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Eagles fans, don't panic yet

Chalk this up to opening on the road, in a domed stadium, and a bad start.

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford puts his head down.
Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford puts his head down.Read more(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

ATLANTA - You want to panic today. I can feel it.

You want me to say that last night's first half against a team that won only six games a year ago should dispel any thoughts of a Super Bowl run, should even make us question whether we have a playoff team here or another Dream Team nightmare brewing.

You want me to say that Byron Maxwell is overpaid, that he looked like Bradley Fletcher out there, that Walter Thurmond and Kiko Alonso are nice additions but that Bill Davis' schemes must be too easy to decipher.

You want me to say that Sam Bradford is just another one of those good-but-not-great quarterbacks that we've run through this organization since Donovan McNabb was dealt, that his jittery performance over the first 30 minutes of the 26-24 loss to Atlanta was not unlike the one Nick Foles offered in the first half of that opener against Jacksonville last season. That DeMarco Murray ran as if it were Game 16, not Game 1. That we need to find a field-goal kicker, and fast.

You want me to say that offensive line fooled us in the preseason, that it played the first half as if just introduced. Finally, you want me to say that Chip Kelly has lost the nerve that made him such an exciting hire three Januarys ago, that "Big Kelly" came up real small when it came to going for it on fourth down late in the game.

I will say all of that if you like, but here's the bigger truth: The Eagles would have won this game had they executed just a little bit better, and that includes a dominant second half in which they outscored the Falcons, 21-6. Maxwell would have played much better had that vaunted defensive line gotten home even a few times on its own, without needing the help of those second-half blitzes.

"Tale of two halves," Kelly said. "We did not come to play in that first half."

Ah, but the Bradford we saw in the second half - surgically picking apart the Falcons' own feisty, revamped defense while taking some big hits, overcoming drive-killing penalties with perfect reads and precise strikes - is the Bradford you can expect to see for a whole game against Dallas on Sunday.

Right? "I think our approach in the second half is something we can build upon," said the coach.

And the Kelly we saw kicking for a one-point lead with 2:32 left? He reasoned that the Eagles had just been snuffed on short yardage the play before, that "I didn't think it was a tough one" and that he wasn't at all concerned about his kicker.

Stay tuned on that one.

But chalk this up to a first game on the road in the NFL, and in a dome to boot. Chalk this up to a good team playing too badly at the start to rescue the ending.

But can we talk a little about that ending? On the road, the 70,516 rarely letting up on the noise?

Starting with Atlanta's first possession of the second half, the Eagles' defense got to Matt Ryan on successive downs and Walter Thurmond - that other high-profile addition - reached high for an interception that he returned to Atlanta's 8. Two plays later, Murray ran a power sweep into the right end zone to cut it to 20-10.

Another spirited defensive stop seemed apparently negated by a 62-yard punt that rolled out of bounds on the Eagles' 5-yard line. Bradford and the boys found their groove, though, crafting a 95-yard drive topped off by another Murray touchdown, this time via a 5-yard sideline pass.

Bradford made it three touchdown drives in a row the next time he ran the offense - a six-play, 80-yard drive that took just over two minutes to complete and gave the Eagles their first lead, 24-23, with 8:37 left.

And while the defense could not get off the field without surrendering big plays - and points - in the final quarter, the red-zone defense forced four Atlanta field goals.

It allowed them a chance to win on a night that started so badly. It allowed us - well, some of us - to hope that Maxwell simply had a bad game and that Davis is the coordinator his head coach still believes he is.

That still, in the postgame words of Thurmond, "The sky is the limit" for this team.


Otherwise, the panic room will be so filled late Sunday night you won't be able to breathe.

And who wants that?

On Twitter: @samdonnellon