Heading into week eight of the 2012 NFL season, we heard a lot about how Andy Reid was some sort of alleged miracle man, with a record of 13-0 after Philadelphia bye weeks. We heard rumblings about Atlanta being a Dome team with a rumored inability to play in any sort of adverse weather conditions. We heard a lot about Atlanta’s 6-0 record heading into Sunday’s game, with disclaimers like, "They haven’t beaten any good teams," and "something about domes and Michael Vick and 2007 and postseason and blah blah blah." I don’t really know about that last one, I honestly stopped listening.
Then the Falcons marched into the Linc in the wind and the rain and played lights out football, dominating the Eagles from start to finish. The Falcons did not even punt the ball until the fourth quarter.
Matt Ryan had a phenomenal day. Pass protection was good, and Ryan completed 22 of 27 passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. He finished the day with a QB rating of 137.4, remarkable considering the weather conditions. It was not just Matt, though. Missing Harry Douglas due to injury, the Falcons looked to Drew Davis to step up in the slot, and step up he did, scoring his first NFL touchdown.
Remember preseason, when the abilities of the Falcons starters and their depth players seemed so vastly uneven? Those backups are quietly accentuating the abilities of Atlanta’s coaching staff as the season progresses. Rookie Peter Konz played every offensive snap on Sunday, and while he did not stand out, typically offensive linemen do stand out when they make mistakes. The fact that Konz was not particularly noticeable on Sunday is a positive thing. CB Robert McClain also made an impact in this game, playing all but seven snaps, and receiving a game ball for his efforts.
Speaking of the defense, the Falcons took steps over the bye week to correct some of the fundamental issues that were contributing to the sloppy run defense, working on angles and tackling technique. According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons missed seven tackles against the Eagles on Sunday. There was improvement, particularly by certain players. Thomas DeCoud is leading the team in missed tackles with 11 on the season, Dunta Robinson has 8 missed tackles this season, William Moore has 7 missed tackles this season, and all three of these players missed zero tackles on Sunday. Most importantly, the Falcons held the Eagles rushing attack, which always has the potential to be a challenge, to just 92 yards. This was partly because the Eagles were forced to throw the ball more after Atlanta’s offense scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions, but, hey, whatever works.
It's also worth noting that, with Sunday's win, Mike Smith became the winningest coach in Falcons history. It's remarkable to think about how far this franchise has come in such a short time.
It’s true that the Eagles have issues, big issues, that hinder their success. It’s true that the Falcons have had a relatively easy path to 7-0, and there is still a lot of room for improvement, particularly in the rushing game, including run blocking. But, the only numbers that truly matter in the NFL are the numbers in the wins and losses columns. The Falcons have a healthy, comfortable lead in the NFC South, and while their schedule is not the strongest, they are beating the teams they should beat--even if it’s a close game. This was a decisive win against a team and in a location that have been stumbling blocks for this team, and the level of focus and preparedness we saw from the Falcons on Sunday is exactly what they need to maintain this level of success throughout the rest of the season and into the postseason.