The Patriots won their fifth-straight game on Thursday night, knocking off the Atlanta Falcons 25-0 to improve their season record to 7-4. New England's defense showed up to play, shutting out the Falcons and holding them to a mere 165 yards of total offense while picking off four total passes in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Mac Jones completed 22-of-26 passes and threw a touchdown to Nelson Agholor as the rookie continued his streak of efficiency, but would throw an interception in the third quarter to break a recent streak of clean play. Jones was under more pressure in this game than he had been over the last month, but he made enough throws to get the job done.
With their second win in five days, the Patriots are climbing up the NFL standings, setting up a fascinating upcoming four-game slate in the AFC that will largely determine where they land in mid-January.
Here are the key takeaways from the Patriots' seventh win of the year!
Harris, Stevenson Provide Offensive Spark
It shouldn't have been a surprise to see the rushing attack lead the way, as they ran the ball 11 times in the opening quarter and both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson chipped in big runs to get the offense on track. Harris broke off a 17-yard run in the first half, while Stevenson had his own 21-yarder.
The duo was the most effective part of the Patriots offense, but it was still not quite enough to keep New England out of a considerable number of third downs. A week after having a spectacular day on third down, the offense couldn't replicate the same success against the Falcons, finishing 4-of-12.
The twosome was key in the second half in sealing the game with some tough runs.
For the game, Harris finished with 10 carries for 56 yards, while Stevenson had 12 carries for 69 yards, in the first game of the season where the complementary duo was able to work off each other. As the weather gets colder, having two hard-charging backs is a big plus for the offense.
Mac, Passing Offense Do Enough
It wasn't the same deadly efficient day for the passing offense that it was against the Browns, but Mac Jones did enough through the air to get the Patriots a win. Jones would find a wide-open Nelson Agholor for a 19-yard touchdown in the second quarter as he continues to spread the ball around to all of his targets.
Jones put together an impressive drive just before the half, finding open receivers with ease and moving the offense 41 yards with time running out but the drive stalled out after Mac was sacked. The Patriots still managed to get a field goal, a 45-yarder from Nick Folk, to make it 13-0 Patriots at the half.
The rookie would make his first big mistake of the game in the third quarter, throwing an interception while targeting Jonnu Smith up the seam. Thanks to a defensive fourth-down stop, the Falcons wouldn't make the Patriots pay for the turnover.
It wasn't Jones' best game of the season, but he was scrappy and efficient as usual, getting the short-week win and earning a brief break before an important two-game stretch.
Defense Keeps It Going
The Patriots defense picked up where they left off against the Browns, stymying the Falcons offense out of the gate and setting an early tone that they would continue throughout the game. Kyle Dugger was impressive lining up against rookie Kyle Pitts, starting the evening off with a third-down pass defense to get off the field. Dugger also delivered some hard hits over the course of the game as the second-year player continues to ascend.
Christian Barmore would also show up once again, drawing a second possession, third-down holding penalty that was declined because the defense got the stop anyway. Barmore and Matthew Judon continue to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, with Judon setting a career-high with another sack, giving him 10.5 on the season.
Kyle Van Noy was also active and chipped in with a third-down sack after the Falcons started moving the ball on their third possession. A Falcon penalty would contribute to a missed field goal on the drive as the Patriots kept Atlanta off the scoreboard. The defense allowed just 2.6 yards per play in the first half.
They'd pick right back up in the second half, getting early-down run stops then getting off the field on third down, but were called upon on a quick change after Jones' third-quarter interception. After allowing a few first downs the defense buttoned down and got a fourth-down stop inside the red zone to prevent the Falcons from scoring any points.
Devin McCourty would grab an interception in the fourth quarter with Atlanta threatening, and J.C. Jackson would get one of his own as well, as the defense stepped up and made the game-defining plays to snuff out any Atlanta comeback attempt.
Kyle Van Noy would cap things off by picking off Josh Rosen and taking it to the house to seal the 25-0 victory.
For the game, the defense allowed conversions on just 2-of-11 third downs, while holding the Falcons under 200 total yards of offense. On a short week, a dominant defensive performance was just what the team needed.
The Patriots are 7-4
With the win, the Patriots have now put five-straight victories together, dismissing the inferior teams and knocking off some AFC playoff contenders along the way. After a 2-4 start, the Patriots are back in familiar standing and are doing it with a new-look offense and a defense that might have some new faces but are playing with the kind of toughness and synergy that was long a staple in New England.
Now the Patriots have an extended break before entering the defining portion of their schedule, a four-game stretch that starts off with the conference-leading Tennessee Titans followed by a primetime Monday Night Football matchup on the road in Buffalo, prior to their late bye week.
Out of the bye, the Pats will travel to Indy before a home rematch against the Bills, the second time in three games that they'll face their divisional rival. It will be a defining stretch.
With Thanksgiving coming next week, the Patriots are playing their best football at the right time of year and in the coming weeks we'll find out just how they stack up in the division and conference.