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15 Observations from Week 11: Falcons vs Patriots

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 years ago at 1:04 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

15 Observations from Week 11: Falcons vs PatriotsBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Like the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song says, they were Taking Care of Business. This wasn’t pretty, but what Patriots did on Thursday night’s game. The Patriots dominated the hapless Falcons Offense and the Patriots Offense did just enough to give the team a comfortable lead coming down the stretch until the D put the game away with 3, 4th Quarter Interceptions. How did Atlanta beat New Orleans?

1. The Defense was stifling. With no Cordarelle Patterson, and no running game to speak of, the Patriots Defense made Atlanta one-dimensional and put it all on the shoulders of Matt Ryan. He fought bravely, enduring shot after shot from a porous offensive line. The Patriots put pressure on 59.4% of his dropbacks. The play of Center Matt Hennessey was particularly egregious. In the 1st half, the D limited the Falcons to 33 rushing yards on 8 carries. Do the math and the 2nd half was even worse, 8 carries for 7 yards. The Patriots now have three straight games in which they have held their opponent to single-digit points. Special teams contributed by pinning Atlanta deep in their own territory. In their 1st 5 possessions, the Falcons’ best starting position was the 21-yard line. OTheir best starting position was after the Jones interception which set them up at their own 48-yard line. Per Pro Football Focus, in the last 3 games, the Patriots defense has scored 2 TDs while allowing only 1!
2. Individual Defensive players stood out. None were better than Kyle Van Noy. By far his best game of the season. He led the team in tackles with 8, had 2 sacks, an interception which he turned into a pick-six.
3. I thought Kyle Dugger was outstanding, especially early in the game. Last season’s top draft pick is stepping up in his second season. He held Kyle Pitts to just 3 receptions and made him a non-factor.  Rodney Harrison gave him some advice and told him to trust his instincts and let his athleticism take over. He has been a hard hitter and a very good open-field tackler. He opened the game with a beautiful pass breakup against TE Kyle Pitts.
4. Christian Barmore is leaving his mark every week. He was constantly pushing Atlanta O Lineman into the lap of Matt Ryan. Davon Godchaux had his best game as well with 2 of his 3 tackles for loss and a sack. He was second on the team in QB pressures with 4. Carl Davis also had 3 tackles, none better than the 4th down stop of Qadree Ollison.
5. JC Jackson just has a nose for the ball. He has the ability to react to the play as it’s happening. His interception was strictly a great reaction. He nearly returned it for a TD. Loved his post-game quote “I don’t want to brag too much, but we have one of the best defenses in the league right now!”
6. The Patriots’ 4 Interceptions matched the entire number of interceptions by Atlanta for the season. Devin McCourty’s interception was strictly on Kyle Pitts. Dugger chucked Pitts at the line, limiting his ability to get into his route. Ryan put the ball where Pitts was supposed to be. Pitts stopped running his route. I have written this before, but drafting Pitts was a huge mistake by Atlanta. He is listed as a Tight End, but he is not a TE, but a big WR. Atlanta would have been better off taking an O lineman, future QB (Mac Jones), or trade the pick to a team that wanted a QB. Pitts is not a bad player, but he is not what Atlanta needed.
7. Mac Jones was good, not great. His completion percentage is thru the roof. Prior to this game, he was hitting on 69% of his passes, which would be a rookie record. He was 22 of 26, (84.6%) 207 yards, a TD, and an INT. Jones is the first rookie QB to complete 80% of his passes in back-to-back games in NFL history. Jakobi Meyers dropped a sideline pass and fell down on another route. Jones throws a great ball that is easy to catch. On his Interception, AJ Terrell made a Ty Law type play, leaving N’Keal Harry on an out pattern and went over to Smith running the seam. Jones didn’t scan the field and look for any other receiver than Smith. Harry was standing by himself. Jonnu Smith could have made a better effort to break up the pass. Hunter Henry also made the wrong read on what should have been a TD. Henry has to see the same thing the QB does on this option route. Henry chose to break the route toward the sideline when he should have continued his run to the back flag in the endzone. Jones put the pass in the corner in what would be an easy catch for Henry. Jones seems to have a hard time recognizing blitzes. In one play, McDaniels gets the play call into Jones late and Jones has no time to change the play at the line of scrimmage when Atlanta showed blitz late in the play clock.
8. I wonder how much of an effect that former Patriots coach Dean Pees had in holding down the Patriots’ offense. Pees has some institutional knowledge of how the Patriots think and make play calls.
9. Land Clark’s officiating crew was flag-happy and have been all season. They throw the second-highest amount of flags in the league. They average 17 flags a game. In this game, they threw 14 flags. This was as disruptive as any defensive player in the game and it made for a very choppy game. Not only were the teams playing on a short week, but all these penalties made it worse. A couple of holding calls against the Patriots were pretty marginal. Patriots had too many penalties and breakdowns that stalled or killed drives or reversed good field position from special teams. I thought we had cleaned this up. Was this a product of the short week or of the flag-happy officiating crew?
10. I thought Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ran very hard. The first tackler never brings them down. Stevenson had a 28-yard run called back on a hold by David Andrews (legitimate holding call). Harris had 56 yards on 10 carries (5.6 ypc) and Stevenson 69 yards on 12 carries (5.75 ypc). As a team, the Patriots ran for 137 yards (I added back the -3 yards Mac Jones had on kneel-downs at the end of the game.
11. The highs and lows of Thursday Night Football. Nick Folk had a nightmare game on a Thursday night game playing for Tampa Bay vs the Patriots in October 2017. The Patriots won the game 19 to 14 but Folk missed 3 FGs. He was put on IR the next week and cut at the end of the season.  He was out of the league for two years before he was signed by the Patriots in October of 2019. Folk is having a career year, hitting on 26 of 28 FGs with a career-long 53 yarder Thursday. He is the number one rated Kicker in the league. Quite the comeback for a player not on the 53 man roster at the cutdown day.
12. I don’t like those plays where the QB turns his back completely on the defense. Jones did that on a play-action fake handoff. He was blind to the oncoming Blitzer and sacked for a big loss. He did make up for that on a third-down play where Free Safety Duron Harmon came charging from deep safety and Jones backpedaled enough to get off the pass compete to Jakobi Meyers for the 1st down.
13. I love what Matt Judon has brought to the team on and off the field. 10 ½ sack are now 3rd in the league. His post-game press conference was beautiful. He was asking the press corps in attendance to give Kyle Van Noy a round of applause for what he did in the game. Van Noy was standing there waiting for his turn on the stage. When Van Noy finally got onstage, there was Judon dancing in the corner. Loved this quote from Judon’s presser describing the defense “we kind of want to be A-holes on the field”.
14. There was some confusion at the end of the 1st half with time running down. Jones completed a 3rd down pass to Jakobi Meyers in what appeared to be short of the line to gain. Fox never showed a replay of the play and the spot might have been wrong. Meyers looked like he rolled over the defender and make the 1st down. The coach can’t challenge the play in the last two minutes. The replay booth must make that call. They don’t want to stop the clock just to review the play. I have reviewed the play at full speed and can’t tell. If it was a 1st down, there was enough time for a pass or two to the endzone.
15. Kendrick Bourne had 4 catches on 4 targets for 42 yards, Nelson Agholor had 5 catches on 5 targets for 40 yards and a TD, and Jakobi Meyers 4 catches on 6 targets (drop pass and he fell down on the other). That’s balance.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

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