Averaging 148.8 yards per game on the ground coming in, the Falcons were limited to 65 yards on 19 carries, with 247-pound battering ram Michael Turner managing only 45 yards on 15 tries. That paled in comparison to the 154 yards on 38 attempts registered by the Eagles, who got 40-plus yards from three ballcarriers (LeSean McCoy, 21 rushes for 64 yards; DeSean Jackson, two for 44; and Eldra Buckley, 12 for 40).
"They did a good job," Turner said after the home team delighted a crowd of 69,144 by jumping out to a 21-0 first-half lead en route to a 31-17 victory. "There was some movement up front, some things [the Eagles' defense did that] didn't show on tape."
Not that the tone of any football game is established on the first three plays, but that might have been the case after the Falcons received the opening kickoff. Turner carried twice for no gain and 2 yards, and on third down Ryan was sacked for an 8-yard loss by middle linebacker Stewart Bradley.
After a wobbly 34-yard punt by Michael Koenen, the Eagles needed only two snaps to reach the end zone, Kevin Kolb finding Jeremy Maclin for a 22-yard gain before Jackson took it the rest of the way on a 31-yard burst around the left side.
Boom, just like that it was 7-0. And it would get worse, the Eagles adding two more touchdowns for a 21-0 lead before the Falcons began to get untracked.
More significantly, the deepening hole Atlanta found itself in forced Ryan and coach Mike Smith to alter a relatively conservative game plan that almost always calls for the Falcons to establish the run before diversifying.
"It's difficult for any quarterback," Smith said when asked about the disfavorable circumstances Ryan found himself in. "It's especially difficult when you fall behind, 21-0."
Ryan completed 23 of 42 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. He had said last week that the Falcons are most effective when they have the sort of run-pass balance all teams profess to want, but few actually achieve on a consistent basis.
"I think it's good for our offense to be able to do both," Ryan said. "We've been pretty effective running the football and we've been pretty effective throwing it."
For much of the way against the Eagles, though, Ryan was without benefit of a productive running game that might have alleviated the pressure on him. In addition to that one interception, he was sacked three times and lost a fumble at the Atlanta 46-yard line with just under 3 minutes remaining and the Falcons, down by 14 points, still hanging onto hope for a miracle finish.
"Early on we didn't do what we wanted to do offensively, whether it be run or pass on first and second down," Ryan said. "We need to develop a better rhythm early on. That's something we'll work on.
"Give credit where credit is due. The Eagles outplayed us today. I thought we had a great week of preparation, a really good game plan. But we came out and didn't execute as well as we needed to."