Our weekly Heat Check is devoted to the winner of a game so wild you’d have sworn the winning team couldn’t get out of its own way — right up until that moment when it, er, won the game.
Matt Ryan: I’m thinking those who likened him to Peyton Manning had it wrong. Ryan is more Ben Roethlisberger — a quarterback who doesn’t make every play but makes the big ones — than the essence of precision. We saw again Sunday night that Ryan can look pedestrian for whole quarters at a time. Thing is, not many of those substandard quarters are fourth quarters. Heat Index: Who needs a hot QB when you’ve got Matty Ice?
Michael Vick: Technically he no longer plays for the Falcons, but he gets grandfathered into our ratings because … well, because I say so. His three turnovers put the Eagles in position to lose, and then he put the Eagles in position to win. And then he left with a concussion and the Eagles lost anyway. And not many folks in the Dome seemed to be cheering him, which had to sting. Heat Index: Pointing toward the scoreboard to answer a shower of boos is rarely cool — less so when that scoreboard winds up showing that your side lost and you weren’t around to see it. (But at least he pointed with his index finger, if you students of Falcons history get my drift.)
Michael Turner: Sometimes you wonder why the Falcons keep handing the ball to this guy. Then he bursts through the line and you remember. He’s kind of an oddity himself — a power back whose biggest plays come on long runs. Heat Index: He’s the Burner, remember?
Tony Gonzalez: I admit it. There was a time last season when I thought he’d lost a step. Can’t say the notion occurred last night. Heat Index: Caught more passes that the Falcons’ starting wide receivers combined — I’d call that a hot night.
Julio Jones: He caught only two passes, but the third-down catch when the Falcons trailed by 10 points was the night’s biggest play. Had to jump, got hit by two Eagles, still hauled it in. Heat Index: More soothing balm for those who thought Thomas Dimitroff overreached on Draft Night.
Sam Baker: Speaking of first-round picks by TD the GM … here’s one that doesn’t look so hot. Baker hasn’t yielded all nine sacks posted by the Falcons’ first two opponents, but it does kind of seem that way. Heat Index: Bakers are supposed to be skilled at regulating heat, are they not?
The defense: It made some plays, yes. Just not very many. The Falcons have surrendered 61 points in two games. That’s not new-and-improved. That’s not-even-as-good-as-before. And the Eagles’ last good surge failed not because of anything the Falcons did but because Jeremy Maclin dropped the ball. Heat Index: Coordinator Brian VanGorder’s temperature has been known to rise. I’m guessing it’s at, ahem, fever pitch.
Dunta Robinson: I’m sorry, but that was a penalty. He seems to get those against Philly. Heat Index: The NFL might bring some heat Robinson’s way, in the form of another suspension.
The punter: His name is Matt Bosher. He punted out of bounds on his own 20. That takes some doing, but I’m not sure it’s something that should ever be done. Heat Index: Let’s just say he’s not the next Matty Ice.
Mike Smith: Give Smitty much credit for the intransigence displayed by his men. (More than anything, intransigence won the game.) But if the Eagles’ final heave had bounced the wrong way, we’d have wondered how the Falcons took the ball with 1:41 remaining and Philadelphia down to its final timeout … and still wound up punting to DeSean Jackson and having to defend a pass from beyond midfield. Heat Index: It’s not often the deployment of the fall-on-the-ball Victory Formation can go wrong, but this bit of time mismanagement came perilously close. A bit more coaching cool is advised.
By Mark Bradley