The Atlanta Falcons ushered in the Dan Quinn era Monday night with an exciting win over the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 that ironically reminded many of the Mike Smith era.
Much like the past seven seasons the Falcons started quickly jumping to a 20-3 lead at the half only to find themselves trailing 24-23 late in the game. Matt Ryan and Matt Bryant did what Falcons fas were accustomed to seeing as the veteran signal caller rallied the troops hitting Julio Jones for a big 40-yard pass play to get the team into position for Bryant to recapture the dead.
What ensued next was something that hasn’t been seen in Atlanta for many years.
That’s right. The defense of the Falcons bent but did not break. Sam Bradford who had been harried, hurried and battered around by the Atlanta defense in the first half found his groove in the second half leading the Eagles to three scores and a brief one point lead.
It looked as if Bradford was going to do it again but something happened that hadn’t happened in a long time. The Falcons defense held on third down and the Eagles were faced with a long, but makeable field goal. The kick was wide and the Georgia Dome erupted. There was still plenty of time left on the clock, however.
Atlanta was unable to keep the momentum going and was forced to punt. The Eagles took over and the Falcons pass rush which had been missing most of the second half reappeared. The newfound pass rush forced Bradford to rush his throw that was conveniently picked off and Matt Ryan and company were able to run out the clock to give Coach Dan Quinn his first win and an NFL head coach. “I think the thing we learned the most is that, umber one form the competitive side, that there are some terrific competitors here,” said the rookie coach.
Julio Jones had a career game as he set the Flacons single game receiving yards record as well as catching two Matt Ryan throws for touchdowns. “Julio is an awesome player. He shows tht basically every time he steps on the field,” said the Atlanta QB. “He’s as good as it gets and we’re luck to have him”.
Another big surprise besides the aggressive play of the defense was what appeared to be a reappearance of a running game. Rookie Tevin Coleman gained 80 yards in his Falcons debut. “I thought our offensive line did a great job tonight and I thought we ran the ball really well,” said Ryan. “I’m really excited about the two young backs that we have. Tevin, for his first NFL game, went out there and he didn’t hesitate. He played really, really well. I thought when Devota (Freeman) was in there too, both those guys finished runs tonight.
The 2015 Atlanta defense differs in many was from years past. They key word is aggression. Even thought they did not sack Eagle QB Sam Bradford he found himself on his back many times and unable to find a rhythm until the third quarter. The run defense which has been non-existent for years was impressive as they held the NFL’s 2014 rushing leader, DeMarco Murray to a total of eight yards on nine carries. “The team is really close together now,” said cornerback Desmond Trufant about the difference in the Falcon defense. “We really believe in each other and believe in the system, so we’re out there battling for each other, and you can see it out there on the field,”
The Atlanta Falcons take to the road this Sunday as they travel north to take on the New York Giants. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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