For my full column on the Falcons’ 26-24 win over Philadelphia, click here. Following are my three “short takes” on the game.
1. DEFENSE: I rode down the Georgia Dome elevator with former coach and broadcaster Jon Gruden. Me: “What’d you think?” Him: “That’s a big win for Atlanta. A really big win. That was impressive. We didn’t see that pass rush last year.” No kidding. I’m so tired hearing about the Chip Kelly offense. How is it so many people have fallen in love with a coach who: 1) never won a national championship at Oregon; 2) went 2-2 in bowl games; 3) failed to win a playoff game in his first two NFL seasons? Kelly’s offense was punched in the face in the first half by the Falcons, who aren’t accustomed to punching teams in the face. In the first half, the Falcons’ improved defense allowed the Eagles only three points and forced five punts, including three three-and-outs. The Eagles’ found a rhythm in the second half and drove to three straight touchdowns. But the defense, which mustered an effective better pass rush, then held Philly to a field goal miss and Ricardo Allen’s interception after the ball went off Jordan Matthews’ hands ended the game. Sam Bradford threw for 336 yards, but all in all it was an impressive first defensive game by the Falcons under Dan Quinn, who made his bones in defense at Seattle.
2. OFFENSIVE LINE: Surprise! It wasn’t a complete disaster. The new group — including late pickups Andy Levitre (guard), Mike Person (center) and Chris Chester (guard) — pass-blocked effectively for Matt Ryan most of the night, although Philly started to get to him in the second half. Run blocking was an issue much of the game but credit rookie Tevin Coleman (80 yards) with sometimes making something out of nothing. Consider the center position an open competition as Person struggled often. But there’s no viable option right now.
3. GOOD RYAN, BAD RYAN: He threw two touchdown passes and connected with wide receivers Julio Jones (nine for 141 yards) and Roddy White (four for 84) for 225 yards. But he also had some misfires: an interception on a great effort by Philly’s Kiko Alonso in the endzone, but an underthrow nonetheless with White open; an interception early in the second half that ignited the Eagles’ three-touchdown comeback; two other passes that could have/should have been intercepted; he had the fortune of having a fumble nullified by a Philadelphia penalty; he had an underthrow down the right sideline intended for Devonta Freeman that hit the Eagles’ Connor Barwin on the back of his shoulder pad near the Eagles’ 15. If Ryan had led Freeman, it would’ve been a touchdown. The Falcons aren’t always going to be fortunate enough to overcome those mistakes. But credit to Ryan for driving the offense twice in the fourth quarter, 62 and 51 yards, to set up Matt Bryant field goals that ultimately won the game. And on that subject: The 40-year-old Bryant is money.
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