Atlanta holds off Philadelphia, 14-10
The Falcons rushed for over 200 yards.
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles couldn't wait to get started on their rematch of the NFC championship game -- two players got kicked out before the game kicked off.
Then, it was the Falcons who got a bit of payback.
Michael Vick ran for one touchdown and set up another with a long pass, enough to give Atlanta a 14-10 victory over the Eagles on Monday night.
Clearly, emotions were running high. Jeremiah Trotter of the Eagles and Kevin Mathis of the Falcons were ejected after a scuffle broke out in pregame warmups, setting an intense tone for the rest of the night.
The Eagles, after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, shut down Vick the rest of the way.
But they couldn't come all the way back, their final bid falling short when Donovan McNabb took a vicious hit from Rod Coleman, a fourth-down pass falling far short of Terrell Owens streaking down the sideline with 1:33 left.
Vick kneeled a couple of times to run out the clock, giving the Falcons a victory over the team that knocked them out of the playoffs two of the last three years.
Less than eight months ago, the Eagles beat Atlanta 27-10 for the NFC title in frigid Philadelphia.
During warmups, when each team claims half the field, Trotter apparently pushed Mathis, who responded with a punch. Another Falcons cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, also appeared to throw a punch. Then everyone got into it, forcing the officials to intervene.
Trotter and Mathis were ejected after the officials peered into the replay monitor, which is normally used to rectify disputed calls during the game. This time, it came in handy in determining who started the fight and which players were involved.
Moments later, another brawl nearly broke out. As the Atlanta players were trotting back to the locker room, they noticed the Eagles gathering on the Falcons logo in the middle of the field.
The Falcons ran en masse back to the 50-yard line and fought for position with the Eagles, forcing the officials to separate the teams again. No punches were thrown, and both teams went off slowly in opposite directions to their respective locker rooms.
Fans in the half-filled Georgia Dome -- the rest of the sellout crowd was still outside -- booed the Eagles heavily as they headed toward the tunnel. But the mood softened when Falcons owner Arthur Blank went on the field to discuss fund-raising efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Atlanta appeared to get the best of the ejections.
Trotter is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who led Philadelphia with eight tackles in its 27-10 victory over the Falcons in last season's NFC title game. He was replaced at the crucial middle linebacker position by second-year player Mike Labinjo, who played only three games last season and made his first career start.
Mathis is a backup cornerback used mainly in passing situations by the Falcons.
There were no problems when the captains gathered at midfield just before the game for the coin toss, which went off without delay.