Rapid Reaction: Falcons 35, Eagles 31

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
11:47
PM ET

ATLANTA – Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 35-31 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The Falcons are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South. That beats the alternative because only about 12 percent of teams that have started 0-2 since 1990 have gone on to qualify for the playoffs. The Falcons came into the game saying this wasn’t any different than any other week. But it was. This game was huge. It was Michael Vick's homecoming and, after falling behind in the second half, the Falcons showed some character as they rallied.

What I liked: The way the Falcons stuck with the running game when it mattered most. Michael Turner broke off a 61-yard run and then followed it up with a short touchdown plunge to put the Falcons ahead. Yeah, Matt Ryan and the passing game are important. But when Turner’s running well, that’s when this offense is at its best.

What I didn’t like: The mistakes. There still were too many mistakes from the Falcons, a team that usually doesn’t make many. Ryan threw interceptions and defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson each were flagged for costly penalties.

Stat watch: Ryan threw four touchdown passes. That’s the first time in his career he’s done that.

Emerging player: Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry. The Falcons’ first-round draft pick in 2009, Jerry’s career got off to a slow start because of a knee injury. But he made the first big play of his career Sunday night when he forced a Vick fumble. Defensive end Ray Edwards recovered it and set up an Atlanta touchdown.

What’s next: The Falcons play the Buccaneers next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

I'll be back with more after post-game interviews.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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