As always, here are 10 observations from the Eagles' 27-14 win over the Falcons:
1. What should we make of this run defense? The Eagles held Michael Turner to 58 yards on 17 carries. He entered the game with 597 yards in six games. But when looking at his game log, this wasn't the first time he was bottled up this season. In Week 2, he managed just 42 yards against the Bucs. In Week 4, he had 56 yards. And in Week 6, he had 54 yards. As for the Eagles' run defense, it was very good the first four games of the season before allowing 145 yards to Clinton Portis in Week 5 and 101 yards to Frank Gore in Week 6.
2. Let's get the awful call out of the way. Falcons return man Adam Jennings did not touch the ball. And the call was made at a crucial time in the game. With 2:28 left in the fourth quarter, the refs blew the call. The Falcons would have had the ball at their own 37-yard line, and a touchdown (plus extra point) would have tied it. And don't forget, on their previous drive, the Falcons went 82 yards for a score. Not saying they would have definitely taken the lead, but they would have had a chance. Had the scenario been reversed and the bad call been made against the Eagles, this blog would be flooded with comments about how the refs blew the game. Let's just remember that the next time a call doesn't go the Eagles' way.
3. I was encouraged by the Eagles' score before halftime. The Birds' offense took over at its own 12-yard line with 45 seconds left. I'm not so sure Andy Reid's plan wasn't to just run the clock out, but Brian Westbrook picked up 20 yards on first down. The Eagles went 70 yards on the drive, which culminated with a 36-yard David Akers field goal. To say that the Eagles have struggled before halftime in previous weeks would be an understatement. Against the 49ers, Akers' field-goal attempt before halftime was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Against the Redskins, the Eagles' offense took over on its own 40 with 1:56 left in the second and went three-and-out. Against the Bears, the Birds took over at their own 23 with 1:16 left and went three-and-out. And against the Steelers, they had the ball at their own 23 with 1:51 left and Donovan McNabb threw an interception. Yikes.
4. I'm discouraged by another failed opportunity near the goal line. This time the Eagles had second-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter. Westbrook was stuffed for no gain, but a Falcons penalty gave the Eagles second-and-goal from the 1. McNabb tried a shovel pass to Westbrook, but it was sniffed out. You get the feeling that any team that has watched any film on the Birds over the years would know to look for this play. Then on third down, it was McNabb being stopped on a QB sneak. Not sure where the Birds go from here.
5. Time for our weekly update on how opposing kickers perform against the Eagles. Jason Elam did not attempt a field goal so the numbers remain the same as a couple weeks ago. Opposing kickers are 13-for-13 on the season against the Eagles. Four of those kicks are from 50 yards or more and seven are from 45 yards or more.
6. The optimist says...
People underestimated this Falcons team. They were 4-2 coming in with a savvy quarterback, a playmaking receiver and a very good running back. The Eagles' defense shut down Turner, and the offense showed it's dangerous as long as Westbrook is in the lineup. McNabb even showed he still can use the wheels when he needs to. The Cowboys are ready to implode, and while the Giants and Redskins look tough, don't forget that the Eagles still have three games against those two teams. They'll have a chance to take control of this division before all is said and done.
7. The pessimist says...
Whoop-de-doo. The Eagles need a blown call by the ref to hold on at home against an inferior opponent. Super Bowl, here we come. Did you watch McNabb in the first half? That's as bad as he's looked all season. They have to rely so much on Westbrook that there's no way he stays healthy the rest of the season. As for the defense, big-play free agent Asante Samuel got straight up burned by Roddy White on multiple occasions. The ceiling for this team is a wild-card berth and a first-round playoff loss. Tough to get excited about that.
8. All season, fans have been calling for the Eagles to run the fade to Hank Baskett down near the goal line. The Falcons showed why I'm not a huge fan of this play. Down near the 1-yard line, Matt Ryan threw the fade to White, but Lito Sheppard came up with an interception. It's too risky to run a play that's basically a jump ball when you're just 1 yard away from the end zone. Now sure, you can say White is only 6 foot, so it's the Falcons' fault for calling the play with an average-sized receiver. And I agree with that. But I'm not a huge fan of the play even with bigger receivers.
9. I was very impressed with Matt Ryan. He has a big-time arm and seemed to have a ton of confidence despite being a rookie. I remember watching Ryan in college and thinking he made too many mistakes, but now it appears that may have had more to do with the talent around him. The final numbers won't blow you away: 23-for-44 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But I'd be pretty excited if I was a Falcons fan (those do exist, right?).
10. And an NFL note on the last one. Very entertained by Mike Singletary's first post-game press conference as 49ers coach and very excited for this era. If you missed it, I included the video link at the bottom here. Singletary explains why he told tight end Vernon Davis to hit the showers after Davis drew a 15-yard penalty and then acted "non-chalant" about it on the sideline. Quote I enjoyed: "Cannot play with 'em, cannot win with 'em, cannot coach with 'em...can't do it." I feel like if I had Singletary around to motivate me, this would be the most-read blog on philly.com. Enjoy: