The New England Patriots traveled to Atlanta and did what rarely has been done since Matt Ryan has led the Falcons. The Patriots won the game 30 – 23. Matt Ryan led a late charge to bring the team back from 17 points down with 6:18 left in the game, only to come up short on a 4th down pass into the end zone that was broken up by Aqib Talib. The New England corner back had a strong game holding the high-flying Falcon receivers in check and tallied an interception, bringing his total to 4 for the season.
Tony Gonzalez was a monster in this game. He had 14 catches and two touchdowns. Yet on the last trip into the red zone late in the game, the Patriots refused to let him beat them. The Patriots had two linebackers, Collins and Mayo, line up in front of Gonzalez on each play, like you would see defending the gunner on a punt. These two large men ‘chipped’ Gonzalez, refusing him the ability to get off the line and into a route.
The Falcons are now 1 – 3 and in a tough spot in their division which is led by the New Orleans Saints who are 3 – 0 and playing a home game Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are now 4 – 0 and have a lot to feel good about as they keep winning in spite of injuries and rookies learning their way.
This game began well for the Falcons as a methodical opening drive gave them a 3 – 0 lead. The Patriots didn’t score on their first drive as it was stalled by a penalty caused by the crowd noise. Brady had gotten enough yardage for a first down on a sneak, however Bolden was resetting when the ball was snapped as he had leaned into Brady to hear the audible.
Thomkins dropped a back shoulder type pass on the redux of the third down play, and the Patriots punted the ball away. On that defensive series, potential tragedy struck. Vince Wilfork left the game and didn’t return. He appeared to have tweaked his ankle. He walked off the field and got some treatment on the sideline, but then was driven off the field to the locker room and later officially pronounced ‘out’ of the game. There is no additional information at this time on his status.
The Patriots answered later when Brady threaded the needle between two defenders to complete what was a 1 inch completion, technically, to rarely used tight end Matt Mulligan. This completion was a touchdown pass, giving the Patriots a 7 – 3 lead. Brandon Bolden had made a tough run that was initially signaled a touchdown, but was spotted on 6 inches from the goal line after a review. On the next play, it appeared Ridley had powered it in, but in fact he was stopped literally 1 inch from the goal line. On third down they went to the air and on a quick, off-balance throw back to his right, Brady squeezed in the short throw to Mulligan.
The game had a somewhat flat emotional state to it, and the crowd wasn’t much of a factor after that first drive. With the score 10 – 10 early in the third quarter, the Patriots were in the red zone and had a scare when Aaron Dobson got hit hard as he was going towards the ground for a low pass. A defender ran into him, violently forcing his head back. He was on the ground but walked off under his own power. He did not play again after that, but he seemed ok. On that play, he was clearly held, yet there was no flag. Brady ran towards the official in the end zone to let him know he blew that call. Gostkowski made the chip shot putting the Patriots up 13 – 10.
The defensive scheme of two deep safeties with underneath coverage on both White and Jones, Atlanta didn’t even test the deep ball. The Patriots got their passing game going, as Thomkins and Edelman got hot. On a third and 19 deep in their own end, Brady hit a deep ball over the middle which Thompkins pulled in as he ducked under the Atlanta safety who had launched himself like a missile in an attempt to separate Thompkins from the ball. Fortunately that collision didn’t occur as the safety just grazed Thomkins as he sailed over him. Nonetheless, the laundry came out and a 15 hard personal foul was called for a hit to the head, even though it was a glancing blow by the defenders forearm.
On the next play, Lagarette Blount took the ball through a big hole on the left side and broke it to the outside to out run the defense for a 47 yard touch down run. On another drive, Brady threw a beautiful lob pass to the front pylon where Thompkins made a diving catch for a long touchdown reception.
With the lead ballooned to 30 – 13 with only about 6:30 left in the game, the Falcons team looked dead. The stadium was all but empty at this point, yet things got very interesting. Ryan started throwing the ball down the field, and drove his team into the red zone. A few plays later Gonzalez had his second touchdown catch and it was time for an onside kick.
A deceptive on side kick to the Patriots right side took a second bounce that jumped up high on Zach Sudfeld, and he was unable to control the ball. Atlanta fell on it, only down 10 points. Ryan was able to drive the Falcons down to score a short field goal. With a 7 point lead, the Patriots had about 3:30 to run off the clock after a second onside kick attempt was handled by the Patriots. However, the Patriots were unable to run out the clock because on third and short, a tough run by Blount came up inches short of a first down, although it looked like the spot was unfavorable. Given the ball was on about the 35 yard line, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth and an inch. A field goal was too risky because of the field position the Falcons would have been granted after a miss. A punt didn’t make much sense as the net change in yardage would have been minimal if the ball went into the end zone.
On fourth and an inch, the Patriots went for it, but Brady fumbled the snap. So with just shy of 2 minutes left, the Falcons had a chance to tie up the game. Ryan finally was able to connect deep to Julio Jones who made a tough grab with Devin McCourty smothering him. At fourth down and 4 from inside the 10 yard line, Ryan threw to the end zone, targeting Roddy White. Aqib Talib broke up the pass and the game was over.
Great win for the Patriots, tough loss for the Falcons.