Monday, December 7, 2009

Defense, Weaver and Vick Lead Eagles to Victory

Eagles vs. Falcons

On a day when both teams were missing key players, the Eagles dominated the Falcons using several big plays to inflict much of the damage. Philadelphia's defense bottled up Atlanta until they scored a fluke touchdown as time expired, while Leonard Weaver played a starring role on offense. And, poetically, Michael Vick saved his best performance by far for his former team in his dramatic return to the Georgia Dome, accounting for a pair of touchdowns.

The Eagles took control of the game early as its defense played its best game since week 8 against the Giants, while the offense capitalized using several big plays. After a three and an out by the Falcons to start the game, McNabb quickly drove the team down for a field goal. They then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and four plays later McNabb hit Weaver for a short touchdown to give the Eagles an early 10-0 lead. On the next drive, David Akers missed his first field goal in weeks that was set-up by Weaver's 59-yard catch and run.

They added a field goal in the 2nd quarter after a 56-yard Maclin reception and held the Falcons off the board with a goal line stand at the end of the half on a drive that was primarily orchestrated by the officials. First, the Eagles recovered a fumble that was ruled down by contact, and then were told they could not challenge the call because they never recovered the ball. If the officials had reviewed the play, they would have seen that the were clearly wrong on both counts. Later, two marginal personal foul calls put the Falcons in position to score, but the Eagles held onto a 13-0 lead at half.

McNabb led the team on a 80-yard drive to open the 2nd half, hitting on 6 of 7 passes. The drive culminated with Vick scampering for a TD on 3rd and 1 at the Falcons 5 yard line. A bit of irony followed when Vick's attempt to toss the ball into the crowd was intercepted by the net being raised for the extra point as if to shun the gesture from the city's fallen hero.

The Eagles quickly expanded their lead to 27-0 when Sheldon Brown stepped in front of a Chris Redman pass and returned it 83 yards for a touchdown. The defense then stifled another drive when Sean Jones picked off another pass to start the 4th period. At this point, Andy Reid decided to reward Vick by turning things over to him.

Vick did not disappoint as he connected with Reggie Brown for 43 yards on the first play. He added a 5-yard run before hitting Brent Celek on a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles up 34-0. Unfortunately, Vick banged up his right thumb on the drive, so Reid opted for Keven Kolb to finish the game.

The only thing left for the Eagles was to preserve a rare road shutout. Redman dinked and dunked his team down the field against a prevent defense, benefiting from a little luck along the way. A deflected pass landed in the hands of Tony Gonzalez for a large gain and then as the clock expired, another deflected pass popped into the arms of Roddy White standing in the end zone.

McNabb had another very solid game, tossing for 238 yards over 3 quarters. With the absence of other key players, besides Vick, the Eagles got large contributions from Weaver, Maclin and Brown. On a day that rookie LeSean McCoy could not get untracked, Weaver put on an impressive display of running. Overall, he accumulated 100 yards, including 5 rushes for 37 yards, 2 catches for 63 yards and the touchdown. Maclin stepped in for Jackson, averaging 21 yards on his four receptions.

Although Sean McDermott and his defense left the field a little disappointed that they lost the shutout, the Eagles could surely feel good about a very solid 34-7 win against a team right behind them in the standings. They were also very happy for Vick to play a starring role in his emotional return to the city that was home for his era as a superstar. Hollywood could not have written a much better script.

The day got even better when the moribund Giants found life against the Cowboys and gained an upset win. At the end of the day, the Eagles found themselves tied with the Cowboys at 8-4 and next week's opponent, the Giants, just 1 game back. With the Boys hosting the red hot Chargers, next Sunday's Football Night in America game in the Meadowlands carries large playoff implications. Also, with the regular season ending in Dallas, the Eagles control their own destiny in the NFC East.

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