PHILADELPHIA -- A lot of words could describe the Atlanta Falcons offense lately. Inept. Stale. Unimaginative. Nonproductive. Lackluster. Pathetic.
The Falcons reached the zenith of mediocrity Sunday night, losing to a very average Philadelphia Eagles, 38-10.
Atlanta changed its offensive line before the game, elevating rookie Michael Thompson and third-year player Chris Banks to the starting lineup and moving Travis Claridge from right tackle to left guard, but that did little to break the Falcons from their offensive doldrums.
Already the worst team in the National Football League in converting third-down situations into first downs or touchdowns, Atlanta sunk even lower by moving the chains just twice in 13 third-down plays.
If not for a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tim Dwight late in the third quarter, the Falcons would have been in danger of a shutout for the first time since Oct. 3, 1993, at Chicago -- a run of 98 consecutive games.
Midway into the third quarter, the frustration was evident -- and so was the defeat. Jamal Anderson was slammed to the plastic turf for a four-yard loss at the 7:25 mark, and he flung the ball 14 yards in disgust. Two plays later, Atlanta punted. Again.
The Falcons, which fell to 2-3 and three games behind high-scoring St. Louis in the NFC West standings, didn't score in the first half. For that matter, they didn't even come close. They failed on all four third-down conversions while piecing together a meager 55 yards in total offense.
Philadelphia (3-2) wasn't much better in the first half, but they didn't need to be.
The Eagles started the game with a 46-yard kickoff return by Brian Mitchell. Ten plays later, David Akers' 39-yard field goal gave Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.
A 38-yard field goal by Akers with 9 seconds remaining in the first half made it 6-0 at intermission.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who enjoyed a breakout performance by setting career highs in attempts, completions and yards, hit Torrance Small on a 70-yard touchdown pass with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter. McNabb then hit Small on a 2-point conversion pass to balloon the lead to 14-0.
Dwight made it interesting, if only for a minute, with his punt return with 5:11 to play in the third quarter, but Philadelphia came back with a seven-play, 37-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard Akers field goal. The play that set up the scoring drive was a 41-yard kickoff return by Dameane Douglas.
The Falcons managed a 48-yard field goal from Morten Andersen in the fourth quarter, but it was sandwiched by three Philadelphia touchdowns. McNabb tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson midway in the fourth quarter, Mitchell returned the kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown after Andersen's field goal, and Mitchell added an 85-yard run in the final two minutes.
In all, Atlanta had only 195 total yards -- 61 in the final five minutes, while the Eagles took advantage of a tired and clearly-frustrated defense in the second half to finish with 502 total yards.
McNabb hit 30 of 44 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler completed 14 of 32 passes for 151 yards.
The Falcons return to the Georgia Dome on Sunday to play the New York Giants.
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