Tag Archives: Matt Ryan

Patriots  Week 7 Report Card, Dominant for the First Time in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
October 24, 2017 at 8:07 am ET

The Patriots finally looked like the team we expected to see this season in what was billed as a Super Bowl rematch despite both teams saying that they’ve moved on to 2017. That is only true for one team, the Patriots have moved on.The Falcons are still stuck in the awful nightmare of the 4th quarter and overtime and are in a fog that somehow crept into Foxboro/Fogboro that is a perfect metaphor for their season so far.

But the Patriots hadn’t played a 60-minute game yet either. The defense was wide open to ridicule and beat up and the offense, despite the high output, hadn’t put a full game together. Well, if this is the product that the Patriots are going to put out the rest of the season, then buckle in for another long ride folks.

The Patriots were cool and in control, which contrasted sharply with the deer-in-the-headlights panic shown by Atlanta and coach Dan Quinn who went for a fourth and long in the first quarter and then stupidly went for a 4th and 6 at midfield with two minutes to go in the half, down only 10-0 and with Atlanta getting the ball at the kickoff in the 3rd quarter.

They failed and Tom Brady put a dagger into them, easily going the 53-yards putting the Patriots up 17-0 and this one was essentially over.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady didn’t have eye-popping numbers (21 of 29, 249 yards 2 TDs),  on Sunday night but he, like the rest of the team was in command all the way. Brady sees the field better than anyone and when he saw Dontari Poe taking his sweet time getting off the field, he quickly snapped the ball for an easy first and five. He made a beauty of a deep sideline throw to Gronkowski just as he went out of bounds. His throw to Chris Hogan on 3rd and 16 was a laser that protected his WR from getting popped, and those who talk about diminishing arm strength should watch that one again. Ditto for the nice 2-yard TD pass to James White. White was Brady’s third option on the play. Was there any doubt after Quinn panicked on the fourth down call that the Brady was going to put points on the board just before halftime? He loves those moments.

Running Backs: A

The running back depth was on full display on Sunday night. Atlanta may arguably have the best 1-2 combination in the league, but the Patriots five are second to none when it comes to versatility, depth, and dependability.

Dion Lewis (remember not long ago he was the subject of trade talk?) was once again the featured back in the offense, carrying 13 times for 76 yards, including a beauty of a 25-yard burst up the middle. Rex Burkhead returned from his rib injury since Week 2 and ran very well. Mike Gillislee also ran hard and was effective. He did get stuffed on the goalline but that wasn’t a good play call there and he had no chance of scoring there. James White? Think Atlanta had nasty flashbacks to February just before the half? White was the feature back for that sequence that ended with him scoring from 2-yards out. He had just five receptions but on just five targets. James Develin was his normal road grader self in the blocking game. The backs gained 162 yards rushing…nuff said.

Wide Receivers: B

Atlanta played this one a little differently, they sat back in two-deep zones trying to take away the deep ball, (perhaps seeing Brandin Cooks plenty before?), so the opportunities for the deep ball were limited. But the wide receivers had good productive games. Hogan  (4 catches 71 yards), ran a perfect route on the 3rd and 16 and corralled the ball in for a huge first down. Cooks (4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD), took a shovel pass (stolen from the Chiefs) and rode Rob Gronkowski’s shirttail into the end zone for an easy touchdown. Ole, ole Robert Alford, the tape doesn’t lie. Danny Amendola had an uncharacteristic drop on an otherwise quiet night.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski didn’t have his normal stellar game but was good enough. He got flagged for an offensive pass interference that wiped out a 39-yard pass from Brady and it seems like the officials are always looking for that one. So many others consistently get away with it…however, it is what it is. He made a really nice sideline catch from Brady where #12 dropped it perfectly in the bucket. His block on Cooks’ TD will be an internet meme for years to come. Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister were invisible other than the blocks each missed which resulted in lost yardage. Hollister’s was down inside the five-yard line…not good.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line has been catching a lot of flak for the hits that Brady has been taking this year and with good reason. But on Sunday night, they had their best game of the season…by far. They gave up a couple of sacks but overall the protection while not perfect was plenty good enough.

But where the unit made their grade was in the running game. The Patriots gashed Atlanta for 162 yards and the holes were there to see on television. With the Falcons in a two-deep safety zone, they dared New England to run and got smashed in the mouth. What was especially impressive is, when killing the clock at the end of the game, the Falcons knew they were going to run and they still ate them up. They owned the point of attack all game long

Defensive Line: B

The Patriots defensive line was good but not great in this one. They did a good job of defending the run in the first half but were victimized by Atlanta a bit in the third and fourth quarters as Devonta Freeman was impressive. But when they had to be, they buckled down. The goal-line stand was very impressive. On the fourth down stop, Trey Flowers destroyed the tight end which forced Taylor Gabriel back where Kyle Van Noy shot in and stuffed him for a five-yard loss. Complimentary football as Bill Belichick would say.

Flowers was solid in the pass rush. Wise flashed a bit and Adam Butler got his first NFL sack. Cassius Marsh was a little bit out of control on two occasions where he rushed Matt Ryan with his hair on fire and lost containment. Alan Branch in a limited role was his normal immovable self.

Linebackers: B+

Kyle Van Noy made several splash plays including his goal-line stop and was flying all over the field. He’s at his best playing downhill and/or rushing the passer. He’s not great in coverage but he had a very productive game. Dont’a Hightower was mostly quiet on the edge and got hurt later in the game. There was a David Harris sighting in Foxboro! Yes, the veteran played in his most snaps this season, appearing in their base and goal line formations and looked like his old self, (I think I was the only one who didn’t believe he looked slow this summer). He made a bone-jarring hit on Freeman at the goal line. Was good to see him out there and contributing.

Secondary: A

With Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore out this week, the Patriots were missing two of their top three corners. Facing the potent Atlanta offense it was no surprise that the Patriots would double Julio Jones with safety help over the top. Jones had 9 catches for 99 yards and a garbage-time touchdown but was truly a non-factor in the game. The secondary play was stellar (when was the last time we said that?) throughout in this one.

Malcolm Butler was all over the field and easily had his best game of the season. He flew up and destroyed Tevin Coleman on a running play and stuffed a screen pass for a loss. Even the touchdown he was beaten for, he made a good play and was in the position to pick off Ryan but Jones stole the ball right out of his hands on a great play.

Johnson Bademosi will no longer be referred to as a special teams player only. For the past two weeks, he’s shown that he can play. The big corner, scrapped and competed all game. He had a nice breakup on a pass to Jones. And Jonathan Jones broke up a pass in the end zone for Sanu.

Devin McCourty was the deep centerfielder with Duron Harmon for much of this game and they were solid. Excellent effort and outstanding results for this group.

Special Teams: A-

Cassius Marsh (he of the hair on fire type) blocked a field goal on a tremendous play and got an in-game high five from Belichick which is a rarity. Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 3-3 on his field goals, and his kickoffs were as always excellent. The coverage units were on point and Danny Amendola with his sure hands recovered an onside kick.

The only downer was the not-so-smart penalty on Pat Chung for holding when he didn’t have to which wiped out an excellent field position situation.

Coaches: A+

Bill Belichick never blinks or loses sight of what is going on around him. In a big game for both teams he had his unit in control and they played like the Super Bowl champions that they are for 60 minutes. Contrast that to the panicky, way Dan Quinn approached this one. And the coach’s demeanor bleeds over to the players’ performances. Atlanta doesn’t faintly resemble that cocky, dominant team that rolled over Green Bay and stuffed New England for three quarters in the Super Bowl crew. That, boys and girls, is superior coaching.

The game plan was outstanding and executed to a tee. Josh McDaniels opted for a smash mouth ball control offense which kept Atlanta’s offense frustrated and on the sidelines. Point in fact, down three scores, Atlanta had three, just three second-half possessions. That is, to quote Charlie Sheen, “winning.”

Matt Patricia’s defense played by far their best game of the year, the much-maligned secondary, missing some key players was stellar and held Atlanta scoreless for 56 minutes. A tremendous performance by the coaching staff this week.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Dominant Effort in All Phases Pushes Patriots Past the Falcons 23-7

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2017 at 12:46 am ET

Surprise, surprise, surprise (Gomer Pyle voice), tell me if you saw this one coming. The Patriots put together their best defensive effort by far this season, against one of the most explosive offenses in football in Matt Ryan and the Falcons and shut them down and out for 56 minutes before what was essentially a garbage-time touchdown with four minutes to go. Missing two out of their top three cornerbacks wasn’t an issue on Sunday night as the team finally put a 60-minute effort together and yes they were impressive.

And the Patriots running game was not only able to take the heat off of Tom Brady but was able to control the clock and finish the game. Dion Lewis rushed 12 times for 76 yards and was the workhorse for the team, as the Patriots gashed the Falcons for 162 yards on the ground.

With the win, the Patriots improve to 5-2 and remain alone atop the AFC East. Speaking of which, your trivia question for the night, which division has the most wins in the National Football League? You guessed it, “that weak AFC East”.

Tom Brady was coolly efficient, passing 29 times, completing 21 for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offensive line had their best game of the season, as we pointed out in our pregame matchups, the best way to attack the Atlanta defense was to run right at them as their speed was too much on the perimeter but they’re smaller and the Patriots ate them up tonight by controlling the clock and the tempo. The Patriots held the ball for 34:05 seconds which kept Ryan and the Falcons offense on the sidelines.

But this was a night for the defense, no one foresaw the type of performance the defense put in tonight especially missing so many pieces on defense. But game balls have to go to Malcolm Butler who was flying all over the field and making plays and Johnson Bademosi, the special teamer who was placed into the starting lineup for the second week in a row due to injuries. Bademosi played very effectively and has given the coaches the confidence to use him now whenever he’s needed. Eric Rowe probably won’t be seen until after the bye but he’s earned more playing time.

