around and clashed heads with Eagles’ right tackle Todd Herremans. The collision, with less than three minutes in the third quarter, was enough to send Vick to the locker room spitting blood.
The loss wasted a fine effort by LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 95 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Kafta also did a good job, completing 7-of-9 for 72 yards, but the Eagles couldn’t find any remedy to combat Hall of Fame-bound tight end Tony Gonzalez, who finished with seven catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Atlanta intelligently moved Gonzalez in motion, enabling him to find creases through the middle of the Eagles’ defense.
“We can obviously learn from this, it’s a very long season,” Eagles’ coach Andy Reid said. “Michael is okay right now. He has a concussion right now. I thought the guys battled, we just had too many turnovers, too many mistakes. Mike did well returning to Atlanta, but I thought Kafka did a nice job in there when given the opportunity.”
The defeat also overshadowed the great effort by defensive end Trent Cole, who was in Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan’s face the entire game. Cole finished with five tackles and a sack. The Eagles’ defensive front produced a total of four sacks (all nine Eagles’ sacks in two games have come from the defensive line).
The defensive line was disruptive enough to pressure Ryan into a few bad tosses, and each time Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel were there to make him pay. Even those times when Ryan was able to get pocket time, his receivers were blanketed by the Eagles’ prized cornerbacks, who each had interceptions. Samuel’s third-quarter pick led to the Eagles’ 24-21 lead.
Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Eagles who they were dealing with, because Ryan, the Philadelphia-area product out of Penn Charter High School, was unbowed. He’s shown a penchant throughout his pro career of remaining steadfast, tracing back to his days at Penn Charter and then Boston College. At one point in the third quarter, Ryan had his left leg awkwardly twisted behind him after a pass, and he got back up. He had Cole and Jason Babin constantly knocked down, and he got back up. He withstood the pressure to throw a career-best four touchdowns.
It was the Eagles that couldn’t respond to the pressure. With Vick out, the Eagles’ 31-21 lead withered. More so the defense. Of Atlanta’s 318 total yards, 166 yards came in the fourth quarter. Against a tired Eagles’ defense, Ryan cobbled together consecutive fourth-quarter scoring drives, pulling Atlanta to within 31-28 on a one-yard TD pass to Ovie Mughelli, with 10:45 left in the game. Then Turner closed it later in the quarter, fueled by his 61-yard run.
WR Jeremy Maclin set career highs in receptions (13) and yards (171), and caught his first and second touchdowns of the season. It was his fifth-career 100-yard game, and his reception total ranks as the third-most ever by an Eagle in a single game (Brian Westbrook had 14 on 11/4/07 vs. Dallas, and Don Looney had 14 on 12/1/40 at Washington) … In just 33 regular season contests, Maclin has compiled five two-touchdown performances. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only 10 receivers in NFL history have had more multi-touchdown efforts in their first 33 games, the most recent being Randy Moss, who had seven … According to Pro Football Reference, since 1960, only 12 receivers have more than five multi-touchdown games in their first three NFL seasons … Last season, Maclin set a career-high with 159 yards against Atlanta, and in his three career games against the Falcons, he has amassed 24 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns … RB LeSean McCoy scored his second and third touchdowns of the season and rushed for 95 yards. It’s his second time scoring rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and his fourth multi-touchdown effort … In his last four dome contests (9/19/10 at Det., 12/12/10 at Dal., 9/11/11 at StL), McCoy has rushed for 486 yards and six touchdowns on 65 carries (7.4 average) … DT Cullen Jenkins brought down Matt Ryan twice, marking his fifth-career multi-sack game. DE Trent Cole and DE Jason Babin also each picked up a sack for the second-straight game … For Jenkins, it is the third-straight season in which he has recorded a sack in each of the first two games. Since 2010, he has ten sacks, which is the second-highest total among defensive tackles behind Ndomukong Suh (11) … The last time the Eagles had four or more sacks in back-to-back games was 9/21/08 vs. Pittsburgh and 9/28/08 at Chicago … CB Asante Samuel notched his first interception of the season and the 43rd of his career. He has had a pick in all three of his games against Matt Ryan … CB Nnamdi Asomugha also intercepted Ryan for his first theft as an Eagle, the 12th of his career and his first since 11/22/09 vs. Cincinnati as a member of the Raiders … In his 100th-career game, QB Michael Vick started for the first time in the Georgia Dome since 12/24/06 and threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns for a 103.6 passer rating. Vick has exceeded a passer rating of 100 in six of his 14 games as the Eagles starting quarterback … DE Phillip Hunt and QB Mike Kafka each played in their first NFL game. Kafka completed 7 of 9 passes for 72 yards and a 100.0 passer rating in his first game action … The last time the Eagles played two consecutive regular-season games in domed stadiums was 1980 (Seattle and New Orleans).
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito