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Game Preview: Patriots at Falcons

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WEEK 11 · Thu 11/18 · 8:20 PM EST

Patriots

New England Patriots

AT

Falcons

Atlanta Falcons

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MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will meet in a Thursday Night Football Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will be the third straight regular season game between the two teams in a primetime, nationally-televised game. The Patriots and Falcons met on Sunday Night Football in 2013 and 2017 in the last two regular season meetings. Overall, it is the third straight primetime game between the two, including Super Bowl LI. The Patriots enter this week with six straight wins against the Falcons.

Thursday's meeting will be the Patriots first visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the Falcons. The Patriots played in the stadium when they beat the L.A. Rams, 13-3, on Feb. 3, 2019 when Atlanta was the host city for Super Bowl LIII.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

Hot Patriots looking for five in a row on the road in Atlanta

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots

The Patriots offensive line is as healthy as it's been since the season began, and it showed Sunday against Cleveland. Trent Brown returned from a calf injury and started at right tackle while Mike Onwenu rotated in periodically. The results were dominant as rookie Rhamondre Stevenson rolled his way to 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Patriots piled up 184 yards on the ground against a very good run defense. Despite the short turnaround look for that physical approach to continue because it's simply what the Patriots do best on offense. Stevenson was impressive and there's a chance Damien Harris could be ready to return from the concussion that kept him out of the Browns win. Brown played in roughly two-thirds of the snaps against Cleveland and his status will be worth monitoring as the week progresses, but Onwenu offers quality depth regardless. Atlanta struggles to stop the run, allowing 122.1 yards per game, which ranks 21st in the league. The Falcons use a base 3-4 look with nose tackle Tyeler Davison sandwiched by Grady Jarrett and Mike Pennel with Anthony Rush and Marlon Davidson rotating through. Linebackers Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun are active but lack the bulk to contend with physical fronts like the Patriots. Look for New England to pound away early and often.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Patriots

Mac Jones is coming off his best day as a pro and now he gets to face a defense that has struggled all season, particularly in the secondary. Jones was razor sharp against the Browns, making several throws into tight windows while dissecting the defense throughout. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers continue to be his favorite targets while Hunter Henry racks up touchdowns in the red zone. His two TDs on Sunday give him seven in the last seven games. As for the Falcons, the secondary allows 246.2 yards per game, which ranks 16th in the league. A.J. Terrell and Fabian Moreau start at corner with Avery Williams, Darren Hall and Chris Williamson also seeing time. Duron Harmon leads the safety group next to Erik Harris while Richie Grant gets significant snaps as well. But the group has struggled all year and has just three interceptions, one of which belongs to Oluokun. It hasn't helped that Atlanta doesn't generate much pressure on the passer with just 11 sacks all season. Dante Fowler and Jones have two each to lead the team and the Falcons rank dead last in the league in sacks per pass attempt. That should allow the Patriots offensive line to build off the momentum it generated Sunday against Cleveland and for Jones to build off his three-touchdown performance.

When the Falcons run - Edge: Patriots

The Patriots run defense has made a strong resurgence this season and is coming off another solid effort. Against a physical Cleveland front the Patriots overcame a slow start and managed to hold the Browns to 99 yards on the ground, well below the team's average for the season. That strong play figures to continue in Atlanta, where the Falcons simply cannot run the ball. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson share the running load but neither averages 4 yards a carry. As a team the Falcons rank 29th in the league averaging 89 yards per game and 30th with just 3.5 yards per carry. Patterson and Davis run hard but haven't gotten many holes to run through so the Patriots front should be able to keep them under wraps, and Patterson is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out Thursday night. Christian Barmore's continued development has been a key to the resurgence as he's helped Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux and linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Judon put the clamps on opposing runners. The Patriots currently rank 14th in run defense, allowing 109 yards per game. Those numbers have been steadily improving, and against an Atlanta team that hasn't run the ball with much effectiveness all season that should continue.

