Skip to main content

Five Keys: Falcons vs. Eagles

4cb306d0b6973ddc330a0000.jpg contributing writer Daniel Cox gets you ready for Sunday's game with his five keys to a Falcons victory, including a big day for Tony Gonzalez, controlling the clock and giving Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb a day he'll want to forget in Week 6 on the road at Philadelphia.

For more than a few seasons, the champion of the NFC had to go through Philadelphia to get to the Super Bowl.

Head coach Andy Reid and his dynamic passing offense and blitz-heavy defense have been the class of the NFC, but this season with a new two-headed starting quarterback duo in Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick, changes have been aplenty in Philly.

A team at points in the past that seemed almost dead set against running the football has finally found a tough, between-the-tackles back in LeSean McCoy and the Eagles are running at 130 yards per game.

Last season, Philadelphia came to the Georgia Dome and trounced the Falcons 34-7. Atlanta will be less concerned with revenge and more about simply winning on Sunday for the sake of winning, a victory that will be their fifth straight.

A Falcons victory will put them at 5-1 on the season and in a commanding seat at the top of the NFC. The tide may be beginning to turn.

A look at the five keys that could ensure a Falcons victory in Week 6:

Action Jackson:For the second week in a row, Atlanta faces a return man that can change a game in a single play.

The Falcons have had some breakdowns on special teams in recent weeks and will need to remain disciplined in order to not let DeSean Jackson beat them.

The third-year wide receiver is an accomplished receiver in addition to returner, earning Pro Bowl honors last season at both positions, the first player in NFL history to do so.

Jackson hasn't had a touchdown return yet this season and his 8-yard average per punt return isn't daunting, but the reputation is. Since entering the league in 2008, he leads the NFL in punt return yards and Atlanta will have to limit him just like they did Cleveland's dangerous return man, Joshua Cribbs, last Sunday.

Clock watchers:The Eagles have the ability to put points on the board in bunches. Their 24.4 points per game is seventh-best in the NFL and are ranked eighth in total offense, averaging 361.6 yards per game.

Just as they did against New Orleans, the Falcons will want to control the clock and keep the Eagles' offense off the field. The Falcons are built to do just that and their league-leading 34:59 time of possession per game proves it.

Philadelphia's struggled to stop the run and the Falcons make no secret that they want to run the ball. It should be a physical clash up front, but the Eagles rank 24th in limiting opponent's running games and Atlanta runs the ball better than almost any other team in the league.

A heavy dose of running backs Michael Turner and Jason Snelling should be expected and if they can get rolling, Philadelphia and whichever quarterback they have under center might be forced to take long breaks on the Eagles sidelines.

Touchdown Tony:It's doubtful that Atlanta will run the ball on every down. Philadelphia's pass defense is stout (eighth in the NFL), but there is a weakness and the Falcons have one of the best players in a position to exploit it.

The Eagles linebackers aren't the best in coverage and have been exposed some in recent weeks against top tight ends. Washington's Chris Cooley earned 37 yards and a touchdown in Week 4 and the 49ers' Vernon Davis gashed them for 104 yards and one touchdown last week.

Middle linebacker Steward Bradley is strong in covering the run, but isn't as effective in defending the pass. Atlanta's deep shots down the field to playmaking receivers like Roddy White may be taken away, but there's a good chance Atlanta's tight end, Tony Gonzalez, will be making plays in the intermediate range all day.

Kolb Krunch:It appears that Kolb will be starting for the injured Vick on Sunday and he lacks the escapability that Vick does, necessary behind a line that has allowed 19 sacks, second-worst in the league.

It's almost obvious to say Atlanta will want to pressure Kolb and ultimately sack him, but against this offense it's paramount, but also a strong possibility.

The left side of Philly's offensive line is weaker with the absence of left tackle Jason Peters and a tight end may be needed on that side to help slow down defensive end John Abraham.

If Abraham is drawing much of the attention, the underrated defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and emerging end Kroy Biermann could feast on Kolb.

Double-edged sword:While the Falcons will never intentionally take out a player, they showed last week that when they turn up the pressure, they can knock a quarterback off his game and off the field.

Kolb, who has already suffered a concussion once this season, could find himself on the sidelines at some point and while Vick's status is up in the air, it's still a possibility that he'll serve as the game's backup.

Atlanta has prepared for both quarterbacks and their styles, but Vick's speed and ability to improv during a play is unique and difficult to game plan for. If Kolb comes out it means Atlanta's doing something right, but the result may be a quarterback calling the shots that is even more dangerous.

If Vick's on the field, Atlanta will have to be able to react quickly.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content