The New England Patriots followed up their impressive preseason opening win over the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints with a more convincing win over the Atlanta Falcons, outscoring them 28-10. The offense really shined in this one, and the defense played some solid bend-but-don’t break defense. QB Tom Brady was on top of his game, going 10/12 for 85 yards and a touchdown. His TD pass to TE Aaron Hernandez was placed perfectly on Hernandez’s back hip, as LB Sean Weatherspoon had tight coverage. Hernandez made a great adjustment to twist and catch the ball while tapping his feet in-bounds. One of the highlights of the night was the return of WR Wes Welker. Welker took 6 snaps on the field and finished the night with 2 catches for 20 yards (catches of 6 and 14 yards). He took some hard hits when he caught the ball over the middle, and got popped on a bubble screen that fell incomplete. Welker, as we’re so used to seeing, popped right up, which is good news and must be a mental boost as he works to return to 100% from his knee injury.
The Patriots’ first drive exhibited something that has become a theme so far this preseason: balance on the offense. The team seems committed to re-instituting the physical identity that characterized them during the Super Bowl years, and that starts with being committed to the run. On the team’s first drive, they ran the ball 6 times and passed 6 times, scoring on a Fred Taylor 28-yd run. The 13-year veteran still has some mileage left in those legs and he turned in an impressive performance starting the game. Taylor finished with 54 yds on 11 carries (4.9 avg) and a TD. Taylor also finished his runs, punishing the defenders that had the unfortunate job of stopping him. The only back that did not play a snap was Laurence Maroney. With different backs being featured each game, the third (and usually considered the most important) preseason game will likely feature Maroney. It will be his time to show he deserves his share of carries this season in a crowded backfield.
The defense played well overall, not surrendering a touchdown until the 4th quarter. Due to the numerous amount of injuries, many starters, including Brandon Spikes, Brandon Meriweather, Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Darius Butler, saw plenty of playing time in the second half. The defense seemed to win the battle on first down more often than not but were yielding chunks of yardage on 2nd and 3rd downs. The biggest problem appeared to be the short, underneath passes. That will surely be an area Belichick will pick apart when going over film with the team. Those types of plays extend drives, eat up clock, and tire out the defense (not to mention lead to points). Ron Brace, the back-up left defensive end who just recently starting practicing with the team, had a solid night. He finished with 3 tackles and a forced fumble, and he should have had a sack but dove short at a dead-in-his-shoes Falcons QB John Parker Wilson. Pat Chung looked pretty good once again. He looks like a completely different player than last year. At times, he seems to be shot out of a cannon and flies in to make a key stop. He wasn’t perfect, but very solid. He tied with McCourty for the team lead in tackles with 5 total. ILB Tyrone McKenzie can really deliver a hit. He broke up several passes just by making solid contact with the receiver as the ball got there. After surprisingly not seeing much time last week, he made a strong case to get more playing time next week.
If you missed the game, you can see video highlights, including all of the Pats’ touchdowns, Welker’s return, and Brace’s forced fumble, by clicking here.