It all boils down to what happens on the field at the Georgia Dome tonight… but plenty of professional prognosticators have already put their final scouting thoughts on the outcome…
Jamie Dukes at NFLN says Vick and the Eagles are primed for a surprise beat-down by the Falcons at the Georgia Dome…. I tend to disagree, but I will listen to the opposition’s scouting opinion…
Smacked in the mouth by the Bears last week, the Falcons won’t lack for motivation. If they can establish the ground game, buy Matt Ryan some time, and apply pressure to Michael Vick, they can pull this off. If they come out flat, there’s little doubt the Eagles will eat them alive. That seems to be the concensus of the Atlanta media…
Here’s how the Atlanta blog “The Falcoholic” sees the key personnel matchups today:
1. “Stop LeSean McCoy… Shady vs. the entire Atlanta defense….””
“Yes, Michael Vick is extremely dangerous. Yes, so is DeSean Jackson. But no one combines talent with traits that have traditionally given the Falcons headaches like the running back Eagles fans call Shady. He’s fast, elusive and has great hands for a running back. If he gets into the open or catches a pass in the flat, the defense is going to have to step up in a big way. Stopping McCoy means playing him much closer than DC Brian Van Gorder is comfortable with. It’s going to involve excellent penetration from the front seven on running plays, so they can bring him down before he can get rolling. And it’s going to involve the linebackers making stops when McCoy does get out of the backfield and into the second layer of the D. It’s all very doable, but the Falcons will have to overcome their soft zone and tackling liabilites to get it done. Watch this one closely.”
2. “Michael Turner vs. Eagles Run Defense…”
“The Falcons’ offensive key to this football game is Michael Turner. If he runs rampant, the Falcons probably win. If he’s contained, the odds become a lot longer. To understand why, you have to look at the Eagles defense. The defensive line is well-stocked with guys like Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Trent Cole. They’re all very talented players, but in Cole and Babin’s cases, at least, they’re better rushing the passer than stopping the run. Their linebackers are by far their weakest link, with guys who are largely unproven or just mediocre.” [Editor’s Note from Lupes—-Hurtful!!!!!]
“That makes for a prime opportunity for Turner, who managed 100 yards on 10 carries against the Bears last weekend. If the line can spring him—and despite their struggles against the pass, they did fine in Week 1—he could have a huge day. If the Falcons are controlling the clock and wearing down the defense with Turner, it opens up the passing game. It also keeps the defense off the field, which is a huge plus.”
3. ” Falcons Offensive Line vs. Eagles Pass Rush…”
“To springboard off of the Turner point, the Falcons have to block well. It’s critically important that they stop the Eagles’ pass rush. There’s a ton of talent up front on Philadelphia, as I’ve mentioned. Trent Cole is quietly one of the best pass rushers working in the NFL today. If the Falcons have to become one dimensional and pass like they did against the Bears, the Eagles would seem primed to tee off on Matt Ryan. They certainly did against Sam Bradford and the Rams last weekend. So the line must step up, as we noted earlier in the week. Hopefully guys like Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker bring their ‘A’ game, Mike Mularkey gets Ovie Mughelli and Reggie Kelly involved to chip in. It’s going to be impossible to keep the Eagles from getting into the backfield altogether, but a strong performance would go a long way toward keeping the offense moving. “
4. “Matt Bosher vs. Eagles Special Teams…”
“This will likely be a factor in every Falcons game until Bosher proves he can boot it like we all hope he can….The reason for that is simple: The new kickoff rule should help the Falcons, who are prone to the occasional massive special teams lapse, but only if they get touchbacks. To this point, Bosher just hasn’t been able to do that. Paired with his anemic 38.4 yard average on five punts against the Bears, this is a cause for concern. The Eagles don’t need any help on special teams, so Bosher will need to step up and deliver some dynamite kicking in both the kickoff and punt game..”
On dealing with the expected noise in the Georgia Dome…
Noise is a problem for the Eagles’ offense whenever they play on the road. Opposing fans scream and stomp on every play to both encourage their defense and throw off the Eagles’ timing. But it’s worse in domes, where the sound bounces off the ceiling and walls and washes over the field like a steady downpour.
“It’s tough to hear anything in there,” Eagles guard Evan Mathis said. “Minnesota’s (Mall of America Field) is probably the worst because the fans are crazy and you’ve got all the other stuff to deal with like the horn that they’re blowing (over the loudspeaker) all the time. But they are all loud.”
The Georgia Dome is expected to be even louder than usual tonight because of Vick. Although he played there for the Eagles in 2009, tonight’s game marks his first time back as the starting quarterback. The game is also the Falcons’ home opener after suffering a 30-12 loss at Chicago last Sunday. Atlanta is much better at home. The Falcons own a 20-3 record there under quarterback Matt Ryan.
“The fans make a big difference for us at home,” Falcons coach Mike Smith told 97.5 FM in a phone interview. “They’re very smart and know when to cheer and when not to. They make things very difficult for our opponents.”
The Eagles don’t figure to be fazed by the environment, however. Last Sunday’s victory at St. Louis boosted their record to 13-9 in indoor stadiums since coach Andy Reid arrived in 1999. They have won three straight and four of their last six dating back to a 34-7 win over the Falcons on Dec. 6, 2009.
The Eagles have ways of dealing with the noise. During the last two weeks, some workouts have been conducted at the Eagles’ indoor practice facility at the NovaCare Complex. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had the equipment staff pipe in simulated crowd noise and heavy metal music through the speakers whenever the offense was running plays. They installed a new sound system this season that makes it even louder.
“Most of it was just crowd noise from other games,” Mathis said. “It’s kind of funny because when they use noise from college stadiums, you can hear the bands playing the fight songs in the background.” Most of the players insisted that college stadiums are far louder than any in the NFL, even the ones with roofs.
Those who played at schools in major conferences such as the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Pac-12 routinely played in front of 80,000 to 100,000 fans on Saturdays. By contrast, an announced crowd of 56,722 watched the Eagles beat the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.
“Almost every stadium you play in is unbelievably loud,” said Eagles running back Ronnie Brown, who played at Auburn University in the SEC. “You go to places like Tennessee and LSU and there are 100,000 fans there and they’re all sitting right on top of you.”
The Eagles have a complex system of hand signals and gestures to combat the noise. Rookie center Jason Kelce handles the offensive line. Once the offense breaks the huddle, he scans the defense and yells the blocking assignments to left guard Mathis and right guard Kyle DeVan. Mathis relays it to left tackle Jason Peters while DeVan tells right tackle Todd Herremans. Peters or Herremans then pass it along to tight ends Brent Celek and/or Clay Harbor.
No one could hear Vick barking out signals, so he will tap his hip or stomp his foot to alert running backs LeSean McCoy and Brown that the play is about to start. The gestures have no relevance to the wide receivers. Like fullback Schmitt, they just watch the ball. “There’s no way I can hear the cadence,” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “I watch the center’s hand and when the ball is snapped, I go. That’s why a wide receiver should never, ever jump offsides.”
Conversely, the Eagles’ defense has to deal with silence. When Ryan and company are on the field, the crowd stops roaring. Sometimes the video scoreboards will show a sign that reads “Quiet, Offense At Work.” The Eagles’ defense will have to worry about the Falcons’ no-huddle offense and Ryan altering his snap counts to try and lure them into jumping offsides.