The operating theory, mostly because Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has said as much, is that Andy Reid awoke Sunday morning with 10 games to save his job. It was the clearest of imperatives. After all of the years, all of the great moments, all of the disappointments, it was to be a final sprint to the finish and then a clear decision.

Now, after a particularly timid abomination -- Falcons 30, Eagles 17 -- there are more questions than answers.

Can it really be?

Nine more weeks.

Nine more weeks?

Until Sunday, the Eagles had never lost the game immediately following the bye week under Reid. Given that, and given the decision to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo during the break, the widespread belief was that the Eagles would come back from their short vacation refreshed and re-focused, fully realizing what is at stake. Instead, they arrived in body only. Their hearts and minds were elsewhere. They did not turn over the ball and still got their backsides handed to them.

Defensively, they lacked both cohesion and fire under new coordinator Todd Bowles. Offensively, they got it blocked a little better but still couldn't score points early, when it mattered. The special teams were the same, except for the punt return team. We don't know about them because the Falcons never punted until there was 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.

The hearts-and-minds thing is what bears the closest watching. Reid has had exactly one team quit on him in his 14 seasons -- the 2005 team, after all of the Terrell Owens stuff and after quarterback Donovan McNabb got hurt. That team just curled up in the fetal position at the end -- but it was almost understandable, given the post-Super Bowl hangover and everything that happened.

This is different.

Nine more weeks.

Nine more weeks?

The Falcons' opening drive of the game was the maiden voyage for Bowles: 16 plays and 80 yards; 8 minutes, 44 seconds of having the ball shoved down his defense's throat. The touchdown pass to Drew Davis featured a blown coverage, just the biggest hint of a permeating confusion. Along the way, a holding penalty on Jason Babin extended the drive.

The Falcons were ahead by seven before a crowd that was two-thirds full had had a chance to be chilled by Hurricane Sandy's first winds. And they booed. It would be the first time that happened but not the only time.

Did I already say that the Falcons never punted until 5:35 in the fourth quarter?

Along the way, Julio Jones scored Nnamdi Asomugha on a 63-yard touchdown pass, one in which safety Nate Allen made sure he was no possible help by taking a terrible angle on the play. Linebacker Mychael Kendricks did not start the game, reportedly as punishment for being late for a team meeting. A continuing lack of pressure on the quarterback -- despite the team's first two sacks in about a month -- just opened up the defensive for carving by Atlanta's Matt Ryan, and that is exactly what happened.

As the game ended, the wind whipped and the rain fell sideways onto nearly-emtpy stadium seats. Most everyone was rushing home to beat the storm; Andy Reid was not nearly so lucky.