When the Falcons pass - Edge: Patriots

Matt Ryan remains a solid quarterback who is capable of getting hot, but he simply doesn't have much around him to make that happen on a regular basis. Earlier in the season with Calvin Ridley as his top target and rookie phenom tight end Kyle Pitts at his disposal, the potential for success was there. But Ridley has stepped away from the game as he deals with personal issues, leaving Pitts to carry the load almost by himself. The rookie out of Florida is the leading receiver with 40 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown, but beyond that Ryan doesn't have many constants. Patterson has been a versatile weapon and has 39 receptions and five touchdowns, and tight end Hayden Hurst has 20 catches as well. But the group of remaining wideouts that includes Tajae Sharpe, Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus has just 17, 16 and 15 catches, respectively. The Patriots secondary has performed well in recent weeks and ranks eighth in the league, allowing just 220 yards per game. J.C Jackson leads the way with five picks while safeties Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger have three each. Look for the Patriots to turn up the pressure on Ryan and try to force some errant throws, with Judon expected to lead the way.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

This game will feature two of the better kickers in the game in Nick Folk and Atlanta's Younghoe Koo, who were actually both in New England briefly back in 2019, although not at the same time. Koo has missed just one kick all season, going 15 of 16 on field goals and 17 for 17 on PATs. Folk has been money as well and is now 22 of 24 on field goals and 25 for 28 on PATs. Kicking indoors on Thursday night both figure to continue their strong seasons. The Patriots were without punt returner Gunner Olszewski against the Browns but hope to get him back on Thursday. He had been providing a lift with some solid work prior to his concussion. Meyers took his place and appeared uncomfortable while allowing both punts sent his way to hit the turf in front of him. Dustin Colquitt is the Falcons second punter of the season and he's been solid averaging 46 yards per kick. Patterson (kicks) and Avery Williams (punts) handle the returns for Atlanta. Even if he's able to play Patterson hasn't broken free as of yet but is considered one of the best in the business, so New England will need to show tight coverage, particularly in light of the knee injury to Jake Bailey that has caused some short kickoffs in recent weeks.

The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons line up for the snap at the line of scrimmage during their game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017.
The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons line up for the snap at the line of scrimmage during their game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will meet in a Thursday Night Football Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It will be the third straight regular season game between the two teams in a primetime, nationally-televised game. The Patriots and Falcons met on Sunday Night Football in 2013 and 2017 in the last two regular season meetings.

The Patriots enter this week with a streak of six straight wins against the Falcons, including a come-from-behind 34-28 overtime win in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons. It will be the first regular season meeting since a 23-7 New England win at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 22, 2017 in a Sunday Night game.

Thursday's meeting will be the Patriots first visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the Falcons. The Patriots played in the stadium when they beat the L.A. Rams, 13-3, on Feb. 3, 2019 as Atlanta was the host city for Super Bowl LIII. The last time the Patriots played the Falcons in Atlanta was on Sept. 29, 2013 at the Georgia Dome in a Sunday Night game, a 30-23 New England win.

The Patriots beat the Falcons, 34-28, in overtime in Super Bowl LI after overcoming a 28-3 deficit on Feb. 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.

The Patriots have won the last five times the teams have played in the regular season. Prior to those five wins, the Patriots had suffered four straight losses to the Falcons dating back to 1989.

SERIES TRENDS
(Regular Season)

Overall Record: 8-6

  • Home Record: 4-2
  • Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium: 2-2
  • Gillette Stadium: 2-0

Away Record: 4-4

  • Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium: 1-2
  • Georgia Dome: 3-2

Bill Belichick vs. Atlanta Falcons: 5-1 (5-0 with NE)