The Patriots goal line stand was among the best sequences they’ve had defensively all season. Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu on the one-yard line and the defensive backs (Bademosi and Pat Chung) held him out of the end zone. On fourth and goal from the one, the Falcons tried to get a bit cute and run a jet sweep with Gabriel but it was read perfectly by Kyle Van Noy who burst into the backfield and dropped him for a five-yard loss.

Ryan finished with respectable numbers, 23-33 for 233 yards and a touchdown which broke the Patriots streak for allowing six straight 300-yard passers to open the season. But Ryan’s numbers were actually a bit skewed. After White’s touchdown, Atlanta got the ball with 21 seconds left in the half, and the Patriots allowed Ryan to hit three passes underneath before time ran out that totaled 36 yards but had no chance of getting any points. The same thing on Ryan’s final drive. Up 23-0, the Patriots weren’t going to give up anything deep and made them slowly work underneath and eat up precious time. Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a one-yard touchdown pass but even that appeared to be a Butler interception. It was just a magnificent play by Jones, by reaching over and stealing the ball away from Butler for his first TD of the season.

Atlanta was playing very aggressively going for a 4th and 7 at the end of the first quarter and again near the end of the half. That aggressiveness turned a bit foolhardy as the Patriots stopped them near midfield and then drove a touchdown right before the half that blew the game open at 17-0. Brady hit James White for a 2-yard touchdown at the end of a 7-play, 53-yard drive.

Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks had impressive games with each hauling in four passes each. Hogan totaled 71 yards and Cooks 65 with a touchdown, a shovel pass from Brady where he followed Rob Gronkowski into the end zone for an easy touchdown. Falcons corner Robert Alford won’t like the film review on that one. WIth Gronkowski bearing down on him at the three-yard line, Alford did his best matador impression and stepped aside, allowing Cooks easy access to the end zone.

Rex Burkhead returned to action for the first time since Week 2 and ran impressively, gaining 31 yards on six carries.

Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia have to be extremely proud of the way the defense stepped up tonight. Holding Atlanta to zip until garbage time was a tremendous effort. They held the Falcons to just 2-9 on third down and just 1-3 on fourth down.

Special Teams got into the act with a blocked field goal by Cassius Marsh and solid kicking by Stephen Gostkowski.

The only downer tonight was the penalties. The Patriots were flagged eight times for 65 yards. Although the offensive pass interference on Gronkowski was horrible as the holding call on Shaq Mason late in the fourth quarter.

The game was played in an increasing fog which got worse as the game went along. Although Devin McCourty after the game said that the conditions on the field were fine.

So with the win, they face the Chargers at home next Sunday at 1 p.m. San Diego er Los Angeles has won three in a row and shut out Denver 21-0 today. The Patriots sit atop the East and the AFC at 5-2 with the Chiefs and Steelers.

Patriots – Falcons Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
October 20, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, October 22 at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Boston – 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (4-2) beat the New York Jets 24-17. The Jets led 14-0 after the first quarter before the Patriots scored 24 straight points but had to hold on in the end.

The Falcons (3-2) lost to the Miami Dolphins 20-17. The Falcons led 17-0 at the half and allowed Miami to steal one away from them in Atlanta’s new dome.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Falcons are meeting for the 15th time overall and the first regular-season meeting since the Patriots traveled to Atlanta on Sept. 29, 2013, in a 30-23 win on Sunday Night Football from the Georgia Dome. And of course, the Super Bowl just ten months ago won by the Patriots in overtime.
The Patriots have won the last four times the teams have played in the regular season with wins in 2001, 2005 and 2013 at The Georgia Dome and in a 2009 win at Gillette Stadium.
Prior to those four wins, the Patriots had suffered four straight losses to the Falcons, dating back to 1989.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Falcons Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Patriots running game showed some signs of life last week, by mixing in Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee the Patriots had good consistent running with the speedier Lewis and the power running of Gillislee. However, they only ran the ball 25 times. The coaches, mainly Josh McDaniels don’t have the faith in the running game to stick with it if things begin to slow down.

The Falcons run defense has been up and down. They are lighter and very fast and can flow to the ball extremely well. The slow developing stretch plays will not work against this unit. Dontari Poe inside will make life difficult to run. But Miami showed that running straight at the perimeters with the bigger back as Jay Ajayi can be very effective. Will the Patriots have the patience to stick with it? Judging by the play of the defense and the extra missing pieces this week? No.

Patriots WRs vs Falcons Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game, as we’ve said many times this season, even without Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell can throw the ball on anyone. The Falcons early in the SB flooded the middle of the field to take away the short/intermediate crossers the Pats love, forcing them to work outside. That was part of the reason that they got Brandin Cooks this year. He brings that element of speed on the outside that they must respect.

Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will do the dirty work underneath. And in this one, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski who was missing in February. James White (the Falcons will watch him closely) and Dion Lewis out of the backfield give Tom Brady plenty of weapons to target. It all depends on the time.

The Falcons secondary has been struggling to force turnovers, they have just two interceptions on the season, something no one foresaw this summer. Overall, the secondary play has been a bit of a disappointment. They have good edge rushers in Brooks Reed, Vic Beasley, and Takk McKinney, but where they were so effective in February was the interior push of the defensive line. That took away Brady’s ability to step up in the pocket and limited his effectiveness early. The Patriots offensive line hasn’t done a good job of protecting him although they did a much better job last week.

Next up the Falcons offense:

Falcons RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Atlanta

The Falcons have arguably the best running back duo in the league with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Can anyone forget the first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl? Freeman ripped off a 37-yard gain and was very effective in the early going. With Kyle Shanahan gone this season, will Atlanta stick with the running game? If they had last week, they may have beaten Miami.

The Patriots have not been good against the run especially up the middle, although they’ve made strides the past two weeks. Moving Dont’a Hightower back to the inside linebacker spot helped. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch will have to step up their games, even more, this week as New England will have their hands full with Atlanta’s dynamic duo.

Falcons WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Atlanta

Matt Ryan has struggled thus far in 2017, tossing just six touchdowns against six interceptions thus far. But rest easy Matt, not only are the Patriots struggling against the pass, allowing journeyman QBs like Josh McCown to throw for over 350 yards but now they are banged up as well. New England will likely only have three healthy corners, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi. The matchup against Julio Jones is a nightmarish one this week. Stephon Gilmore would be the logical choice but is out with a concussion. Butler is too small for the big Jones and Julio against Bademosi would be just unfair.

Mohamed Sanu should return this week and with Taylor Gabriel gives Ryan matchups galore. Gabriel had three catches for 76 yards in the Super Bowl. But where they Falcons can also pick them apart is underneath with the running backs, something the Patriots have struggled against. Coleman and Freeman can be just as effective in the passing game. The Patriots pass rush has been inconsistent at best. The safeties will have to cover a lot of ground in this one.300 yards? Nope. Ryan will probably throw for over 400 in this one. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a solid season and the Patriots coverage units have been very good, and now that Matthew Slater has returned they promise to be even better. Danny Amendola gives the Patriots an edge here as he’s been coming on lately in the punt return game. The team could use Dion Lewis to break a kick return this week.

The Falcons special teams have been victimized by penalties but they have a superb kicker in Matt Bryant but his back has been an issue with him. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and if it stiffens up on him, it would be an issue for the STs. Atlanta has an electric returner in Andre Roberts. He can be an “X” factor in this one.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will pit the two Super Bowl teams against one another. But in reality, although both teams have winning records, they’ve both dropped two games at home which isn’t the way it is done. Atlanta has struggled with finishing games and lost to both the Bills and Dolphins at home in successive games. The Patriots, on the other hand, have struggled defensively all season and have a tough time covering ordinary wide receivers. Enter Julio Jones. With a full complement of corners, I liked the Patriots to hold serve at home. With two out of their top three corners missing against this Atlanta team, the matchups for Matt Ryan will be plentiful. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense will keep things close, I expect Rob Gronkowski to have a big game but I think that Matt Ryan will absolutely torch this secondary with their two biggest corners in Gilmore and Rowe. Losing three at home? When was the last time that happened? Short answer… 2017.  Falcons 38-31

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Falcons, Like the Patriots Are Still Searching For Consistency

Steve Balestrieri
October 19, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

 

For most of the first six games of the 2017 season, the Patriots have scuffled along. At times playing very well, others they’ve looked lost out on the field with blown assignments and coverages and have allowed far too many yards and points. This was hardly the team that many experts were picking to finish 16-0 and repeat as Super Bowl Champions. And neither has been their foe in the Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta too has struggled with their consistency and although they’ve consistently stated that they’ve put that Super Bowl collapse behind them, their play on the field has shown that while they’ve stated that, they still may not have taken that lesson to heart yet.

They allowed the Patriots to come back from 25 points in the Super Bowl and eventually win in overtime. Last week the Falcons had a 17-0 lead over the Dolphins at home in their new domed stadium and somehow lost 20-17 to a Miami team that is struggling to score points with QB Jay Cutler.

This was coming off of their bye after they dropped another home game to the Buffalo Bills despite leading at the half in that one also. Perhaps the old myth that New England goes to the playoffs every season because they play in the AFC East will not get much play in Atlanta after the past three weeks.

Here are some of our first impressions of the Falcons this week as they face off with the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Matt Ryan Isn’t Producing Anything Close to 2016 Level: The Falcons quarterback was operating on a different plane in 2016. Ryan completed a career-high 69.9 percent of his passes for 4944 yards with 38 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. He led the league in a plethora of passing categories. Yards per attempt (9.3), Touchdown percent (7.1), Yards per Completion (13.3), and Passer Rating (117.1).

