By: Russ Goldman
Each week I am going to look back, and give you six takeaways I got from watching the Patriots game. I want this to be a balanced post so I am going to give you an equal share of the positive and the negative takeaways in this match-up for the Pats.
1. Aqib Talib showed why he is the most important player on the defense. In this game against the Falcons, he was the player of the game. The Falcons have very explosive receivers, and Talib for the most part did a nice job covering Roddy White and Julio Jones at different times during the game.
He made a key interception in the second half, and shortly after that, the Patriots offense kicked a pivotal field goal. He also made the deflection on the fourth down pass for the Falcons which basically ended the game.
Overall, he was terrific, and with his ability to lock down on one receiver in this game allowed the rest of the Patriots defense to feed off of his play. When Talib plays great, it seems the Patriots defense as a unit does as well.
2. The Patriots running game opens up the passing game on offense. With the passing game still evolving, it was great to see the running backs establishing themselves in this game with several key rushing attempts.
The Patriots offense for several years now has really been about the passing game opening opportunities for the running game. Well, against the Falcons, runs by Stevan Ridley, Legarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden, really helped out the play-action passing game. With the Falcons starting to worry about the Pats running the ball, quarterback Tom Brady was able to counter that with play-action passes to Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman.
3. The Patriots Offensive Line protected the quarterback and also opened holes for the running backs. This unit has struggled in the beginning of the season protecting Brady, but in this game, they gave him plenty of time to throw the ball, and did not give up one sack.
Also, they opened up great running lanes for the running backs, and the team had a total of 132 yards on the ground. Overall the offensive line did their job on Sunday Night. Last week the offensive line was in the negative category, and this week it was all positive.
1. The Patriots defense struggled to cover tight end Tony Gonzalez. The ability to cover the tight end has been an issue for awhile, and in this game it was huge.
Gonzalez had twelve receptions for a total of 149 yards with two touchdowns. Simply put, the Patriots just could not stop Gonzalez. The Patriots would double-team him often, and he would still catch the ball.
However, I honestly think that in this game Gonzalez just showed what an elite tight end he can still be. The Patriots tried everything they could to stop him. In the very end of the game, they actually did contain him somewhat as they double-teamed him with linebackers on the line of scrimmage.
Covering Gonzalez does go in the negative category, but the Patriots did put in the effort to stop him. Unfortunately, Gonzalez won this battle overall against the Patriots defense.
2. Major mistakes by the special teams unit and the offense in the fourth quarter almost cost the Patriots the game. With the Patriots up ten points late in the game, the Falcons attempted an onside kick, and were successful getting possession back, as the ball deflected off of Zach Sudfeld, and the football was recovered by the Falcons. I know he is a rookie, and the turf has tough bounces, but if you are on the “hands team” you have to come up with the ball.
To make matters even worse, on a fourth down play a little later, Brady fumbled the ball, and the Falcons got possession back. Fortunately for the Patriots, they did stop the Falcons on their final drive. However, these sloppy mistakes can be the difference in a game, and the Patriots are lucky that the defense ultimately bailed them out in the end.
3. The Patriots defense did not get consistent pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The Patriots did not harass the quarterback enough in this game, and it allowed Ryan time to find open receivers. However, Joe Vellano and Michael Buchanan both had a key sack that did make a difference.
Moving forward though, the Patriots really need to get after the quarterback much better. The secondary in this game did their job in the passing game, but the defensive line I feel let them down with a lack of a consistent pass rush.
In concluding, this was a great win for the Patriots as they improved to 4-0, while continuing to show improvement on both sides of the ball, and each week they continue to find ways to win games. There are things to work on, but if this game is any indication of what is to come, the 2013 Patriots could be looking at a special season.