The Falcons returned to the Georgia Dome on Sunday searching for a win. It was a big win in every sense of the term. A record-equalizing win and a win that showed the Falcons playing hard and playing with guts. The physical game took a toll on the rosters of both teams and at the end of everything, it was one of the most exciting games many had ever seen. In the locker room much of the talk was about playing physical against Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, a huge play by the new defensive end in town and a tough win for a team that knew it would have to be tough.
Quarterback Matt Ryan said his offensive line came together in the game's final quarter to ensure Ryan could complete the necessary throws: "We were going against a really food front four. They are one of the better pass-rushing front fours in the National Football League. I thought our guys stepped up and did a great job. They played 60 minutes. They didn't let some of the bad snaps that we had affect us. They kept battling and on those last two drives, they provided some really good protection. We were able to make some throws down the field." *
Ray Edwards had one of the game-defining moments even though in came in the second quarter. He picked up the forced fumble by Peria Jerry and ran 64 yards giving the Falcons offense a short field to take the lead: "I was very fortunate to be in position to pick up the fumble and try to make a play for a touchdown. Though I didn't make it to the end zone, I gave it my best. All I remember is scooping the ball, but not too much after that. It all happened so very fast. As a defense we try to make those plays all the time and give the offense a short field." *
The Falcons' drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter gave Atlanta two consecutive scoring drives, but it had been difficult all day. Head coach Mike Smith said he'd told his team Sunday would be that way: "It was very tough sledding all day. That is one of the top defensive lines in the league and they do a great job of rotation. We knew it was going to be tough sledding. We hit them early with some things on the first drive. We didn't give it up. We wanted to make sure we had a pretty good balance in terms of pass-to-run and run-to-pass. We just kept scratching and finally we were able to bust one." *
Although Atlanta only gained 180 yards through the air, they were meaningful yards against an Eagles secondary that features three Pro Bowlers. Wide receiver Roddy White said the offense took what they were given and squeezed big plays out of everything they had: "It means a whole lot. Any time you go out there and throw the ball around the yard like that and complete balls like that; Tony did a heck of a job, caught a lot of big passes and got in the end zone. Matt (Ryan) is going to be Matt; he's going to come out there and complete passes, keep our chains moving and keep our offense on time. That's what we ask him to do and as long as he does that we'll be fine." *
The Falcons' game plan on defense featured a heavy dose of hits on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. By staying physical all day they were able to limit his rush yards and hurry him into some key mistakes. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said what they did worked for much of the day: "We knew that we were putting hits on him (Michael Vick). You never want to hurt anybody in this game, but at the same time we're a physical team and I hope he is all right."