By Chris Murray
For the CM Report
ATLANTA-The Eagles players and coaching staff went to their Nova Care practice facility Monday morning, reviewed the film, looked at the game stats and shook their heads and wonder how they wound up on the short end of a 35-31 loss to the Falcons.
“It’s frustrating to lose when we should have won, let me put it that way,” said rookie center Jason Kelce.
The Birds outgained Atlanta and rolled up 447 yards of total offense and the defense sacked Matt Ryan four times and intercepted him twice. On the surface, it looks like the numbers for the team that won the game.
But when you make as many mistakes on both sides of the ball as the Eagles did and then lose your $100 million quarterback because of a concussion, this will be the likely outcome.
“We didn’t help our cause at all,” said right tackle Todd Herremans. “We did some good things and we obviously did some bad things that we need to work on, but life goes on we got another game to get ready for.”
Michael Vick’s triumphant return to Atlanta had its good moments and its awful moments. Before he left the game with a concussion with three minutes left in the third quarter, he completed 19-of-28 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. But he committed three turnovers—two fumbles and an interception on the Bird’s first play of the third quarter. Two led to Falcons touchdowns to give them a 21-10 lead in the third quarter..
Undaunted, Vick got the Eagles back in the game by leading two scoring drives that put the Eagles 24-21—a 36 yard-touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin and an eight-yard run by LeSean McCoy (18 carries, 95 yards and two Tds).
“He’s a competitor, he’s a proven competitor and a great player,” Kelce said. “When a guy is able to lead you like that especially coming out of the half when were a little down, it picks you up just watching a guy play like he does.”
Late in the third quarter, the Eagles faced a third and eight at the Falcons 18-yard line. Vick hit Maclin for a nine-yard completion to the nine. After he let the ball go, Vick was hit by a Falcons lineman and his helmet collided with Herremans’s helmet.
“It was the second hit that fazed him,” Kelce said.
The Eagles, now led by third string quarterback Mike Kafka (7-of-9 for 72 yards), eventually scored on that drive to give the Birds a 31-21 lead.
With the exception of a couple short Falcons drives for touchdown, the Eagles seemed to be in control of the Falcons offense. But in the fourth quarter, the defense just fell apart and allowed two long touchdown drives.
On that first drive, Ryan, thanks to passes to veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez, (seven catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns), moved the Falcons to the touchdown that cut the Eagles lead to three. The drive was culminated by a one-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Ovie Mughelli.
With Vick out of the game, the Eagles offense went three and out, giving the Falcons another scoring opportunity.
Pinned down in their own terrritory at the 13 because of a penalty, Falcons running back Michael Turner trucked his way through a stunned Eagles defense for a 61-yard gain to the Eagles 26-yard line. Five plays later, the Falcons scored go-ahead touchdown by Turner on a three-yard run with under five minutes.
“It was real difficult to lose like that, especially late in the game,” said Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. “That’s supposed to be a win. You’re supposed to hold on to that because that’s what good teams do. It goes to show you that we got a lot of improving to do. You know we got to get that killer instinct when we get a team down, we put them away. We definitely had the opportunity, but we didn’t do it.”
Led by Kafka, the Eagles drove from their own nine down to the Falcons 22. On fourth and four, Kafka found a wide open Maclin, who caught 13 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, at the 15-yard line, but he dropped the ball. With all his great stats, the one that got away from him made everything seem for naught.
“None of that really matters,” Maclin said of his dropped pass on the Eagles final play. “I know I’m better than that.”
That probably what the Eagles are saying to themselves now.