New England arrived in Foxborough right around 5 a.m., so, it’s a short turnaround to deconstruct what happened Sunday night in the Georgia Dome.
1st Quarter – Defense
…Nickel was once again New England’s de facto “base” defensive front, if you will.
…It was tough to see, but it appeared that the play on which Wilfork was injured (he did not return thereafter, reportedly because of a ruptured right Achilles tendon), he did so simply by planting his foot hard onto the ground while trying to rush the passer. It did not look as if he was struck there, but with the jumble of bodies in the trenches, it certainly is possible.
…Vellano and Kelly started the second series of the first quarter, once Wilfork left the game.
…The Patriots stuffed the Falcons’ second drive of the quarter on a 3rd-and-20 by employing a rarely-seen three-safety deep look. Rookie
…New England covered fairly well during the first quarter, but Atlanta completed passes at times because of precise throws by QB Matt Ryan and great catches by his receivers. Not much the Patriots defenders could’ve done differently in those instances.
1st Quarter – Offense
…The opening possession for the Patriots was a mix of two-, three-, and four-receiver sets, with rookie tight end
…Develin, the offensive line, and the tight ends did an excellent job of run-blocking together on the second drive, which allowed all three tailbacks –
…The crowd noise inside the Georgia Dome was a factor throughout the evening. Resulting in three illegal shift penalties by the Patriots. The first happened on the opening drive, when Bolden stepped forward to hear QB
…Brady threw just four passes, completing two, to start the game. One was broken up by a Falcons defender, the other was a purposely underthrown ball to
…New England had just two possessions in the first quarter, the second of which carried over into the second quarter.
2nd Quarter – Offense
…Picking up right where the offense left off, that second drive of the game for the Patriots resulted in a Patriots touchdown – on the second attempt, that is. Replays showed that the officials got the call correct when they overturned a Bolden scoring run. His knee indeed hit the ground before he could stretch his arm with the football over the goal line.
…New England had been rushing the ball so effectively on that drive, thanks in large part to a strong push between the tackles, that the Falcons fell hard for Brady’s play-fake that resulted in the first TD of the game. Lined up in what looked like an obvious run formation, the Patriots had two tight ends to the right (Sudfeld and
…Once again, the Patriots held the ball just twice in a quarter. The second one also ended with a score (
…Boyce looked decent in his limited opportunities. One in particular came two plays after the Thompkins grab. Boyce, the far man in a trips-right look, used his speed to get separation from a defender down the right sideline. Brady looked his way, but the pass was a poor one from Brady that sailed too far in front of the rookie. A better ball just might’ve resulted in a touchdown.
…The very next play, Brady again misfired, sending a ball way over the head of Thompkins, who’d gotten open for what would have at least been a first-down catch to the left at the Atlanta 20-yard line. The rookie got open for him, but Brady was off target.
2nd Quarter – Defense
…New England finally showed a traditional base defense to start the second quarter, with Spikes appearing for the first time, even though Atlanta came out in a four-wide look. Right defensive end
…Atlanta tried to spread the Patriots in their base at one point, sending tight ends wide to both sides, which drew linebackers
…The Patriots stuck with the base for most of that opening series of the second quarter.
…Despite losing Wilfork, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia continued his 2013 tactic of rotating fresh legs at d-tackle. Rookie
…Hightower continues to show less-than-adequate open field coverage and tackling skills.
…More Chandler Jones pressure forced an errant throw by Ryan. The second-year end might not be getting sacks, but he’s making his presence felt with equally important plays like these that force incompletions.
…The one time Patricia called for his three-defensive-end look that has become increasingly popular this season was when the Falcons were in the Patriots red zone on their failed drive to start the second quarter. Atlanta’s o-line did a great job of sealing them off for Ryan, but he threw a terrible pass that was too high over the head of his intended receiver, White.
…Nickel came back on the next series and rookie linebacker
…Atlanta got their first touchdown in part by rushing up the middle for much of their second drive of the quarter. The Falcons found something they could exploit with the d-tackles and picked up several yards in this fashion. The score, however, was simply a result of safety Steve Gregory slipping on the turf as he tried to tackle tight end Tony Gonzalez, who made a nice spin move and outraced Alfonzo Dennard, who’d come over to help, to the pylon.
3rd and 4th Quarters – Offense and Defense
…After tossing just nine passes in the first half, Brady and the offense went back to their bread-and-butter in the second half. TB12 completed 15 of 22 attempts in the third and fourth quarters.
…Upon closer inspection, the play on which rookie receiver
…Nickel was the order of the day again in the second half, with Spikes being relegated to bench duty once again for the most part.
…On their second possession of the third quarter, the Falcons attempted to catch New England off-guard by going no-huddle, but the Patriots were still able to substitute as needed throughout the drive.
…The fourth quarter was wild, with every possession by both teams resulting in a score – save the final two (one each from Atlanta and New England, discounting the two kneel-downs at the end by Brady).
…Blount’s 47-yard touchdown gallop was impressive. It began from a simple formation: two wides (Edelman left, Thompkins right), tight end Hooman in motion from right to left, Develin as the blocking fullback in a broken I-formation backfield behind Brady. Hooman set himself down in a three-point stance next to left tackle
…Thompkins’ touchdown grab was a much more elementary design. He was the lone receiver wide left. Edelman and Boyce were wide right, with Hooman in a two-point stance next to Vollmer. Thompkins ran a fade pattern and Brady lofted the ball to the perfect spot over his outside shoulder. Watching it live, there was some question as to whether or not Thompkins was fully inbounds with the football. However, the film clearly shows Thompkins’ right elbow hitting inside the end zone. If a receiver has one elbow or one knee inbounds, that is equivalent to having two feet inbounds. Hence, the scoring play stood. Good call by the officials.
…Once New England had a two-touchdown lead, Patricia went back to his three-d-end pass rush package, featuring rookie
…The Patriots should have been able to run out the clock following the 2-minute warning, but the officials clearly erred by not granting them a first-down on a third-down rush by Blount. He appeared to get the entire football over the line for the extra set of downs. Brady fumbled the ensuing snap from center on fourth down and the Falcons got one more chance. But Talib, the star of the night defensively for New England, made one final tremendous play to knock a Ryan pass down on fourth down in the end zone. Gonzalez – who might’ve been Ryan’s primary target – was double-teamed by Collins and Mayo, leaving Talib one-on-one with White. Talib’s coverage was as tight as possible without being a penalty, and he timed his jump just right to beat White to the football.
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