Ryan followed that up with an outstanding performance in the three playoff games, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 1014 yards (338 per game) with 9 touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 135.3.

Thru his first five games of 2016, Ryan threw for 1740 yards with 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In those games, after dropping the opener to the Bucs, the Falcons ripped off four wins in a row. In his first five games of 2017, his completion percentage has dropped but is still a very good 65.9 percent, but his yardage and touchdowns are way down and his interceptions are way up. Ryan has thrown for 1357 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. The Falcons are 3-2 and have had a couple of close calls in games they should have won easily….sound vaguely familiar?

Things may be looking up for Ryan this week, the Patriots defense has given every QB they’ve faced at least 300 yards passing. They’ve had numerous breakdowns in the secondary in coverage and the communication, even after six weeks is still hit or miss. Ryan should get Mohamed Sanu back this week which coupled with Julio Jones and their other receivers will be a big boost to the passing game. And New England will probably be without two of their top their corners in Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore who are injured and won’t play.

Running Backs Will Present Biggest Challenge: Even with a healthy secondary, one area that the Patriots defense is really struggling is covering the running backs and the Falcons have a pair of very good ones in either running or catching the ball out of the backfield. Devonta Freeman has 79 carries for 353 yards, 4.5 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns so far in 2017. No one can forget his first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl when he ripped off a 37-yard run to begin the game. Tevin Coleman has rushed 38 times for 213 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and a score so far.

But working underneath in the passing game is where they’ll be most dangerous against a team that has struggled to defend it. Freeman has 11 catches for 81 yards and Coleman has 14 receptions for 157 yards, 11.2 yards per catch and a score. With a secondary already missing two corners, the safeties of New England will be hard-pressed to keep up with the wide receivers of the Falcons. So who is going to cover the backs? Kyle Van Noy has struggled in coverage, Dont’a Hightower has been used as an edge rusher.  Elandon Roberts or Jordan Richards? That is a big mismatch that the Falcons will exploit.

Defense Hasn’t Created Enough Pressure: The Falcons had a lightning-fast defense in 2016 and one that gave the Patriots fits thru the first three quarters of the Super Bowl. One of the reasons they were so successful is that they were able to bring pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, sacking him five times.

Despite investing heavily in the defense this season, they haven’t been able to ratchet up the pressure that they hoped to so at this point of the season. As a team, they have just 12 sacks which is tied for 21st in the league after five games. One of the trickle-down effects of this is that the team isn’t generating turnovers. Atlanta as a team has generated just three turnovers thru five games, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Think back to how dominant they were, rolling thru the playoffs generating six turnovers in three playoff games.

Coming into Sunday’s game against Miami, Jay Cutler had been sacked 10 times in four games. The Falcons with a big 17-point lead in the second half should have been in prime position to push the envelope and get after Cutler and create pressure and perhaps force a turnover or two which could have broken the game open. But they didn’t sack Cutler once and Miami came back and forced a turnover of their own after scoring 20 straight points.

The Time is Now For the Falcons to Turn It Around: The Falcons schedule isn’t filled with easily winnable games the rest of the way of the 2017 season. If they can regain their winning formula of the 2016 season, they are still in good position to take their division once again. And it won’t be easy, Carolina is playing better this season and is a half-game up at 4-2. New Orleans, has turned things around and sits with them at 3-2.

A look at the Falcons remaining 11 weeks is a tough slate. After facing the Patriots on the road on Sunday Night Football, they return home to face the Jets and then go away to Carolina, home against the Cowboys, away against the Seahawks, home against the Bucs, Vikings, and Saints, away against the Bucs and Saints, before finishing up with the Panthers at home. That finale (admittedly very far in the future), could be the difference in the division’s crown.

Other than the Jets, who admittedly have been playing much tougher this season, there are no easy wins on this schedule. They have a tough slate of games to go. But what better way for them to re-ignite their season than to beat the Super Bowl champs on Sunday Night Football on the road?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: Falcons vs. Patriots Preview

Russ Goldman
October 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm ET

In this episode, we first looked back at the Patriots victory against the Jets. Later on, we previewed the upcoming game for the Pats against the Falcons.

Five Monday NFL Thoughts After Week 6

Ian Logue
October 16, 2017 at 8:40 am ET

Sunday was an interesting afternoon with a variety of stories from around the league that stood out.  We’ll attempt to cover a few of them here each week, including several from yesterday.

1)  Undefeated no more – The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their first loss of 2017 after the Pittsburgh Steelers came into Arrowhead Stadium and dropped them to 5-1 on the season after a 19-13 loss.  They held the Chiefs to just three points through three quarters and the 12-3 lead Pittsburgh managed to put together over that span ended up being enough to hold them off.  Kansas City closed to within 12-10 with just over six minutes to go in the game, but Ben Roethlisberger came right back and hit Antonio Brown for a 51-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to put the game away.