Current Streak: Patriots, 5 wins

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND ATLANTA
Record 6-4 4-5
Divisional Standings 2nd 4th
Total Yards Gained 3,562 2,918
Total Offense (Rank) 356.2 (15) 324.2 (25)
Rush Offense 114.5 (15) 82.9 (29)
Pass Offense 241.7 (14) 241.3 (15)
Points Per Game 27.5 (7) 19.8 (25)
Touchdowns Scored 30 19
Third Down Conversion Pct. 46.9 40.3
Team Passer Rating 98.5 89.8
Total Yards Allowed 3,280 3,315
Total Defense (Rank) 328.0 (6) 368.3 (22)
Rush Defense 107.9 (14) 122.1 (21)
Pass Defense 220.1 (8) 246.2 (16)
Points Allowed/Game 17.7 (2) 29.2 (31)
Touchdowns Allowed 20 33
Third Down Defense (Pct.) 36.9 47.3
Field Goals Made/Att. 22/24 15/16
Possession Avg. 30:39 28:35
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost 19/150 16/116
Sacks Made/Yards 24/167 11/91
Passing TD/Int (off.) 15/7 15/9
Passing TD/Int (def.) 13/14 19/3
Penalties Against/Yards 58/525 51/439
Punts/Avg. 31/45.4 39/43.9
Takeaway/Giveaway Ratio +3 (9T) -5 (26T)

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

#10
2021_headshots_recropped__0042_Jones_Mac_2021
MAC JONES, QB, PATRIOTS
HT: 6-3 WT: 217 COLLEGE: ALABAMA
Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 223 323 2,333 13 7 75 19/150
#2
This is a 2021 photo of Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons NFL football team. This image reflects the Atlanta Falcons active roster as of Tuesday, July 27, 2021 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)
MATT RYAN, QB, FALCONS
HT: 6-4 WT: 217 COLLEGE: BOSTON COLLEGE
Table inside Article
SEASON COMP ATT YDS TD INT LNG SK/YDS
2021 218 322 2,274 15 8 64 16/116

CONNECTIONS

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • LB Brandon Copeland (2016)
  • OL Colby Gossett (2019)
  • DB Duron Harmon (2013-19)
  • QC Charles London (Intern, 2005)
  • RB Cordarrelle Patterson (2018)
  • DC Dean Pees (2004-09)
  • DE Nick Thurman (2019-20)

FORMER FALCONS

  • DB Justin Bethel (2018)

