So What Was and Was Not a Big Deal in Eagles' Sunday Night Loss to Falcons?

So What Was and Was Not a Big Deal in Eagles' Sunday Night Loss to Falcons?

Not all losses are created equal. There are losses in which one team gets plain outplayed in practically every aspect of the game, and never really has a chance at winning. Then there are losses in which two teams match up fairly close with one another, and the final score comes down to the bounce of a ball, or a timely big play. Sunday night was the latter.

The Eagles lost. Even though they did a ton of things extremely well, they also executed poorly on enough plays that it wound up costing them the game. Their uneven performance isn't even that shocking given the sloppy outing they had a week ago, only last night, they were facing an opponent who was poised to take advantage of the many mistakes.

As is usually the case in any hard-fought battle that was given away, some of what happened on the field was a disturbing trend. Then again, some of it was a temporary lapse in concentration, or plain misfortune. After the jump, we'll explain which matters are likely to rear their ugly heads in the future, and which ones we need to forget about as quickly as possible.

Michael Vick's Concussion
On a positive note, Vick was much more efficient throwing the football on Sunday compared to a week ago. On the down side, he got injured. Who had Week 2 in the pool?

It's difficult to make the point this is not a big deal. Concussions are serious business, and there is a good chance Vick will miss a minimum of one game. At best, he's probably a coin flip for the Giants.

Having said that, he was hurt on a freak play. Of all the hits he's taken and will take in the future, shots from his own teammates are the kind I am least worried about. The other tiny bit of good news is Mike Kafka was actually impressive, and Vince Young could be available as well. Their depth lessens the loss of a Vick in the short term.

Of course, we also have no idea as to the severity of Vick's concussion at this point. Maybe he plays Sunday, maybe he misses one game. Maybe he misses a bunch. Until we find out exactly to what extent Vick is injured, it's not wise to conclude one way or another about its gravity. INCOMPLETE DATA

Turnovers
Much of Vick's success last season was predicated on his going the first half of the season without committing a single turnover. Not coincidentally, when he gave it away seven times in the final six games, suddenly they were a .500 team getting bounced out of a post-season bye, needing a miracle to defeat a division rival, and ultimately seeing their season end much too early.

The issue does not look like it's going away any time soon. Vick turned it over three times, and even if you erase the first fumble which wasn't his fault, the other two were bad. The fumble while scrambling toward the end of the first half cost them an opportunity to at least attempt a reasonable field goal, maybe even sneak six, while the interception in the third quarter was simply a terrible decision, whether the defender actually picked it off or not. (More on that a little further down.)

Add in a lost fumble against the Rams last week, and the giveaways are really starting to pile up. In the NFL, you have to win the turnover battle, period. Vick needs to be better at protecting the ball, period. VERY BIG DEAL

Dropped Passes
Jeremy Maclin's drop to kill the Eagles' best shot at retaking the lead late in the fourth quarter was certainly the most memorable, but far from the only one. DeSean Jackson dropped a touchdown. Jason Avant and Brent Celek dropped first down passes. It was an epidemic on Sunday night, and almost every one of them hurt.

Jackson and Celek letting a few get away is nothing new. Maclin and Avant, on the other hand, is slightly more out of the ordinary. Even though Maclin torched the Atlanta secondary for 173 yards, when every one of the primary receivers has a key drop, it's a concern. Unfortunately, you just have to take the good with the bad to a certain extent. SORT OF A BIG DEAL

Offensive Line
I was surprised to see anybody thought they were the issue on Sunday night. Peria Jerry was allowed to walk into the backfield to force Vick's first fumble, but other than that one play, they were solid. They opened holes, and gave quarterbacks time to operate. Don't believe me? McCoy averaged 5.2 yards per carry, and the Falcons recorded zero sacks.

I suppose if this group isn't perfect, somebody is going to assume it's a problem area. They still have to eliminate those awful negative plays, but for the majority of the night, this group got the job done. NOT A BIG DEAL

Defense
The next two sections will detail specific areas of the defense, but first let's look at the group as a whole. Specifically, the Falcons first three touchdown drives all began in Eagles territory--two following turnovers, another after a short punt.