Roethlisberger was coming off of a loss to the Jaguars the previous week where he questioned whether or not he still “had it”, but that seemingly was just him whining after he came out earlier in the week calling himself “one of the best in the world”.

“You wake up Monday morning, and you realize, ‘Man, I’m still one of the best in the world [to] do what I do,’ ” Roethlisberger said via the Post-Gazette. “I’m gonna have that confidence. I’m gonna have that when I go out there Wednesday to practice and Sunday when we go to Kansas City.”

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, his team did enough to improve to 4-2 on the season and lift his ego for at least another week, while also helping New England’s chances at getting the top seed now that the Chiefs finally have one in the loss column.


Rodgers won’t get an opportunity to potentially battle with Brady in February.

2) Tough break for Rodgers – Aaron Rodgers season may have come to an abrupt end after the veteran took a big shot out in Minnesota that saw him get carted off the field during a 23-10 loss out in Minneapolis.

Unlike New England, where there the news might have taken a few days to come out, the Packers announced the injury over their Twitter channel saying that “he could miss the rest of the season.”  It’s disappointing because his loss likely will put the Packers’ postseason chances in jeopardy, eliminating a potential match-up between Brady and Rodgers in February.

Brady found out about the injury during his press conference.

“I didn’t know that. That sucks,” said Brady.

Rodgers’ injury turns the reins over to back-up Brett Hundley, who head coach Mike McCarthy said is “my quarterback”, with Joe Callahan as his back-up as the team now tries to move forward with Rodgers sidelined.

3) Colin Kaepernick trying to land a death blow to the CBA – For some odd reason, Kaepernick seems to believe that his ongoing unemployment is related to NFL owners conspiring against him, which will now reportedly see the quarterback file a collusion grievance, which holds some significance due to its potential effect on the CBA if he’s successful.

According to ProFootballTalk.com, Kaepernick is hoping to trigger the termination of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement if he’s able to prove collusion by the owners.

It seems to be a long shot, because one of the things that’s seemingly gotten lost surrounding the beleaguered quarterback is the fact that he’s not unemployed because of the fact he started the kneeling movement during the national anthem.  People seem to forget he was wearing police portrayed as pigs on his socks during training camp, as well as featuring a police officer badge as a “runaway slave patrol badge.”


Kaepernick’s bad decisions, not his anthem protests, are likely the reason he’s still unemployed.

Those statements were pretty telling and while his actions sparked the current league movement, what Kaepernick has already done has been ugly enough where given that teams are escorted by police and security on a weekly basis, bringing a player who openly wears socks portraying them with a word that most officers dislike being called is something that is probably the bigger reason keeping owners from seeking his services.  Not to mention the fact that adding that drama and attention to their locker room is another thing they likely don’t want either.

Given that some of Kaepernick’s concerns involve racially charged accusations that most people dislike making blanket statements about, it’s ironic that Kaepernick made such strong blanket statements about police.  While it’s hard to deny that there may certainly be legitimate things that need to be discussed with this issue, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have and he really went too far, which has also hurt his cause.

The other issue is the fact that Kaepernick wasn’t playing at a high level during his final days in San Francisco and the negatives he brings as a distraction likely outweighs a substantial enough reason for a team to take the chance of bringing him in.  Had he knelt and then made his thoughts known to media outlets to bring his grievances to light in a more controlled manner, it might have played out differently.  But the pig socks and the strong Twitter statements haven’t helped his cause, and when you take into account the national backlash the league is already feeling over the anthem protest to begin with, it would be tough for one member club to want to take the additional baggage surrounding Kaepernick on.

Let’s be honest, when you look at how things have been handled by concerned players even here in New England, it’s completely different from Kaepernick’s actions.  Even Indianapolis has handled things better, with former Patriots Darius Butler and Kamar Aiken doing positive things to try and spark productive discussions with local police.  It’s a stark contrast to what the now unemployed player did, and it’s amazing that people seem to have forgotten that.

At the end of the day, Kaepernick had the right intention with his plight but it’s ultimately been his poor execution and decision-making that has him in this position.  He may try and prove collusion, but these are likely the real reasons his NFL career may be over.

He needs to look in the mirror instead of pointing any fingers when it comes to why NFL owners don’t want anything to do with him.  Hopefully the progress he ultimately makes someday years from now in sparking a positive change, which if Kaepernick is being truthful in some of the other things he’s said, will be more rewarding than the NFL career he cost himself by going too far with his actions.

He’s his own worst enemy.  The sooner he admits that and shifts his focus to truly wanting to finish what he started, the sooner maybe he’ll finally bring about the change he sought to begin with.


Matt Ryan fell apart Sunday against Miami.

4) Dolphins come away with big second-half over Atlanta – With the Falcons set to visit Gillette Stadium next Saturday night, they’ll likely be fired up after dropping a disappointing game at home against the visiting Miami Dolphins.

