PHILADELPHIA — Asante Samuel stared directly at his former team’s sideline and started trash-talking right after the coin toss. By the fourth quarter, Samuel was dancing on the field between plays.
Matt Ryan made it easy for his loquacious teammate to gloat.
Ryan threw touchdown passes on Atlanta’s first three possessions against the Eagles and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and the Falcons remained the NFL’s only unbeaten team with a convincing 30-17 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.
“We’re 7-0 over here baby,” Samuel said. “If I was over there now, they’d have to go to work.”
The Falcons are 7-0 for the first time in the franchise’s 47-year history while the Eagles (3-4) lost after a bye for the first time in 14 games under coach Andy Reid since 1999.
“That was an embarrassing performance,” Reid said. “I’m stating the obvious. We need to get better. I need to do a better job. This is fixable. We have the talent.”
Ryan finished 22 of 29 for 262 yards and three TDs for his first win against his hometown team in three tries.
Michael Vick didn’t turn the ball over for once, but he played so-so and failed to beat his former team in his second start against the Falcons since returning to the NFL in 2009.
“Whatever decision coach makes, I support it,” Vick said when asked about possibly being benched for rookie Nick Foles. “I know I’m giving it everything I have when I’m out there.”
Reid said he’s going to evaluate whether he makes a quarterback change.
This was a validation win for Atlanta. The Falcons entered with no victories over a team with a winning record and their opponents were a combined 13-24 going into this weekend. Perhaps that’s why they were a surprising 3-point underdog despite Philadelphia’s recent struggles.
“We like to have a lot of fun,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We have a very mature group. We have a bunch of guys who are mentors. We’re good at focusing on the task at hand. We’re on point when we kick off and guys have done a good job focusing all season.”
Reid’s Eagles have lost three in a row since starting 3-1. Reid fired Juan Castillo and replaced him with Bowles two days after Philadelphia blew its second straight fourth-quarter lead in an overtime loss to Detroit.
Clearly, it didn’t work.
Castillo’s defense allowed 18.5 points per game, excluding two TD returns against the offense. Bowles’ D allowed 21 points in the first 24 minutes and couldn’t make a stop until the fourth quarter.
“I did what I did and what I thought was right at the time,” Reid said about the switch. “We need to get better there.”
A sellout crowd anticipating a pending storm expected to hit the East Coast soon started filtering out in the third quarter. Those who stuck around booed the Eagles off the field, though one guy chanted “E-A-G-L-E-S” in the final minute.
The anti-Reid fans may be seeing him in his final months with the team. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already stated before the season that another 8-8 finish would be “unacceptable.”
The Falcons methodically drove 80 yards on 16 plays on the opening possession, converting five third downs. A holding call on defensive end Jason Babin kept the drive going after Ryan threw an incomplete pass on third-and-10. Ryan then threw a 15-yard TD pass to Drew Davis for a 7-0 lead.
Ryan tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Jason Snelling to make it 14-0. Penalties on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Mychal Kendricks on separate third downs kept Atlanta’s drive going.
After going three-and-out on the first series, the Eagles put it together on the next drive by mixing in seven runs among their 13 plays. LeSean McCoy scored from the 2 to cut it to 14-7.
But the Falcons answered quickly. Ryan connected with Julio Jones over Nnamdi Asomugha for the 63-yard score to put Atlanta up 21-7.
Atlanta converted their first nine third-down tries, including three by penalty. The Eagles finally held in the final minute of the second quarter and Matt Bryant’s 43-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 24-7 halftime lead. Bryant kicked field goals of 29 and 30 on the next two drives.
The Eagles made it 30-17 on Vick’s 7-yard TD pass to McCoy in the fourth quarter.
Samuel had 25 interceptions and went to three Pro Bowls in four seasons in Philadelphia before the acquisitions of Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie forced him out. He was traded to the Falcons for a seventh-round pick in April and enjoyed his return to Lincoln Financial Field.
“I love the fans,” he said. “They can boo me. They can cheer for me. Doesn’t do anything but add fuel to the fire.”