By: Russ Goldman
My last article article I listed my “Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Falcons”. The next day I like to go back an look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.
Before I do that I want mention that again this was pretty positive effort by the New England Patriots. The final score was 28 -10 with the Patriots winning at the Georgia Dome. The score of the game is irrelevant. How did the Patriots perform in the different phases of the game?
On offense it was a pretty positive performance. Tom Brady looked sharp throwing for 85 yards, and he was 10 for 12 in completions to attempts. He also threw a touchdown.
The big story of the offense was the return of Wes Welker. It looked like he did not miss a beat. He had 2 receptions for 20 yards. Another standout was the play of tight end Aaron Hernandez who looked like he has been playing in the Patriots offense for a long time. He could be the Patriots version of Dallas Clark. The running game was very solid as the Patriots really were balanced in this game. There was much to be encouraged with watching the offense.
On defense, the Pats weren’t as dominant as they were last week against the Saints. However, they did a decent job against the run. Against the pass, the Pats definitely had problems with the Falcons tight ends. They also weren’t able to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterbacks. But, they were able to get off the field and on a few occasions held the Falcons to field goal attempts. It was a decent performance, but I am hoping we see better out of this unit in the pivotal third pre-season game.
On special teams, this unit did a nice job. Steven Gostkowski was solid in kickoffs. Three out five of his kickoffs were touchbacks. Zoltan Mesko did a nice job in punting. In four punts he had a net average of 44.4 yards which is very good. Overall this unit did their job in Atlanta.
There were many positives to take from this game. I can see progress being made in all three phases. I am still encouraged by what I am seeing out of this team so far in the pre-season.
While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I had mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and see what I have learned in these areas by watching the game. Below is my analysis of my “Five Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Falcons.”
1. How will Ron Brace play Thursday Night? Ron Brace I think can be an asset to the Patriots this season if he can take his game to the next level. Brace did a decent job with the second unit. He ended up with three tackles and was involved in forcing a fumble. For someone that just got back on the field his performance was good. Let’s hope he continues to make progress next week.
2. Who will be playing at running back in this game? First of all, this unit did a real nice job last night overall. I was hoping to see more of Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Laurence Maroney. Green-Ellis had a nice game. However, I did not see Maroney at all. This is not a good sign for him.
The big surprise for me was the play of Fred Taylor. He was tremendous. He ran for 54 yards on 11 carries. He also had a touchdown on a 28 yard run. If he can only stay healthy he is hands down the Patriots best back. Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk were also very effective. This unit could be a major key to the success of the Patriots this season. In the game this unit was fantastic.
3. Can the Defensive Line stop the Atlanta Falcons Thursday Night? The defensive line for the Patriots I thought did a decent job. Michael Turner ran for 32 yard on 8 carries. That is an average of four yards a carry. This unit could be a little better against the run, but I didn’t see any huge holes for Turner to run through.
Gerard Warren and Mike Wright will be huge areas of focus on the line this year. Again, they were decent, but there is room for improvement. I will be looking for more out of this unit in the third pre-season game.
4. How will Derrick Burgess play at outside linebacker? I am going to cut him a little slack. It was his first game back while just coming back to practice for less than a week. However, he didn’t make any tackles and I didn’t really see him as being that active in the game. I am hoping to see more out of him in the third pre-season game.
5. I want to see how Matt Ryan has progressed as a quarterback. Matt Ryan really has a chance to be an elite quarterback this season. With that said, I have to say I saw a good amount of what I saw against the Patriots last season. He moved the Falcons down the field. However, he could not get them into the red zone. His drives always stalled. His numbers do look good. He was 8 for 13 for 76 yards.
However, in this case statistics don’t tell you everything you need to know. Ryan needs to be able to convert better on third downs, and take his team all the way down the field for a touchdown. Until he does this consistently he will not be an elite quarterback. In this pre-season game he was a good quarterback. I am hoping someday he will take his game to the next level, and become a great quarterback.
In concluding, the Pats had another encouraging performance. Next Thursday they will be playing the crucial third pre-season game at Gillette Stadium against the St. Louis Rams. If the Pats can continue to build on these pre-season results, they could be ready to go for the first game against the Bengals.