Secondary gave up too many big plays
PHILADELPHIA --- The Falcons' defense already had been torched for touchdowns on the Eagles' first two possessions Sunday when cornerback Dunta Robinson tried to make a play that would change the course of the game.
With Philadelphia marching into Atlanta territory again just 39 seconds into the second quarter, Robinson seized his chance by vaulting into DeSean Jackson. The resulting collision separated the ball from the Eagles wide receiver and quieted the packed stands at Lincoln Financial Field, with the two combatants prone and motionless on the field.
After a lengthy delay, Robinson and Jackson --- with assistance from their respective medical staffs --- walked off to their locker rooms, receiving a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd of 69,144.
Neither player returned to action, each sidelined with head injuries, and Robinson subsequently was assessed a personal foul for the hit. And while the jolt did nothing to prevent Philadelphia from taking a 31-17 victory, the absence of the seventh-year pro out of South Carolina caused the Falcons staff to juggle personnel in the secondary.
Christopher Owens took over Robinson's spot at right corner, and the nickel package duties were assumed by veteran Brian Williams.
The alterations, according to head coach Mike Smith, were not an excuse for Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb to complete 23 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns --- including an 83-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Maclin (7 catches, 159 yards) that stands as the longest pass play allowed by the Falcons this season.
"Dunta Robinson is a very integral part of our defense, but the next man up has to come in and step up," Smith said. "You lose a starter, you have to anticipate that the guy playing behind him steps up and makes plays."
Owens had no arguments with that.
"You've got to be able to come in and not miss a heartbeat," Owens said. "That's how we practice; you've got to be ready. When I came in I was confident that I was ready."
Safety William Moore, a rookie out of Missouri, backed up his teammate.
"It's unfortunate what happened to [Robinson and Jackson], but that's the name of the game," Moore said. "You've got to be able to step up. I felt that Chris came in and did an excellent job."
But the Falcons' secondary seemed to be backpedaling from the beginning, watching Jackson take a reverse around the left end and dash virtually untouched for a 31-yard touchdown on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage.
The next time Philadelphia got the ball, Kolb found Jackson behind two defenders in the end zone with a 34-yard TD pass.
That breakdown, along with the 83-yard catch-and-run by Maclin in the third quarter, were two plays that upset Smith regardless of which defenders he had on the field.
"We gave up way too many explosive plays," Smith said. "We were in a coverage where you should not let the ball get thrown over your head. That happened to us twice today, and you just can not afford those mental errors. We've got a whole lot of work to do, obviously, as a football team, and we will get the corrections and get moving on."