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Pats vs. Falcons: Game Notes

The Patriots came out on top of the Atlanta Falcons 31-28 with the help of some last minute heroics by QB Tom Brady and another clutch kick from Adam Vinatieri.  The following are notes from the game.

With his 12-yard run in the third quarter, Corey Dillon became the 18th running back in NFL history to record 10,000 or more career rushing yards. He recorded 106 yards on the day, ending the afternoon with a total of 10,025 career rushing yards, ranking 18th in the NFL record books. The ninth-year veteran averaged 1,212 yards per season in his first eight years, a mark that ranks sixth in NFL history. The five players with a better seasonal average than Dillon are all current or future Hall of Famers: Barry Sanders (1,527), Jim Brown (1,368), Curtis Martin (1,337), Walter Payton (1,287) and Emmitt Smith (1,224).

The Patriots had a 100-yard rusher, a 100-yard receiver and a 300-yard passer in the same game for the first time in eight years. Prior to today, the last time the Patriots achieved the feat was on Nov. 2, 1997, when Curtis Martin ran for 104 yards, Shawn Jefferson caught for 108 yards and Drew Bledsoe threw for 313 yards in the Patriots' 23-18 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. Against the Falcons, the Patriots' milestone men were Corey Dillon (106 rushing yards), Daniel Graham (119 receiving yards), Deion Branch (107 receiving yards) and Tom Brady (350 passing yards).

Corey Dillon ran 23 times for 106 yards today, breaking the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and for the 38th time in his 9-year career. Dillon has now run for a triple-digit yardage total in 10 regular season games since joining the Patriots in 2004. Last season, Dillon set a career high and tied the Patriots franchise record by running for 100 or more yards in nine regular-season games.

Tom Brady threw for 350 yards (22-27, 3 TD), breaking the 300-yard mark for the third time this season and for the 11th time in his regular season career. Brady has also accomplished the feat twice in the playoffs. This season, New England's signal caller also topped 300 yards in the season opener against Oakland (306 yards) and recorded the second highest yardage total of his career at Pittsburgh in Week Three (372 yards).

Michael Koenen's 58-yard field goal just before halftime was the longest field goal by a Patriots opponent in team history. Prior to today, the longest boot the Patriots had allowed was a 57-yarder to Philadelphia's David Akers on Sept. 14, 2003.

For the second time in three weeks, Tom Brady led a game-winning drive and Adam Vinatieri kicked a game winning field goal to give the Patriots a victory. After Atlanta tied the game at 28 with less than four minutes to go, New England marched down the field on an 8-play, 53-yard drive to set up a 29-yard game-winning field goal with just 17 seconds left. The boot was the 19th game-winning kick of Vinatieri's 10-year career and it capped off Brady's 18th career game-winning performance to break a tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter. The combined heroics against Atlanta marked the 11th time that a Brady-led drive produced a game-winning kick by Vinatieri. Just two weeks earlier in Pittsburgh, Brady led the team back from a 13-10 fourth-quarter deficit to put Vinatieri in position to convert a 43-yard game-winning field goal with one second left to give the Patriots a 23-20 win over the Steelers.

Tom Brady compiled a passer rating of 140.4, completing 22 of 27 passes (81.5 percent) for 350 yards and three touchdowns. His 81.5 percent completion rate was the second highest of his career, while his passer rating of 140.4 was the fourth highest of his career. Brady once again came through in the clutch, leading a game-winning drive and improving to 21-2 in his career in games decided by three points or fewer. Brady also improved to 9-0 in his career in games played indoors. Against the Falcons, Brady was perfect in the first quarter, completing all five of his passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, adding up to a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Brady completed his first seven passes of the game and at halftime had completed eight of his 10 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown for a 152.1 passer rating. Through five games so far in 2005, Brady has thrown for 1,522 yards, putting him on pace to throw for 4,870 yards this season. His career high yardage total is 3,764 yards, set in 2002.

Benjamin Watson scored the first touchdown of his career on a 33-yard grab early in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 21-13 lead. The former 2004 first-round draft choice is playing in the sixth game of his career.

Fourth-year tight end Daniel Graham set a career high for receiving yardage today, totaling 119 yards on five catches. Graham's previous career high was set on Oct. 26, 2003, when he caught 110 yards worth of passes (7 receptions) and was voted the AFC offensive player of the week for his efforts.

Deion Branch grabbed eight passes for 107 yards today, marking his first 100-yard receiving game of the year and the third time he has achieved the feat in his regular season career. Branch has also reached the milestone three times in six career playoff games.

Patrick Pass recorded the first rushing touchdown of his 6-year career on a 6-yard run in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead. Pass grew up in Tucker, Ga. (a suburb of Atlanta) and attended Tucker High School and the University of Georgia. Pass' only other NFL touchdown came on a 23-yard reception from Tom Brady on Dec. 22, 2001 against the Miami Dolphins in the final regular-season game at Foxboro Stadium.

Bethel Johnson recorded his first touchdown of the season and the fourth receiving touchdown of his career on a 55-yard scoring grab in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 28-13 lead. The 55-yard grab was the longest of Johnson's career, besting his previous career long of 48 yards against Seattle on Oct. 17, 2004. The score was Johnson's sixth career touchdown, including two career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Daniel Graham gave the Patriots a 14-0 lead on a 45-yard reception from Tom Brady, catching the ball close to the line of scrimmage and scampering all the way to the end zone. The catch was the longest touchdown grab of Graham's career and the second longest overall reception in his four NFL seasons. Graham's career long reception is a 48-yarder (11/22/04 at Kansas City). It was also the third longest touchdown reception by a Patriots tight end since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, behind only two long grabs by Ben Coates.

With the Patriots defense facing a third-and-goal for the Falcons from the 5-yard line, Rosevelt Colvin dropped Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub for a 10-yard sack with 1:29 left in the first half. The play forced the Falcons to settle for a 33-yard field goal after they had earned a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line.

Patriots guard Stephen Neal threw a big block to spring tight end Daniel Graham for his 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter. As Graham caught the ball from Tom Brady in the flat, Neal's hit on Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams paved the way for Graham to elude a sure tackle and race down the sideline to the end zone. Following the block, Neal ducked to allow Graham to hurdle him and find a clear path to the score.

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