After being embarrassed for six straight weeks to begin the season, the Patriots‘ 32nd ranked defense came up big against the disastrous Super Bowl LI loser, Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots (5-2) defeated the Falcons (3-3) 23-7 in a fog-ridden game at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots defense is back. Simple as that. No, the defense is not elite, but they’re finally back to being a respected defense after last night’s game. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia must have lit a fire into the defense that allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards in all six prior games. They are the only team in NFL history to allow six-straight 300-yard passing games. All of that is now forgotten after the show the Pats’ defense put on last night against the high-powered Falcons offense.
With Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe both out of this game, the Pats showed no ill effects, as they allowed Matt Ryan to only throw for 233 yards and a garbage-time touchdown to Julio Jones, with Malcolm Butler playing perfect defense on the play, nearly intercepting it.
I was not worried when I saw Gilmore was inactive, but I was after hearing Rowe was ruled out. Eric Rowe played solid defense on Jones during the Super Bowl, so with him and Gilmore both out, the gameplan on Julio had to be changed. But who better to gameplan for a team’s best player in practice all week than the great Bill Belichick?
The answer to Julio Jones? Johnson Bademosi. Bademosi shut Julio down in the first half, covering him like a glove. Who would have thought that Johnson Bademosi would lock up one of the top receivers in the NFL? Apparently Belichick and the rocket scientist, Matt Patricia. Jonathon Jones also saw time on Julio early on in the game. Julio did end up with 9 catches for 99 yards and the score, but a lot of that came while the Pats were up big, in garbage time, while playing over-the-top defense so no big plays would be allowed, apart of their bend, don’t break defensive style. For most of the second half, it was Butler who covered Julio, making sure there would not be any big yardage plays.
The Patriot defense held the Falcons scoreless for much of the game, but was absolutely dominant in the first half. In the first half of play, the Falcons were 0-5 on 3rd downs, were forced to punt twice, had a field goal blocked, and turned the ball over on downs. The Falcons looked distraught in this game.
Dan Quinn coached his team like he was playing a game of Madden against one of his buddies. Remind you of a similar game he coached? Yeah, he clearly has not learned anything from the Super Bowl loss, as he continues to manage the game poorly from a coaching standpoint. Quinn set the tone early in the game when going for it on fourth-and-seven from the Patriots 48 yard line. Ryan did get the 1st down, scrambling passed the sticks, although Marsh was held on the play but that’s outside the point. This drive from the Falcons led to a blocked field goal by Marsh. Quinn decided to go for it on 4th down following the two-minute warning prior to the half from the Patriots’ 47. Matt Ryan overthrew Mohamed Sanu, turning the ball over on downs. A punt in this situation pins the Patriots deep, but instead Dan Quinn and the Falcons handed the ball to Tom Brady with just under two minutes to play before halftime. With 26 seconds left in the half, Tom Brady found James White in the end zone, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime. Then on fourth-and-1 later in the game, Dan Quinn decides to dial up an obvious jet sweep to Taylor Gabriel that gets stuffed. With the Patriots secondary getting beat up every game this year, and without Rowe and Gilmore, Quinn came out in this game wanting to run the ball, instead of testing the depleted New England secondary. The Pats were stuffing the run early on, which led to all of those 3rd downs the Falcons could not convert.
Tom Brady was efficient in this one ensuring the Pats kept the lead, completing 21/29 passes for 249 yards and 2 TDs (Cooks and White). Brady spread the ball around, completing passes to seven different receivers. And the Pats were able to establish the rushing attack, putting the game away with their game and clock management, unlike the Falcons in the Super Bowl. The Patriots rushers combined for 162 yards on 36 carries (4.5 YPC).
The Patriots defense looked dominant in this one, and if this trend keeps up then their road to the Super Bowl is looking a little more clear, unlike the weather at Gillette last night. The Patriots will look to improve to 6-2 with the Chargers coming into Gillette next weekend.