A costly drop as the Eagles were attempted a comeback ruined a stellar night for Jeremy Maclin as the Eagles lost, 35-31, to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons put together back-to-back long touchdown drives to take the lead and potentially erase some of the stigma surrounding Matt Ryan, who came to Atlanta in the aftermath of Michael Vick's departure.
Updated through three quarters:
The Eagles took the lead in the third quarter, but lost quarterback Michael Vick.
Vick was injured when his head crashed into right tackle Todd Herremans after he was whipped around by a Falcons defender. He spit blood as he left the field and looked sick as he sat on the bench. He was taken to the locker room to be examined.
Mike Kafka made his NFL debut and the Eagles scored on his first drive to take a 31-21 lead. The drive continued thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on John Abaraham, who put his helmet into Kafka's back.
The Eagles also saw injuries to Asante Samuel after an incredible interception and a scary moment when Jeremy Maclin was hit in the head by Dunta Robinson, the same Falcons player who knocked DeSean Jackson out of last year's meeting.
Maclin, who torched the Falcons last season, got his second TD of the game in the third quarter.
LeSean McCoy also scored twice on an 8-yard run and a 2-yard run.
ATLANTA – Amid the succulent distraction of Michael Vick’s return to the Dirty, what took place in the House that Mike Built mattered even more.
The Eagles needed to find out if Vick and the reconfigured offensive line could survive a real defense after a sputtering, if effective, season-opening win in St. Louis. They also needed to know if their defensive weaknesses up the middle could survive a full game of challenge. The Rams exploited those weaknesses devastatingly when featured back Steven Jackson played, but he only lasted for two plays before a thigh strain sidelined him.
The Falcons, Super Bowl favorites this season after a 13-3 run through 2010, sought to avoid an 0-2 start. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the pride of Penn Charter now with a fresh Pro Bowl to his credit, bore the heat of a first-round upset playoff loss last season and a season-opening clunker last week.
Vick first took the field in a T-shirt and shorts just after 6:30 p.m. to scattered cheers from a few dozen who, perhaps, remain fans after his fall from grace in Atlanta. At about the same time, at least one publicity hound in the parking lot burned a Vick jersey – a unoriginal pastime in Atlanta since Vick’s graceless fall.
Vick, the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, played for the Falcons for six seasons before a dogfighting conviction cost him the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
The Eagles signed him out of prison, made him a backup and wildcat specialist for 2009 and brought him home late that season. He ran for a touchdown and threw for another in support of starter Donovan McNabb. With McNabb gone to Washington, Vick had won the Eagles’ starting job from Kevin Kolb last year when Atlanta visited Philadelphia, but he missed the game with torn rib cartilage and did not take the field.
He threw a few passes, hugged Ryan, then hugged Falcons owner Arthur Blank, to whom he lied during the investigation that sent him to prison, and to whom he owed about $7 million million after defaulting on his contract with the Falcons (according to a report in the (Ital) Atlanta Journal-Constitution (end ital), Blank sold that debt in March.
Vick took the field a second time in full uniform just past 7:30 p.m., this time with the Georgia Dome half full … and this time to a cascade of boos that drowned out what cheers there were.
When he finally took the field for real, at 8:31, the dome was full and almost fully derisive.
He hit DeSean Jackson with an 11-yard pass to start the game then gained 7 yards on a reverse that was directly snapped to DeSean Jackson, but the drive ended two run plays later.
The Falcons rolled to midfield behind Michael Turner and converted a third-and-10 pass to Roddy White but defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who left the game with what appeared to be a cramping left calf, returned two plays later, blasted past right guard Garrett Reynolds and pancaked Ryan for a 7-yard loss.
Vick misfired two out of three times and gave it back, and Chas Henry’s 36-yard punt netted just 17 yards after Eric Weems’ 19-yard return to the Birds’ 38.
A 15-yard pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez, who outmatched linebacker Jamar Chaney, moved the ball to the 19. Turner took it to the 4, Jenkins gave them 2 more yards on a personal foul and, after the Eagles stuffed Turner twice, Ryan found Roddy White in the back of the end zone in front of safety Kurt Coleman for a 7-0 lead with 2:44 to play in the quarter.
Vick found Jeremy Maclin for the first play of the next possession and the Eagles moved the ball past midfield by the end of the period, with a head of steam. It continued.
A 10-yard screen pass to LeSean McCoy got them to the 15 but briefly knocked McCoy from the game with an injured left hand. The offense stalled for four plays … one of which was a drop by Jackson in the end zone on third-and-3 from the Falcons’ 8. The Falcons blitzed on the play, but were offside. That gave the Eagles a first-and-goal from the 4, and McCoy returned. Significantly.
The Falcons immediately blitzed again. McCoy picked up one blitzer. The other nailed Vick as he released his pass to Maclin, the hot read.
The pass was imperfect – a bit behind Maclin – but Maclin reached back with his right hand, snagged it, and fell into the end zone to tie it at 7 with 10:54 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles’ defense held and the offense got the ball back in almost 1 minute. With deep threat Jackson on the sideline, Vick found Jason Avant for 29 on third-and6 from the Falcons’ 41 then hit tight end Brent Celek for 9 to put it at the 3.
Vick then pulled a vintage move, evading defensive end Ray Edwards like a bullfighter … and nearly throwing an interception into triple coverage in the end zone. Alex Henry hit a 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 6:46 left.
Mike Patterson and Trent Cole combined on a third-and-3 sack of Ryan, which forced another punt.
A trademark false start from left tackle Jason Peter put the Eagles in a first-and-15, but Vick found Brent Celek for 24 yards down the middle, while absorbing a dangerous low hit from Vance Walker. The next big gain was McCoy’s 6-yard run that turned into a 21-yard gain because Dunta Robinson snagged his facemask. Vick’s third-down scramble put it at the 4, but Vick fumbled a handoff to LeSean McCoy when defensive tackle Peria Jerry fired through the middle past Todd Herremans and into the backfield.
Edwards recovered at the 12 and looked to be rumbling home free … until Jackson laid claim to the Fastest Man in Cleats.
Starting at the end zone, Jackson outran two attempted blocks from Edwards’ convoy and brought him down at the Falcons’ 20. To no affect, it turned out.
Ryan then hit Gonzalez for 13 yards, then for 4 yards and the touchdown with 44 seconds left in the half to make it 14-10. The play was reviewed, and Gonzalez’s Hall of Fame legend grew; his one-handed, tippy-toes down catch only burnished it.
The Eagles got the ball back and made it to midfield, but, when Atlanta rushed only three men, Vick had no one open and scrambled. Badly.
John Abraham caught Vick and stripped him at the 50 – a momentary setback.
Two plays later, Ryan was intercepted by seldom-targeted cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Asomugha’s first pick since 2009. The Birds tried a 63-yard field goal and only came up 20 yards short.
A pass that would have netted the Falcons 25 yards on first-and-10 from their 20 with almost 11 minutes left in the second quarter was bizarre, and ruled a catch, then negated. It was intended for Julio Jones, but bounced off defender Asante Samuel, who deftly slapped it down around Jones’ screen; bounced off safety Kurt Coleman; then appeared to land in Jones’ hands as he lay on the ground. He got up and ran to the Falcons’ 45. The play was reviewed and the ruling was reversed when replays clearly showed the point of the ball hit the ground as Jones tried to catch it.