Here are some observations and ruminations about the Eagles-Falcons game:
Despite being ejected the last time the Eagles played, an overtime loss to Detroit on Oct. 14, Fletcher Cox was given his first career start at defensive tackle on Sunday.
The rookie certainly has earned more playing time, and he already had been playing as much as any defensive tackle on the team. But the start was a nod from the coaches for his improving play, and he ended with five tackles.
A cynic may say Cox got the start by default. Derek Landri has done virtually nothing all season. Even with Mike Patterson's possible return, Cox should have a hold on the starting job for the rest of the season.
Babin extends drive
The Falcons converted on four third downs on their opening possession, but a foolish penalty by left end Jason Babin helped them.
The Falcons had third and 10 on their own 37-yard line, and quarterback Matt Ryan threw a short screen pass. Babin grabbed hold of Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers and was whistled for defensive holding, creating an automatic first down.
That extended the Falcons' drive and was another negative play on Babin's record this season. He was credited with just one tackle Sunday.
Sack woes continue
Almost doesn't count when it comes to sacks. Cullen Jenkins almost recorded the Eagles' first sack in four games when he had Ryan in his grasp just before the half. But the defensive tackle went for the strip, and the Falcons quarterback was able to wiggle out and gain a yard. At the half, the Eagles had gone more than 15 quarters without recording a sack. Maximum protection or not, there is no excusing the defensive line's ineffectiveness this season.
Tackle Cedric Thornton finally dragged down Ryan for a 5-yard loss with 7 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and Jenkins sacked Ryan for minus-11 yards with 4:36 left in the game.
The Falcons sacked Vick three times for minus-13 yards.
The Eagles had fourth and 2 on Atlanta's 49-yard line with 2:56 remaining in the second quarter while trailing, 21-7. It seemed an opportune time to go for a first down and extend the drive.
Instead, Reid punted, and the Falcons drove downfield to kick a field goal before the half ended.
If the Eagles had missed fourth and 2, maybe the Falcons would have scored a touchdown with the good field position. But had the Eagles converted, the complexion of the game could have changed.
An Eagles touchdown would have made it a one-score game, and the time the Eagles could have used might have sent the game into halftime with that score.
Overall, the Eagles were one for three on fourth-down conversions.
Goof in the secondary
Whoever's fault it was, the Eagles' busted coverage resulted in an easy first touchdown for the Falcons. Faced with third and 7 at the 15-yard line, Ryan found a wide-open Drew Davis in the back of the end zone.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played off the receiver at the line and appeared to pass him off, but no one was home on the back end. Kurt Coleman bit on a play fake, but it was unclear whether Rodgers-Cromartie was supposed to stay with Davis or receive safety help.
Davis had only one other catch in the game.
Jackson eludes Samuel
One of the few positive plays came when DeSean Jackson spun away from Asante Samuel on the opening drive of the third quarter and ran for a 32-yard gain.
Samuel, who was a gambler while playing cornerback for the Eagles, seemed to be going for the interception. Jackson caught the ball and ran away from Samuel for a big play to set up an eventual field goal.
Jackson finished with five catches for 59 yards, and Samuel had two passes defended.
Bowles no better
For those who thought that Juan Castillo was to blame for the Eagles' defensive ills, take a gander at these numbers after Todd Bowles' first game as defensive coordinator:
Castillo's defense allowed an average of 20.8 points a game, was third best in the NFL on third downs (23 of 79 for 29.1 percent), and was best in the league in holding opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 52.9 percent.
The Falcons, against Bowles' unit, scored 30 points and were 7 of 13 on third downs (53.8 percent), and Ryan completed 22 of 29 passes for a completion rate of 75.9 percent.