Atlanta put together a 17-0 first half lead, but were shut out by Miami in the second half as the Dolphins put up 20 unanswered points and forced an interception by Matt Ryan with 0:47 to go with the Falcons sitting at the Dolphins’ 26-yard line.  The turnover sealed the win for Miami, who improved to 3-2 on the season and kept them even with the 3-2 Bills, who are on a bye this week.

It’s the second loss to an AFC East team in successive weeks for Atlanta and it’s also the second-consecutive loss at home for the Falcons, who will face another AFC East foe this week on the road when they come to Foxboro next Sunday in a rematch of February’s Super Bowl.

Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen said that two home losses is a disgrace and at 3-2, they need to “reset” with a critical game on tap next weekend.

“We’ve got to reset,” Allen said via ESPN. “It ain’t no other way. What you going to do, just lay down? There’s s— else you can do. You’ve got be a man. You’ve got to know what we work for when we wake up every morning. What we grind for. What this team stands for. We’ve got to reset.”


Rivers and the Chargers did just enough to beat the Raiders Sunday.

5) Chargers Upset Oakland – Despite a hapless Los Angeles team that seemed like their season was headed into the tank, the Chargers managed to get their second win of the year after beating the Raiders 17-16 with a last-second field goal.

The Raiders saw quarterback Derek Carr return from his back injury but he’s clearly still hampered, with Carr struggling his way through a 21-of-30 performance that included two interceptions.

For the Chargers, it’s their second straight victory as they appear to be gaining some momentum and confidence despite playing in a division where they’re going to have their work cut out for them in catching the 5-1 Chiefs and 3-2 Broncos.

“I thought the guys stepped up and made plays when we had to,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said via ESPN.  “That’s what we’ve been talking about. I’m so proud that they starting to see the fruit of their labor because these men work hard every single week.”

The Chargers will visit New England in two weeks on 10/29 and one stat to watch will be the fact that Los Angeles’ defense has struggled in the first quarter, having been outscored 50-7 in the opening quarter through six games.   The Patriots have had some success scoring points in the first quarter, which has been the Patriots’ second highest scoring quarter with 40.  The Patriots’ highest scoring quarter has been the second quarter, which has seen them put up 71 points through six games.

NFL Week 2 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats 6.5 point favorites at Saints

John Morgan
September 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm ET

On Tuesday the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published their NFL Regular Season Week 2 Advanced Betting Lines. Also known as Look-Ahead or Early Lines, these odds are released prior to any of the previous games – including Thursday night’s game between the Patriots and Chiefs. These Early Advanced Lines can and will differ substantially from odds posted by Vegas and offshore accounts by the time these games kick off next week. It will be interesting to see how the professional handicappers that set these lines react to the Pats loss to KC when the Week Two odds are initially set next week.

 

The Patriots at New Orleans looms to be the most analyzed game in the NFL heading into week two. It features two potent offenses led by a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. The Pats loss to the Chiefs will result in even more scrutiny, as New England strives to avoid an 0-2 start to the 2017 season. Last time these two met it was an incredible game. The Saints were up 27-23 with just over a minute to go, and the Patriots were out of timeouts. Brady led the Patriots on a 70-yard scoring drive, converting on 4th down and then connecting on a 17-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with only five seconds remaining.

 

 

The last time these two met in The Big Easy it was a different story. New Orleans dominated both sides of the ball on a Monday night game and crushed New England, 38-17. With that victory the Saints improved to 11-0; they would go on to defeat the Colts in Super Bowl 44 that post-season.

 

Another game well worth watching will be played on Sunday night, with Green Bay at Atlanta. This is a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game, featuring a marketing executive’s dream: Matt Ryan an Aaron Rodgers. The two clubs are among the favorites (along with Seattle) to represent the NFC in next February’s Super Bowl. Clear your calendar; this should be one of, if not the best game of the 2017 season.

Thursday Sept 14 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7)
Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers (-8)
Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Jacksonville Jaguars
New England Patriots (-6½) at New Orleans Saints

Sunday Sept 17 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Arizona Cardinals (-3½) at Indianapolis Colts
Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (-4)
Minnesota Vikings at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders (-15½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 4:25 pm ET on Fox
Dallas Cowboys (-1½) at Denver Broncos
Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams (PK)
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-11½)

Sunday Sept 17 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-3)

Monday Sept 18 at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-6)

 

Early Week 2 Best Bets:
Bucs (-6½) vs Bears
Skins (pk) at Rams
Texans (+3) at Bengals
Seahawks (-11½) vs Niners

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

 

Patriots’ Defense Made Adjustments, Got the Stops When It Mattered

Steve Balestrieri
February 7, 2017 at 9:01 am ET

“They Haven’t played anybody…”

Well, now they have.

