Most teams will only go as far as their depth takes them.
On Sunday, the Falcons showed they have a bit of depth and when two players that have played a lot of snaps for the Falcons this season, Harry Douglas and Garrett Reynolds, weren't able to go, two young players stepped in and did what was asked of them.
Entering Sunday's game, Drew Davis and Peter Konz, saw the majority of their time on the field this season on special teams. Davis, in particular, has played very well on coverage units, bringing down two ball carriers this season.
But against the Eagles, both players were asked to step into more prominent roles and the Falcons got a win on the road in a hostile environment. Davis played for the inactive Douglas and Konz started in place of Reynolds, who was active but did not play a snap. Davis saw action in 46 of 75 offensive snaps and Konz started every snap at right guard.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith said on Monday the staff decided to give Konz some reps during the week with Reynolds' health in question and he thought the rookie second-round pick performed well in his early assessment.
"After viewing the film, I thought he had a very solid game," Smith said. "It was a situation where you're a rookie and you're playing your first game and you're playing against a defensive line that's very talented. Cullen Jenkins is the starter, but they rotated guys and had different guys lining up against him and I thought Peter handled it extremely well."
With so much attention being given to Julio Jones and Roddy White in Atlanta's passing offense, Davis was able to take advantage of his one-on-one opportunities and come down with the football each of the two times he was targeted. The second-year receiver, who spent last season on the practice squad, caught the first complete pass of the game converting a third-and-8 situation with a 15-yard completion.
It was Davis' first catch in the NFL and his second catch would be even bigger. Lined up in the slot on third-and-7 from the Philadelphia 15, Davis ran his route right past defenders as they trained their focus on Jones, lined wide of Davis. He caught the wide-open pass in the end zone for a 15-yard TD and gave the Falcons the fast start on offense they wanted.
Even starting middle linebacker Akeem Dent, whose snap count has gone up and down over the season, got valuable time as a linebacker in the nickel defense after Sean Weatherspoon was injured in the fourth quarter. It's experience like that that is invaluable to young players and as they come through in a pinch, the depth of the Falcons squad strengthens.
Smith credits the locker room mentoring that occurs as a key ingredient to ensuring younger depth players play well when their number is called.
"I really have to say our guys, and when I say 'our guys,' the core group of guys that are the leaders in the locker room, they work with the younger players and they talk to them about their experiences," Smith said. "I've said it many times and I'm going to say it again, I know it's about winning on Sunday, but you win first in the locker room. You've got to have a good locker room."
The Falcons showed a lot in their fourth road win of the season. Once again they reminded many around the league they can go on the road, win outside and win in bad weather. They also showed some of their depth is starting to emerge and with it, they may be able to weather some of the future storms of this season.