Originally written October 28, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
The Falcons loomed as the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL, but they entered Sunday's game at Philadelphia as an underdog. Perception lurked greater than reality: The Eagles as NFC heavyweight, having gained a berth to the conference championship game five times in head coach Andy Reid's first 13 seasons; the Falcons as pretender, having gone 0-3 in the playoffs in Mike Smith's first four seasons. It remains to be seen if the Falcons' 30-17 dismantling of the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field changes those perceptions, but the Atlanta, at 7-0, has the look of a team turning the corner -- even if only a playoff win ultimately proves that. For one, the Falcons in recent seasons had struggled with the Eagles, losing three straight until last year. Even in their 13-3 season of 2010, they got hammered in Philly, 31-17. But in the aftermath of Sunday's game, the Falcons have put some dents in the Eagles' armor when it comes to head-to-head play. For one, they became the first team to beat one of Reid's Eagles squads in a bye week in 14 years. For himself, Smith, who took sole possession of the Falcons' all-time wins list, 50-49 over Dan Reeves with the win, is now 4-1 after the bye, having won his last four. Coming out of a bye week strong is often seen as a measure of a coach's effectiveness, as more time to prepare seemingly favors the better coach. Now, even though the Falcons defeated yet another team with a losing record (3-4), they at least have bested a team with a pedigree. Previously, the Falcons had scored some impressive wins in their first three games -- over Peyton Manning and Denver at home; in a short week on the road at San Diego -- but the idea that they had struggled in their previous three against lesser competition, Carolina, Washington and Oakland had dogged them. In Philadelphia, the Falcons faced a test against a desperate team that had fired its defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, during the bye. From the start, the Falcons seemed to underscore that Castillo might not have been the issue. The Falcons made a few changes of their own during the bye but it came more in the form of tinkering. Rookie Peter Konz took over in place of Garrett Reynolds at right guard. The sluggish running game got a boost from more touches by Jacquizz Rogers, who ripped off a 43-yarder and lead the team with 60 yards on eight carries. From the start, the Falcons' offense was almost flawless and quarterback Matt Ryan again looked like a leading MVP candidate. By halftime, Ryan had completed 17 of 20 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. The Falcons scored on all four first-half possessions, taking a 24-7 lead into halftime. Overall, Ryan led the Falcons to scores on the Falcons' first six possessions with the Falcons' first punt not coming until 5:24 remained in the game. Ryan finished with a 137.4 rating -- his highest of the season in the city where he played his high school ball. He posted a rating of 100 or higher for the fifth time in seven games. On the season, Ryan has 17 touchdowns to six interceptions (three of which came in an ugly win over the Raiders, giving him one or zero in the other six games). Defensively, the Falcons held the Eagles to 270 yards, but some of those came in garbage time, as the Eagles trailed by 20 until 7:18 left in the game when LeSean McCoy caught a seven-yard touchdown pass. Despite recording 17 turnovers in their first six games, the Falcons did not force any against turnover-prone quarterback Michael Vick, but they did sack him three times and hit him hard often, officially five times. Overall, the performance had few, if any, warts. If it were not already the case, this game should have cemented the idea that right now the Falcons are the NFL's best team -- possibly even one that might change perceptions come playoff time.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Oakland Raiders fire Dennis Allen after 0-4 start

Did Roger Goodell’s bodyguard assault a photographer?

Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams engage in war of words

Georgia RB Todd Gurley falsely accused of punching student

Russell Westbrook: "I'm the best point guard" in NBA

Texas WR takes shot at Baylor ahead of big game

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jim Harbaugh: Deion Sanders' report is 'a bunch of crap'

Bills bench E.J. Manuel, Kyle Orton to start

Report: Jovan Belcher likely had CTE

Carmelo: Leaving NY would be hard after I 'forced my way here'

Twins fire Ron Gardenhire

Jon Lester on Wild Card start: That's why I'm here

Chiefs player penalized for praying after touchdown

Bill Belichick laughs off QB question...literally

Patriots fan fails with American flag face paint

Joe Fauria's new puppy is responsible for his ankle injury

LaRon Landry suspended four games for PED violation

NBA GMs on the hot seat

Rockets GM Daryl Morey fires back at Mark Cuban

The most and least improved hitters of 2014

WATCH: Tom Wilhelmsen dances to 'Turn Down for What'

Michigan student newspaper calls for Brady Hoke's firing

14 amazing stats from Week 4 in the NFL

What in the heck is going on with LeBron James' hairline?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Raiders fire Dennis Allen after 0-4 start

Chiefs player penalized for praying after TD

Did Roger Goodell’s bodyguard assault a photographer?

Kobe, Deron engage in war of words

Belichick laughs off QB question

Joe Fauria's puppy caused ankle injury

Texas WR takes shot at Baylor

Jim Harbaugh rips Deion Sanders' report

NBA GMs on the hot seat

Bills bench Manuel for Kyle Orton

The most and least improved hitters

Report: Jovan Belcher likely had CTE

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.