The Philadelphia Eagles could not make good on a fourth-and-one gamble at the Atlanta seven-yard line in the third quarter tonight and a 10-7 lead was turned into a 14-10 Atlanta victory when the Falcons' defense recovered from a first-half strafing.
The Falcons won on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Steven Bartkowski to wide receiver Wallace Francis early in the fourth quarter. Bartkowski scored the other Atlanta touchdown on a one-yard run in the first half.
Because the Eagles passed up a 24-yard field goal attempt in that third quarter and Leroy Harris was stopped without gain by free safety Tom Pridemore at the Atlanta seven, the Philadelphians had to try for a touchdown in the closing minutes, without success.
The Eagles took possession on their 24 with 94 seconds remaining, after Atlanta's Tim Mazzetti missed a 41-yard field goal.
Ron Jaworski tried 12 straight passes at the end because the Eagles could not run on the Falcons.
At the finish, Falcon rookie William Andrews from Auburn had gained more than 100 yards for the second straight game, 121 in 24 carries after gaining 167 in the opener against New Orleans. The Falcons totalled 145 yards rushing; the Eagles only 57 yards.
Jaworski found a pigeon in the Atlanta pass defense, 5-foot-10 left cornerback Rolland Lawrence, who was isolated several times on Harold Carmichael. The 6-8 wide receiver caught nine passes for 127 yards and extended his streak of catching at least one a game through 98 contests.
Barefooted soccer-style kicker Tony Franklin kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 Eagle lead in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Bartkowski took the Falcons 78 yards and plunged a yard for the touchdown. He got the ball down there on a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Alfred Jenkins and a 21-yarder to Francis, plus a 14-yard run by Andrews and six more plunges in a row by the 202-pounder.
Then the Eagles began picking onLawrence on a 89-yard flight to the goal line. Wide receiver Charles Smith caught a 13-yarder on Lawrence; tight end John Spagnola caught a pass for 10; Carmichael burned Lawrence for 12 and 21 yards. That moved the ball to the Atlanta 10 yard line before Jaworski rolled out on a run-pass option and dashed three yards for a touchdown.
The Falcons' defense mounted more pressure on Jaworski in the second half, and it helped the confidence of the secondary.
Safety Pridemore stopped the fourth-and-one run by Harris, the former Miami Dolphin, and a few plays later Lawrence atoned for some of his earlier shortcomings by stopping a drive to the Atlanta 27 with an interception.
In the fourth quarter, Pridemore made another big defensive play. He intercepted Jaworski and ran the ball 20 yards to the Philadelphia 17.
Bartkowski got excellent protection on second and eight at the Philadelphia 15-yard line while wide receiver Francis was taking a big lead on Eagle free safety Brenard Wilson, who was penalized five yards for "illegal contact," That put the ball at the Philadelphia eight-yard line.
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Bartkowski then was sacked for a five-yard loss by defensive end Claude Humphrey, a former Falcon.
No trouble. Bartkowski calmly watched free safety Wilson slip in the end zone and rifled the ball to Francis for a 13-yard touchdown, upping the Falcons' lead to 14-10.
Francis was wide open in the end zone on the winning touchdown, after Wilson slipped.
"We tried that play once and it didn't work," Bartkowski said. "I was surprised when we tried it the second time and it did work."
After Mazzetti missed the 41-yard field goal, the Atlanta defense took over and watched Jaworski miss 11 of 12 straight passes and sacking him once.
The victory raised Atlanta's record to 2-0, after scoring 40 points against New Orleans eight days ago. The low score tonight did not surprise Falcon Coach Leeman Bennett.
"We knew it would be a low-scoring game," Bennett said. "We came in figuring on a running game and Andrews did the job for us."
The loss, which left the Eagles at 1-1, prompted Philadelphia Coach Dick Vermeil to say, "They're a better team than the Eagles. They blocked us very well and we couldn't run against them. I had confidence we'd keep going but we didn't."