Kolb looks sharp as Eagles lash Falcons

Asante Samuel reacts after a third-down stop in first quarter, and David Akers follows flight of a missed field goal in fourth quarter.
Asante Samuel reacts after a third-down stop in first quarter, and David Akers follows flight of a missed field goal in fourth quarter.
Posted: October 18, 2010

NORMALLY, YOU might have to wait until after Thanksgiving, and then stand in a long line at the mall to encounter such a "chubby . . . happy guy," as Andy Reid described himself following the Eagles' sharpest and most satisfying victory of the season, a 31-17 lashing yesterday of the previously 4-1 Atlanta Falcons.

Reid's declaration of happiness was issued on behalf of his quarterbacking situation, in the wake of Kevin Kolb's surgically sharp 23-for-29, 326-yard, three-touchdown, 133.6 passer rating performance, achieved despite losing DeSean Jackson to a concussion, 47 seconds into the second quarter. Where others might see a burgeoning quarterback controversy between Kolb and Michael Vick, the Eagles' coach sees only rainbows and unicorns.

"I'm not much into telling you guys this, but this is a beautiful thing," Reid proclaimed after the Eagles won for the second week in a row with Kolb at the controls, and Vick recovering from a rib cartilage injury. "When you're sitting here as a chubby head coach in the National Football League and you've got two good quarterbacks, you're a happy guy. That's a positive, that's an entirely positive thing."

Pressed on how he intends to proceed for next week's going-into-the-bye effort at Tennessee, Reid said: "You take 'Michael Kolb' and we go play, baby!"

Tough decision, though, right?

"That's what I get paid to do," Reid said. "That's what I do. I've gotta make the right decision there."

Pressed even further, Reid said Vick remains the starting quarterback. But, someone recalled, you said that about Kolb, and then the Tuesday after the Detroit game, after Kolb sat out a week with a concussion, you demoted him for Vick. So . . .

"Crazy thing, isn't it? I might have all kinds of surprises," Reid said. "That's what's so great about it. Enjoy it. I will promise you that we'll have one of them out there."

Vick took some scout-team reps Friday, then said the pain when he moved his shoulders was tolerable and "not something where I can't go out there and function." But Reid went to great lengths to keep Vick from doing much of anything yesterday at the Linc, telling him, Reid said, to show up after warmups and then stashing him in the locker room, even though Vick was listed as the third QB and would have been available to hand off in an emergency, Reid said.

It was hard to know what to make of Vick's invisibility, except that given how well Kolb performed, it would be very easy for Reid to tell Vick he doesn't feel as great as he thinks he feels this week, and that he really might need that extra week plus the bye to make sure he's OK. Then you see if Kolb can do this again, and if he can, well, you have a bye week to wrestle with what happens next.

"I'm not even getting into that. No way," Kolb said when asked which QB he would start, if he were the coach. "We have confidence in whoever is out there, and I think that's the way the team approaches it, I really do. I want to be out there again. I trust Andy to make the right decision for everybody, and we believe in that."

In his 2-week return to the starting job, Kolb has completed 44 of 60 passes (73.3 percent) for 579 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, for a 118.7 passer rating. And the Eagles have won twice.

"I think he did a great job, and I'm proud of him," wideout Jason Avant said. Avant caught all five passes thrown his way, for 62 yards. In fact, Jeremy Maclin, Avant and LeSean McCoy were targeted for 16 passes and caught all 16. "I think he's been in the midst of a lot of adversity here in the media here in Philadelphia," Avant said, "and I think he's proving to the city of Philadelphia that he can be a starter in this league. If you can keep him clean, I think he's as good as anybody."

The Eagles did that, even with King Dunlap making his first career start at left tackle. Kolb was sacked once, in the first quarter, as offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg reached deep into his bag of tricks to take advantage of an aggressive Atlanta defense.

The Eagles, 0-2 at home before this, came out of the gate better than they have all season, playing well on both sides of the ball and on special teams in taking a 14-0, first-quarter lead.

With all the quarterback hoopla and the Jackson injury, it might be easy to lose sight of the way the Eagles' defense held the Falcons to one first down in their first five possessions, keeping the visitors off the board until the Eagles had a 21-0 lead.

"We made a big statement today," said defensive end Trent Cole, who twice sacked Exton's Matt Ryan (23-for-42 for 250 yards, two TDs, one interception).

Atlanta threatened to make a game of it only briefly, at the end of the first half and into the early third quarter. The trouble started with the score 21-0, Eagles first-and-10 from the Falcons' 37, looking for at least a David Akers field goal to cap off an excellent half.

Kolb's throw to Brent Celek was tipped in the air by linebacker Curtis Lofton, then was batted around until it landed in the hands of safety William Moore. Kolb chased Moore to the Falcons' sideline, where in a desperate attempt to bring Moore down, Kolb got a hand inside his shoulder pad-neck opening. The officials discerned a violation of the "horse collar" rule, and Atlanta was in business at the Eagles' 31. After Joselio Hanson, jousting with Harry Douglas, earned a pass-interference whistle, the Falcons were set up with a first down at the 1, and on second down they finally scored, Ryan hitting Tony Gonzalez. The Eagles led 21-7 at the half.

Then the Falcons made it 21-10 on a 26-yard Matt Bryant field goal with 6:59 left in the third, but Kolb and Maclin answered with an 83-yard TD just 48 seconds later. It was a beautiful play. An end-around fake to Avant on second-and-13 from the Eagles' 17 suckered corner Christopher Owens, and Maclin was all alone deep down the left side. Maclin caught it at the Atlanta 40 and cruised to the end zone, safety Thomas DeCoud chasing to no avail.

While the ball was still in the air, Dunlap, hard to miss at 6-9, stuck his hand in the air, pointing to the end zone.

"That's a play we'd been working on all week," said Dunlap, who acknowledged that in practice, Jackson was faking the end-around, not Avant. "I saw Maclin running, he was by himself. Him and DeSean, when those guys break open and they put the ball out there like that, there's not too many guys who can catch 'em . . . I was ready to celebrate . . . Marty called it, it worked. Big play."

The only real sour note (yeah, Akers missed three field goals for the first time in his career, but it didn't matter) was Jackson's injury. On third-and-6 from the Falcons' 32, Birds up 14-0, Kolb, desperate to avoid a sack that would have taken his team out of field-goal range, flipped a high pass to Jackson across the middle. Jackson momentarily caught it, but as he came down, he was separated from the ball, and, apparently, his senses, by a helmet-to-chin hit from corner Dunta Robinson. Both players went down immediately and did not get up.

Crowds of players, coaches and medical personnel gathered around each man. They lay a few feet from one another, near the Falcons' sideline. Eventually, each was helped to his feet and walked off the field, supported by a trainer at each shoulder, for more than just reassurance. Neither Jackson nor Robinson seemed able to stand unassisted.

"When they take both players off and neither comes back, that's a violent collision," Reid observed.

They disappeared down their respective tunnels. Reid confirmed afterward that Jackson had become at least the sixth Eagle to suffer a concussion since training camp began.

Jackson was poised to have a breakout day, having run for one touchdown, from 31 yards, and having caught a 34-yard TD strike for the other Eagles score.

"He was on fire there," Reid said. "He was off to a big day. It's too bad it happened that way."

Kolb said he never saw Robinson when he made the throw, while being dragged down. Maclin, whose seven catches for 159 yards were career highs, said he spoke to Jackson, "just let him know I had his back . . . he walked off the field and said, 'I appreciate it.' "

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

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