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Patriots at Falcons: Game Notes

The following are game notes from the Patriots preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

WILLING AND VRABELMike Vrabel came off the edge and sacked Michael Vick for a 7-yard loss on Atlanta's opening drive of the game. Following Vrabel's sack, the Falcons totaled just one yard for the remainder of the drive and settled for a 44-yard Michael Koenen field goal. Vrabel collected 4.5 sacks in 2005.

FIRST AND RUNNERSCorey Dillon and Laurence Maroney totaled 66 rushing yards on just eight carries during the Patriots' opening drive, which ended with Martin Gramatica's 26-yard field goal. Dillon started and ended the drive with 8-yard runs, his two longest rushes of the night. Maroney made his professional debut with a 12-yard run off right end on the fourth play of the possession, but the drive was highlighted when the Patriots' 2006 first round draft pick, took a handoff up the middle for a 27-yard gain on third-and-18.

MARONEY MAGICPatriots' first round draft pick Laurence Maroney showed speed and aggressive running in his first career pro game. The 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound back amassed 66 rushing yards on nine carries in his debut. The former Minnesota standout recorded at least a 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in all three of his seasons with the Golden Gophers.

WIDE OPEN WATSONThird-year tight end Benjamin Watson hauled in a 44-yard pass from Matt Cassel during the Patriots' second scoring drive in the second quarter. Watson got open along the right sideline and sprinted down to Atlanta's 23-yard line, setting up the Patriots' second field goal of the evening, a 34-yarder from Stephen Gostkowski that cut the Falcons' lead to 10-6.

SAMUEL STOPPERFourth-year cornerback Asante Samuel halted a potential Falcons' scoring drive in the second quarter with an interception in the end zone. Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub looked for wide receiver Jerome Pathon on a corner route, but Samuel stepped in front and came away with the takeaway. Last year, Samuel collected an interception on the first play from scrimmage of the preseason when he picked off a Carson Palmer pass intended for Chad Johnson. Samuel recorded an interception in each of the last three games in which he played in 2005, including one he returned 73 yards for a touchdown in the playoffs against Jacksonville. Samuel has returned three of his eight career picks for touchdowns.

COBBS CREATESRookie free agent running back Patrick Cobbs made a strong first impression, taking his first professional reception 57 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Cobbs collected a screen pass from Matt Cassel and scampered down the left sideline for the score. The touchdown was the longest Patriots play from scrimmage in the preseason since Tom Brady connected with David Patten for an 85-yard touchdown against Washington (8/16/03). Cobbs finished the game with a team-best 80 receiving yards on three catches, while rushing five times for 25 yards. The 5-foot-9-inch, 210-pounder is North Texas' all-time leading rusher with 4,050 yards – making him only the 69th player in NCAA history to eclipse the 4,000-yard rushing mark. The Patriots signed Cobbs on May 15, 2006 following rookie mini-camp.

PIERRE THE PASS RUSHERRookie free agent linebacker Pierre Woods collected his first career professional sack when he dropped Matt Schaub for an 11-yard loss in the second quarter. The former Michigan product finished tied for second on the team with four tackles. He registered three sacks during his senior season for the Wolverines in 2005.

A PAIR OF KICKERSPatriots' kickers made good on all three of their attempts in tonight's game. Seventh-year veteran Martin Gramatica got the Patriots on the scoreboard with a 26-yard field goal with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter and later connected on a 30-yarder to tie the score at 23 with less than three minutes remaining in the game. Rookie Stephen Gostkowski nailed his only attempt, a 34-yarder, with 12:39 remaining in the second stanza.

ROOKIE RECEPTIONS
Patriots' rookies accounted for 11 receptions and 179 receiving yards in tonight's matchup. Fullback Garrett Mills, who snared a team-best five receptions for 75 yards, led the group. Patrick Cobbs grabbed three passes for 80 yards, while tight end David Thomas hauled in two passes for nine yards. Wide receiver Erik Davis chipped in with one catch for 15 yards.

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