That doesn't mean the defense should give up a touchdown every time either. The Falcons reached paydirt all five times they took the ball inside the red zone, and both of their scoring drives in the fourth quarter went 80 yards.

However, it wasn't an all-around terrible effort. The Eagles caused tons of negative plays, harassing Matt Ryan in the pocket, keeping Turner in the backfield most of the night, and conceding nothing to their wide receivers.

If the crazy offensive numbers around the league are any indication, conditioning appears it may be an issue after the lockout, which favors the offense. The Birds may have run out of juice at the end, contributing to the big plays that led to Atlanta's fourth quarter comeback. The defense doesn't deserve a pass, as we'll reveal in a moment, but there were enough positives to take away that it wasn't completely horrendous either. NOT TOO BIG OF A DEAL... YET

Run Defense
Remove Michael Turner's game-busting 61-yard run from the equation, and the Pro Bowl runner carried 20 times for 54 yards, good for merely 2.7 yards a pop. Even a large portion of those yards (40) came on a handful of nice runs in the first quarter. The rest of the night, Turner was frequently bottled up in his own backfield or for no gain.

Overall, it was not a bad night defending one of the league's most powerful ball carriers. Unfortunately, once he gets going, he can be a load, and that huge gainer changed the complexion of the game. We can't pretend it didn't happen, but we also should not discount how well they defended him the other three quarters. Still, they need to have a complete game against the run before we deflect blame too much, so for now... SORT OF A BIG DEAL

Covering The Tight End
The linebacker everybody seemed to be least concerned about entering this season was Jamar Chaney, but he got schooled in this one. It wasn't just him. The safeties were of no use as well against future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, but when Chaney was moved from his natural position in the middle to strongside linebacker, the thinking was he had the athleticism to keep up with tight ends. Well, Gonzalez is pushing 40 years old, and it just wasn't happening here.

Frankly, this is scary, mostly because there are no obvious solutions. Worse, teams will more readily expose this flaw than ever with the inability of wide receivers to consistently find openings against the Eagles' all-world corners. The biggest takeaway from this game should be they still have major issues in this aspect, and Juan Castillo desperately needs to find a way or the play
er to lock it up. BIG, BIG DEAL

Challenges/Clock Management
First, the challenge that wasn't. In hindsight, it's easy to say the Eagles should have challenged Vick's interception, because it did in fact hit the turf. However, it did not appear any of the players on the field were emphatically indicating the ball was trapped, and none of the initial replays provided an angle that would merit a challenge. Indeed, Andy Reid said after the game they did not have a look.

With that in mind, I'm not sure how angry anybody should be. It's a situation where the head coach is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. If Reid challenges on a gamble and it turns out to be a clean play, you are complaining about how he blew it again.

As for the usage of timeouts when the offense had the ball late in the game, my guess is that was so Reid could talk to his quarterback in crucial 3rd and 8 and 4th and 4 situations. Let's not forget, this was Kafka's first meaningful game experience ever in the NFL. It's not necessarily a bad idea to take some time and make sure everybody is on the same page.

It is what it is. Reid has made enough truly disastrous errors in the past, his infamy has taken on a life of its own, to the point where the man can't call a timeout in any situation without at least one person questioning its use. In this case, it's awfully easy to be an armchair QB, but you also have to consider the realities of the position. NOT A BIG DEAL

Overall
Let's look at the big picture. The Eagles were on the road, against a team that won 13 games last season, who are now 21-5 in the Georgia Dome since 2008. The Falcons were embarrassed last week, and desperate not to fall in an 0-2 hole.

The Eagles scored 31 points on offense, and that was without Vick for over a quarter of action. The defense, except for one lapse, showed marked improvement against the run, and successfully blanketed one of the best wide receivers in the game.

There were a lot of positives here, marred by a few huge negatives. Nobody is happy after a loss, but they dominated in several phases. The Falcons just needed it more on Sunday night, and were able to take advantage of the plays Philly left on the field. It happens, and as long as some of these mistakes can be corrected, the Eagles should continue looking like a serious contender, even when they wind up holding the short end of the stick. Losing in Week 2: NOT A BIG DEAL.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”