BELICHICK BECOMES FOURTH COACH WITH 250 VICTORIES WITH ONE TEAM

Bill Belichick won his 250th regular season game with the Patriots to tie Tom Landry (250) and become the fourth NFL coach with at least 250 career regular season wins with one team.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • The Patriots are tied for second in the NFL with 14 interceptions in 2021. In 2020, the Patriots tied for the NFL lead with Miami, New Orleans and Pittsburgh with 18 interceptions. The 2019 New England team led the NFL with 25 interceptions. Two teams have led the NFL in interceptions in three or more straight seasons: Kansas City (5 straight – 1966-70) and the New York Giants (3 straight – 1937-39). Overall, the Patriots have led the NFL in interceptions four times (2003, 2010, 2019 and 2020).
  • The Patriots have won six straight games over the Atlanta Falcons, including Super Bowl LI, and will look to extend the mark to seven straight with a win in Atlanta.
  • Bill Belichick has 250 regular season wins with the Patriots and is tied with Tom Landry for the third-most wins with one team by an NFL coach. He will move out of a tie with Landry for sole possession of third place with a win over the Falcons, behind Don Shula (257) and George Halas (318) in career regular season wins with one team.
  • J.C. Jackson led the NFL with 11 takeaways in 2020. Since 2019, he has 21 total takeaways (19 interceptions and two fumble recoveries). The Patriots record for most takeaways in a three-year span is 22 by Ron Hall (1964-66 - (20 interceptions in two fumble recoveries).
  • Jackson is first in the NFL with 14 passes defensed and needs one more to set a single-season high. Jackson had a career-high 14 passes defensed in 2020.
  • Jackson is tied with Asante Samuel for 11th in team history with 22 career interceptions and with one more pick will move into sole possession of 10th place on the Patriots all-time interception list.
  • Jackson has the most interceptions since he entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2018 with a total of 22 picks.
  • Jackson now has 22 interceptions through his first four seasons with the Patriots, tying Mike Haynes for the most through a player's first four seasons with the team.
  • Gunner Olszewski, who led the NFL with a team record 17.3-yard punt return average in 2020, is currently second in the NFL with an 13.8-yard punt return average. The last time that a player has averaged 10-plus yards per return with at least 20 returns in consecutive seasons was Darren Sproles in 2014 and 2015. Ted Ginn accomplished the feat for six consecutive seasons, from 2010-15.
  • Olszewski is looking to become the first Patriots player to lead the NFL in punt return average in two straight seasons and the first NFL player to do so since Devin Hester in 2010 and 2011.
  • Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in six of his first ten NFL games. The rookie record is nine games by Dak Prescott. The NFL record is 13 games by Drew Brees in 2017.
  • Mac Jones has passed for 2,333 yards during the first ten games and is on pace for 3,966 passing yards for the season. He leads all rookie quarterbacks in passing yards (2,333) completions (223), completion percentage (69.0) and touchdown passes (13). Only three rookie quarterbacks have ever passed for at least 4,000 yards.
  • After ten games, Jones' completion percentage is 69.0. The best completion percentage for a season by a rookie quarterback is Dak Prescott at 67.7 percent in 2016.
  • Jones had his first career three-touchdown performance last week against the Browns. It marked his fourth game in 2021 with at least two touchdowns. The NFL record for most games with at least two touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback is Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers with 10 games in 2020.
  • Jones has a 4-0 road record to start his NFL career. He is the first rookie QB to win his first four road games since Dak Prescott in 2016. The most consecutive road wins to start a season by a rookie QB is six by Roethlisberger (2004) and Prescott.
  • Damien Harris leads the Patriots with a career-high seven rushing touchdowns and needs three more to reach double-digit rushing touchdowns. He can become the 12th Patriots player to do so and it would be the 16th time the Patriots had a player reach double-digit rushing touchdowns in a single season.
  • Harris has three 100-yard games so far in 2021. Sony Michel had four 100-yard games in 2018. Since 1970, only Curtis Martin (9 in 1995), Corey Dillon (9 in 2004), and John Stephens (5 in 1988) have had more than four 100-yard games in a season for the Patriots.
  • Matthew Slater will play in his 200th career regular season game this week against Atlanta. He will be the fifth Patriots player to reach 200 regular season games.
  • WR Jakobi Meyers completed two passes for 45 yards in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. He is now 4-of-4 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. The Patriots have never had a wide receiver complete more than two passes in a single season. Julian Edelman completed two passes in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and Harold Jackson completed two passes in 1980. In addition to the Tampa Bay game, Meyers completed two passes, both for touchdowns, in 2020.
  • The most passes thrown by a non quarterback in a single season for the Patriots were by RB Andy Johnson, who was 7-of-9 for 194 yards with four touchdowns in 1981 and RB Dick Christy, who was 6-of-11 for 94 yards with two touchdowns in 1960.
  • Jakobi Meyers has two 2-point conversions in 2021 after converting vs. Dallas on Oct. 17 and at LA Chargers on Oct. 31. Only 17 players have had three in one season. The NFL record for most in a season is four by Todd Heap of Baltimore in 2003.
  • Jakobi Meyers has three total 2-point conversions and needs one more to tie Julian Edelman and Gino Cappelletti for the team's all-time career high with four 2-point conversions.
  • RB Rhamondre Stevenson had his first career 100-yard rushing game last week against Cleveland, finishing with 100 yards on 20 carries. He will look to become the second Patriots player in 2021 with back-to-back 100-yard games. Damien Harris had back-to-back 100-yard games with 101 vs. Dallas (10/17) followed by 106 vs the New York Jets (10/21).
  • Stevenson had two rushing touchdowns against the Browns. He will look to become the first Patriots player with back-to-back games with two rushing touchdowns since Cam Newton accomplished the feat in the first two games of the 2020 season.
  • Nick Folk enters this week first in the NFL with 22 field goals. Folk has never led the NFL in field goals. Since 1970, the Patriots have had a player finish first in the NFL in field goals five times – Tony Franklin in 1986, Adam Vinatieri in 2004 and Stephen Gostkowski in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
broadcast-info-wk11-

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Richie Zyontz and directed by Rich Russo. The game will also stream on Amazon with Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm calling the game.

NATIONAL RADIO: Thursday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Ian Eagle will call the with game with Tony Boselli providing analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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