Kolb impressive in Eagles’ 31-17 win

By MATTHEW WATERS
Staff Writer — mwaters@highhopesblog.com

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Kevin Kolb celebrates a big Eagles win, but Andy Reid insists that Michael Vick is still his starter. (Photo Philly.com

And you thought the quarterback controversy was settled.

Kevin Kolb put himself back in Andy Reid’s good graces with an outstanding performance as he led the Eagles to a 31-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Kolb was 23–29 for 326 yards, threw three touchdowns and one pick, and finished with a passer rating of 133.6. As for concerns about stretching the field, Kolb finished with 11.2 yards per attempt.

Kolb’s biggest target all game was Jeremy Maclin, who grabbed seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came on the best trick play Philly has run all year. The other two touchdowns both belong to DeSean Jackson, who took an end around 31 yards on the Eagles’ second play of the game and later caught a beautifully placed 34-yard pass in the end zone.

But Jackson’s day ended early on a scary play in the second half. Kolb threw a desperate pass to Jackson who was coming over the middle and had to open up his body to try to catch the ball. Defensive back Dunta Robinson came at Jackson full speed and popped him right under his helmet, sending both players to the ground where they laid motionless for a few minutes. Luckily, both players walked off with the help of trainers but neither returned to action. Reid later said Jackson’s injury was a concussion.

“I just felt so bad, you know, because I’m part of the play and never saw the guy,” Kolb said. “We’re just hoping for the best. I saw his arm move a little bit because they were messing with his neck. It’s just never a good situation when they’re both laying like that.

Jackson will most likely sit out next week even if he feels better since it’s his second concussion in a year. He’ll most likely be available after the bye week against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Eagles got off to a hot start, with Jackson’s two touchdowns coming on Philly’s first two drives of the game. Maclin added his first touchdown halfway through the second quarter to give them a three touchdown lead.

The Falcons, led by the Exton, Pa., native Matt Ryan, couldn’t sustain drives to get them started. They typically depend on their running game to open up the passing lanes for them, but Michael Turner finished with 45 yards on 15 attempts, and Jason Snelling added just 17 more to keep Atlanta under 70 yards rushing on the day.

Ryan and his receivers settled in late in the second quarter and were on the brink of scoring when an Asante Samuel interception stopped their 10-play drive dead in its tracks. With three minutes left, the Eagles tried to seal the win early by pushing the ball down the field in hopes of another touchdown, but a forced pass to Brent Celek lead to an interception by William Moore, who returned the pick for 34 yards into Eagles’ territory. A bad penalty at the end of the play, a horse collar call on Kolb, brought the Falcons to Philly’s 31 yard line. Another penalty by Joselio Hanson in the end zone set up a 1-yard touchdown pass by tight end Tony Gonzalez, who manhandled Ellis Hobbs out of the way.

Philly opened the second half with a three and out series, and Atlanta drove 65 yards on 14 plays and even converted a fourth down but still walked away with just a field goal and trailed 21-10. Two plays later, the Eagles pulled off a fake end around which left Maclin streaking down the sideline wide open. Kolb hit him easily in stride for an 83-yard touchdown and the Eagles lead 28-10 with six minutes left in the third.

“We had a good little fake there, got the safety to jump it and my mentality was if it was one-on-one, I was going to throw it,” Kolb said. “And it was none-on-one, so it was a nice surprise.”

The Falcons wouldn’t score again until 15 minutes later, with Gonzalez pulling in a 13-yard touchdown pass. Trailing 28-17 with less than six minutes to go, Atlanta went for the onside kick but Quentin Mikell held on to recover for the Eagles. David Akers finished the drive with a 30 yard field goal, which ended his worst day as a professional after he missed his first three attempts all to the left. Akers was visibly disgusted on the sidelines but offered no excuses.

“It was windy, but it’s always windy here,” he said. “I’m better than that. I let the team down, but thank goodness it didn’t affect the outcome of the game.”

Trent Cole forced Ryan to fumble a few plays later, giving the Eagles the ball to run out the clock on their 31-17 victory.

Reid was bombarded with questions about who will start next week, which he avoided as gingerly as someone his size could. Unless Michael Vick—who was dressed as the third quarterback but never made it to the sideline—performs at full speed this week in practice, it should be an easy decision for Reid to leave Kolb as the starter against Tennessee next week, giving Vick this week and the bye week to fully recover.

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