Throughout the season, Atlanta has gotten off to fast starts. Opponents have had to battle back from double-digit leads three times in six games, and five times teams have failed to score in the opening 15 minutes.
Obviously getting off to a quick start this Sunday will be a tall order to fill. A major reason for Atlanta's success in slowing teams early is the ability of its defense to limit first down production by opposing offenses. The Falcons allow a league-low average of 4.04 yards on first down plays. Atlanta also doesn't give up many big plays, so New England is going to have to be patient this Sunday.
"They have some good corners and their scheme really forces you to nickel and dime them," quarterback Tom Brady said. "So it's going to be a good week, a good challenge for us and there is no let-up from week to week. You talk about good defenses, you are going to get a good defense every week."
As strong as Atlanta is on first down, they are the worst team percentage-wise in third down defense. Opponents have converted 40-of-81 third downs (49.4 percent). The Falcons are also last in the league in pass defense, but part of that has to do with teams needing to throw in order to rally from first quarter deficits.
Atlanta has allowed just three points in the first quarter, but teams have touched them up for 124 points from the second quarter on. Despite being able to put teams in passing situations, the Atlanta defense hasn't really made pass rushing a huge part of the defense. The Falcons have 15 sacks as a team, with 13 of those coming from defensive linemen. Linebacker Keith Brooking, with two sacks, is the only non-lineman to get to the quarterback.
"They mix in pressure, but I wouldn't say they are a big pressure team," Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "They like to let their front four do most of the pass rushing and let the linebackers and defensive backs cover. The one thing they really do a good job of is not allowing the big plays."
Broncos lineman fined for block
Apparently the NFL agrees with Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox that the hit from Denver's Dan Neil that broke Cox's leg was illegal.
The league levied a $15,000 fine on Neil Thursday for what was deemed an illegal trip.
"Specifically, on a pass play, you clipped your opponent from behind and below the knee," NFL Director of Football Operations Gene Washington said in a letter to Neil.
The ruling stated that Neil's hit violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9, which states "There shall be no clipping from behind below the waist against a non-runner." The fine against Neil was the second against a Bronco lineman in two weeks. Matt Lepsis was hit with the same fine for rolling up the back of an opponent's leg against San Diego in Week Six.
Seymour set for action
There were no official changes to the New England injury report, but the chances of rookie Richard Seymour suiting up this weekend may be pretty good.
When asked in the locker room how he felt Thursday, Seymour said nothing but gave the thumbs up signal. Seymour has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury suffered against San Diego and is listed as questionable for the Atlanta game.
Buckley back in
Belichick did not get into the specifics, but he said the situation causing cornerback Terrell Buckley to be inactive against Denver was over.
"It's an internal matter," Belichick said. "It was handled. He will play this week in Atlanta. It's done."
Cornerback Terrance Shaw filled in for Buckley in nickel situations against the Broncos and played a solid game.