After one week of play, the Atlanta Falcons arrow is pointing up. First-year head coach Dan Quinn and his team edged out the visiting Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
Despite allowing 399 total yards of offense to Sam Bradford and the Eagles, Atlanta’s defense made plays when it needed to, and in the end, that was the difference. The Falcons allowed Philadelphia to convert only 3-of-12 third-down attempts and limited the Eagles backfield to 63 rushing yards.
Atlanta outscored the Eagles 20-3 in the first half as Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on touchdown scores of four and 22 yards and Matt Bryant added two field goals. The Falcons held their opponent to 125 yards on eight first-half drives. Outside of Philadelphia’s second-quarter field goal drive that amassed 69 yards, Atlanta’s defense shut down their attack.
Nothing really went wrong for the Falcons until the opening drive of the third quarter. That’s when Ryan tossed an ugly interception on a pass intended for Roddy White. It was his second interception of the night and most costly as the Eagles cashed in just two plays later on an eight-yard touchdown run on a drive that started at the Atlanta 8-yard-line.
Despite allowing touchdowns on Philadelphia’s next two drives, the Falcons still hung tough adding six points off two Bryant field goals. A Cody Parkey missed field goal attempt of 44 yards kept Atlanta in the lead and despite a quick three-and-out on their next possession, the defense made the game-clinching play as safety Ricardo Allen intercepted Bradford with just over one minute left in the final quarter.
You have to be impressed by Jones, who consumed the field for most of the night making it very tough on Eagles defenders. He added nine receptions for 141 yards along with his two touchdown grabs on his way to being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Although the Falcons weren’t as efficient on third-downs as they would have liked, converting 4-of-14, they got the job done. The offense did just enough in the end to pick up the victory and that’s all you can ask for in the season opener. Atlanta’s offense won the time of possession battle, 35:27 to 24:33.
Ryan will bounce back next week on the road against a New York Giants defense that completely blew it on Sunday night against rival Dallas. Look for Jones and White, who had four receptions for 84 yards to have big games as well as rookie back Tevin Coleman, who had a nice debut with 20 carries for 80 yards.
Note: The Falcons signed tackle Jake Long, who will backup starting left tackle Jake Matthews for now. It’s a move that strengthens the depth on Atlanta’s line. Safety Charles Godfrey was released in a corresponding move.
Defense on the rise
Quinn’s defense didn’t record a sack, but the unit did compile eight quarterback hits led by defensive end Jonathan Babineaux.
First-round pick Vic Beasley Jr. had a nice outing with three tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit.
Safeties William Moore and Allen combined for 16 tackles and two breakups. Allen’s interception was clutch and is signs of better things to come for the youngster.
It wasn’t a complete standout performance from this revamped defense, but Quinn has this group hungry and destined for improved play as the season progresses. Against the Giants next Sunday afternoon expect to see plenty of blitzes on quarterback Eli Manning.
The Falcons are certainly a work in progress, but they have plenty of offensive firepower to overcome their deficiencies. The defense is improving, and before you know it Atlanta could be the best team in the NFC South.
Carolina didn’t look fantastic in a 20-9 win over Jacksonville and both New Orleans and Tampa Bay don’t appear to be contenders this season. The Falcons are a sneaky team that should get better with time.