The Atlanta Falcons stand alone as the best team in football after beating the Philadelphia Eagles 30-17 on Sunday.
If you're the nitpicking sort, you can find plenty to complain about in the Falcons' 30-17 win over the Eagles. I am by nature, and I wasn't overly pleased with the ground game, the defense for stretches and the play calling through significant chunks of the second half. You could certainly spend some time on those.
For once, though, I can't make myself do it. On a miserable day on the road in an outdoor stadium—three conditions that are supposed to doom the Falcons to a poor performance—our birds hung 30 on the Eagles and made them look mostly hapless. They didn't get exceptional pressure on Michael Vick and didn't force him to turn the ball over, and they still won by 13 points. It honestly didn't feel that close.
To go 7-0 in the NFL, you have to get a little bit lucky, but you also have to be a pretty damn good football team. This was the signature win of the season so far, one that came over a talented football team in adverse conditions with plenty of skeptics. There are no buts left to add here. The Falcons are simply a great football team right now.
With the scuffling Cowboys up next, there's no reason the Falcons can't keep this train rolling. Let's all get aboard and bask in while we can.
Without further ado, the individual breakdowns.
- Oh, hello, Matt Ryan. Were you mildly miffed that many dropped your MVP case after one poor game against the Raiders? It showed.
Ryan finished the day 22/29 for 262 yards and three touchdowns versus no interceptions. He eviscerated the Eagles' vaunted pass defense despite taking a couple of ugly sacks, and commanded the offense with what is fast becoming his trademark poise. It was quite a game.
- Jacquizz Rodgers had his best game of the season, rumbling on a ridiculous 43 yard carry that led to the Falcons scoring, piling up a total of 60 yards on eight carries and serving as an outlet in the passing game, catching five passes for 20 yards. It was a nice little game, and one that hints at the kind of role he could have going forward.
- Julio Jones had the breakout game we've all been waiting for. He had a jaw-dropping 63 yards touchdown where he simply torched Nnamdi Asomugha and wound up reeling a total of five catches in for 123 yards. When he's on and ready to go, Julio's just plain old scary.
- Relatively quiet days for Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, but they each had three clutch grabs. You know, the usual.
- Drew Davis didn't have a huge game, but he was instrumental on the first drive. He finished with two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown, the first of his career. It was a nice day for him, and he might have bought himself a little more playing time, especially if Harry Douglas can't go next week.
- The offensive line was not great at run blocking today, but with a couple of exceptions they did excellent work protecting Matt Ryan. That's worth its weigh in gold. Kudos to Peter Konz for playing very well in his first start replacing the injured Garrett Reynolds.
Matt Bryant is so automatic that I'm running out of ways to say he's automatic.
- Ideally, you wouldn't have a cornerback with seven tackles. You have to give this to Robert McClain, though: Even on those plays where he wasn't covering the guy he eventually tackled, he was showing up quickly and showing sound tackling technique. That's a plus.
- Kroy Biermann had a fine game, getting pressure, coming up with seven tackles and drilling Michael Vick to the turf once.
- Ditto John Abraham, who is amazing at everything he does. One sack for the big guy.
- And the third sack of the game went to Thomas DeCoud, who was actually the first one to get one. Mike Nolan did a nice job of keeping Michael Vick off balance, even if Vick actually had a pretty solid day.
- Give the coaching staff massive props for this one. Mike Nolan's defense did a nice job of limiting a mighty potent ground game (16 carries and 45 yards for LeSean McCoy) and didn't allow Michael Vick to pull off too many big plays. Dirk Koetter called an extremely effective game that got the Falcons into scoring position on pretty much every drive, with a couple of exceptions which I'll note in a moment. And Mike Smith won his 50th game. It's pretty clear that this staff is light years ahead of what the team had a year ago.
- I can't help but imagine what would happen if the line could run block well and Michael Turner could run with real urgency. After he grumbled mildly about his usage the last time out, the Falcons got Turner 24 carries this time around after taking an early lead. He put up 58 yards, which is good for less than 2.5 yards a carry. That's really bad.
Again, the line has to do its job and give Turner more to work with, but I think it's pretty clear that he's moving into his twilight years as an NFL running back. The Falcons are either going to need to resign themselves to using their anemic ground game to wear down the clock and rely on the pass to pick up real yardage or figure out how to improve this.
- Even with a healthy lead, it's always a piss-poor idea to run Michael Turner twice in a row and then dial up pass on third and long. Everyone living and dead in the history of the NFL knows that when the Falcons go safe with a lead, they call Turner's number on first and second, and it rarely works worth a damn. Relatively minor complaint seeing as the game went exceptionally well, but something to think about.
- Michael Vick can't turn the ball over every week, but it would have been nice to see just a bit more pressure and an interception. Now I'm being greedy. This game was awesome.
Game MVP: You could argue for Matt Ryan and/or Julio Jones and I wouldn't stop you. I'm giving it to Mike Smith because it was his 50th win and hey, monkey off the franchise's back!
Game Theme Song: Short and sweet.
One Thing To Take Away: This is one hell of a scary football team.
Final Word: Sevenandoh.