As the 3-0 Patriots ready themselves to take on the 1-2 Falcons tomorrow night, three individual matchups bear watching as they could possibly have a big impact on the outcome of this game.
1. Rookie Receivers Vs. Desmond Trufant
Rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson both made significant strides in a mere week after the horrible outing in week two against the Jets. After combining for only five catches against New York, they came up with 10 receptions versus the Bucs, including two big touchdowns to Thompkins. They both were on the same page with Brady (for the most part), and they hung on to the ball after creating the separation needed. In an offense that may once again be without tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide-out Danny Amendola, these two guys will have to come through again for Mr. Brady. They are in luck because they will have the luxury of going up against another rookie in Desmond Trufant. The Falcons top man, Asante Samuel will be matched up with the Patriots top man Julian Edelman (unless Samuel can’t go, as he is dealing with a thigh injury), so that will leave Trufant to deal with either Dobson or Thompkins. If the Pats rookies can out-duel the Falcons rookie, the offense will run more smoothly, and the Patriots can then dictate the terms of the game, rather than having Atlanta defense dictate the New England O.
2. Osi Umenyiora Vs. Nate Solder
As I mentioned in this piece, a big key for the Patriots will be containing the Falcon pass rush, which is led primarily by veteran Osi Umenyiora. Left tackle Nate Solder will be shouldering most of the load, and despite recent struggles to Umenyiora (Super Bowl memories…) I think that Solder will be up to the task. He is one of the top offensive lineman in the league, and I am sure that he is looking forward to the challenge that he presents. However if Umenyiora turns back the clock and goes bananas on the Pats offensive line, the entire game-plan of the Patriots offense could be thrown out of whack, and with such young players at the skill positions, this could have horrible repercussions within Sunday night’s game.
3. Mike Smith Vs. Bill Belichick
After a week of constant analysis between the Falcons and the Patriots players, I think it is time to step back and acknowledge that a large part of the game of football is the coaches. A missed challenge, or the lack of adjustment could be the difference in a win or a loss and the head coach is the main man responsible when these types of mistakes happen. Both Smith and Belichick are two of the best in the league, and it will be important to watch the decisions that these two guys make throughout the contest, as one faulty decision could cost their ball-club the football game.