After an ugly season opener in Chicago, I’m guessing the last thing most Falcons’ fans want to see right now are the Philadelphia Eagles in general and Michael Vick in particular.
One might be a Super Bowl team. The other remains an open wound for some and, to make matters worse, Vick has turned into a real quarterback and looked solid in the Eagles’ 31-13 win over St. Louis to open the season. But this actually is good timing. We’re about to find out something about the Falcons.
Coming off an embarrassing performance in a 30-12 loss to the Bears, this will be a major test for players (who looked beat physically in the game and made several mental mistakes on defense) and coaches (who were outcoached by the Chicago staff and took a passive approach to the game plan).
A poor performance in a loss wouldn’t necessarily wreck the season — 0-2 in as 12-game season at Georgia is much worse than 0-2 in a 16-game season — but it would set up serious questions about this team. So we might as well find out now what they’re made of.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez said after the loss to the Bears than anybody who starts thinking the Falcons were over “overhyped … They’re full of it.” But if a team can’t bounce back and show resiliency and toughness in difficult situations, it’s can’t survive in the postseason either. The Falcons didn’t survive last year.
The Sunday night game against Philadelphia will be the third meeting between the teams since Vick signed with Philadelphia. The first two were Atlanta nightmares. In 2009, the Eagles won 34-7 at the Georgia Dome and Vick, as a backup to Donovan McNabb, ran for a five-yard touchdown, threw a five-yard touchdown and completed a 43-yard pass to Reggie Brown. Matt Ryan was injured and did not play. Philly won again last season 31-17. This time, Vick was injured. But Kevin Kolb throw for 326 yards and three touchdowns and three touchdowns, the Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and it was over.
This will be the first Ryan vs. Vick match-up.
The 2009 game defined the Falcons’ relative mess of a season (it came late in a 2-6 stretch that submarined playoff hopes). Last year’s defeat meant little in the big picture (they finished 13-3, won the NFC South and earned a first-round playoff bye, though lost).
Somehow, I think what we see Sunday night will say a lot about 2011 Falcons.
By Jeff Schultz