ATLANTA (AP) – Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Kevin Mathis were ejected about a half-hour before Monday night’s season opener following a scuffle during pregame warmups.

Emotions between the teams that played in last season’s NFC title game were clearly running high when they came together at midfield.

The fired-up Falcons carried it over to the game, racing to a 14-0 lead over the defending NFC champions by the end of the first quarter. Michael Vick ran for one score and set up another with a long pass to Michael Jenkins.

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 make 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. The Eagles won the flip, received the kickoff and quickly drove into Falcons territory.

But the Atlanta defense stiffened, and David Akers missed a 49-yard field goal attempt.

Atlanta’s first possession end with Vick’s pass being picked off by Brian Dawkins, but the Falcons dominated the rest of the period. Vick scored on a 7-yard run around right end, getting so open that he was able to hold the ball aloft at the 5 and jump over the goal line.

Then, Vick hooked up with Jenkins on a 58-yard pass, which set up T.J. Duckett’s 1-yard touchdown dive.

AP-ES-09-12-05 2206EDT


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