The Patriots defense, perhaps the most-maligned #1 scoring defense in NFL history, had its issues in the first half but did what they accomplished so often in 2016. Between Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick, they made their adjustments, played good overall team defense and smart situational football and made the plays at crunch time to allow the offense to make their comeback. The result was the Patriots are gearing up for their Super Bowl parade on Tuesday morning.

Since the halfway point of the season, this is a unit that kept getting better, despite the usual suspects who looked to denigrate everything the team accomplished and marginalize every victory. While the list of opposing QBs was hardly a “Murderer’s Row”, the team focused on getting things right and playing better, regardless of who was lined up opposite of them. And they did.

Allowing the fewest points in the NFL isn’t a fluke after a 16-game schedule, regardless of what some would have you believe. Was the defense, the best in the NFL? No, and no one is making that argument. But they were better than what some would have you believe and no longer can it be said, “they haven’t faced a top QB.”

Points Not Yards are Bottom-line: One can argue all day long about yards allowed, the Patriots will never lead the league in that category. Because their defensive philosophy is such that they’ll allow the short plays underneath because they won’t allow opponents to get the big chunk plays down the field. And they did that in the playoffs again.

In three playoff games, the Patriots defense allowed a total of 54 points. With 16 against the Texans and then just 17 against the Steelers’ offense and 21 against the #1 offense in the league against Atlanta. That’s allowing just 18 points per game.  And the final two games were against some high-powered offenses with Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

In the second half of their three postseason games, the defense allowed just 18 points with seven of them coming on a garbage time touchdown by the Steelers. The Falcons scored just seven points in the second half and most importantly none in the fourth quarter.

First Half in Houston was hardly super, but their finish was: Atlanta’s first play from scrimmage was a huge 37-yard run by Devonta Freeman. The play was perfectly executed by the Falcons with outstanding blocking from the offensive line and especially Julio Jones that sprung Freeman on his jaunt to get Atlanta out of a deep hole.

Freeman and Tevin Coleman were very effective in the first half, rushing for 86 yards, which is just 2.6 yards less than the Patriots were allowing for an entire game. But after halftime, it was a different story. Atlanta rushed for just 18 yards after the break.

Freeman ended up with 75 yards rushing on 11 carries which comes out to a stellar 6.8-yards per rush. But after that big run (which coincidentally netted zero points), he carried 10 times for 38 yards. Atlanta had scored on their opening possession for the previous nine games prior to the Super Bowl. That streak ended on Sunday.

So, while Kyle Shanahan is under fire for not running the ball more, especially in the fourth quarter (see Victory-Marginalization Pt1), there was a reason why he didn’t. And a lot of that had to do with the Patriots defense.

In the passing game, Freeman and Coleman combined for just three catches. While two of them were big plays, a 39-yarder to Freeman where he broke a few ankles making people miss and the TD to Coleman where it was another perfectly executed play where Ninkovich was caught up in the wash inside. They weren’t the consistent targets in the passing game that we envisioned Atlanta planning on prior to the game.

Ryan’s Performance Was Outstanding: Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan was the NFL’s MVP this year and his performance on Sunday night showed why that was so deserved. He completed 17-23 for 284 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But a second look at some of his big throws, especially to Julio Jones shows that the Patriots couldn’t have defended many of those any better. Several of the throws were of the very low-percentage variety that Ryan just threw dimes on. And the plays by Jones on a few of those were just ridiculous.

Rather than find fault with the defense, those were some plays where one must tip their hat to the opposition.

Third Down Defense Outstanding: A key area that the Patriots like to stress with the defense under Belichick is getting off the field on third down. Atlanta only converted 1 of 8 third-down opportunities. They got a second one on a close call on Malcolm Butler who was flagged for pass interference.

But in the second half, the Falcons offense was 0-5 on third down. And that wasn’t against Brock Osweiler and the Texans. Atlanta was the #1 scoring offense in the NFL this season and Ryan was the MVP. Without a solid defensive effort in the 2nd half, there was no comeback in the cards.

“Where are the PlayMakers?” Right Here: Another knock that we constantly hear about the Patriots defense is the lack of playmakers. In reality, it is more about the lack of name recognition than actual playmakers.

When they needed big plays the defense got them. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower who is indispensable to the Pats defense came up with a huge strip sack on Ryan which flipped the game’s momentum to the Patriots.

Facing a 3rd and 1, Ryan and the Falcons were going for the homerun ball, Hightower blitzed off the edge and blew past a very half-hearted block attempt of Freeman and blasted Ryan just as he was about to release the ball. The Patriots took over at the Atlanta 25-yard line and soon scored to make it 28-20 and the Pats were right back in the game. Pay the man.

Trey Flowers continued his outstanding second half of the season with a super performance in the Super Bowl. Flowers led the team with 2.5 sacks of Matt Ryan as they piled up five sacks in just 23 pass attempts by the Falcons’ QB.

None were bigger than his fourth-quarter sack of Ryan which helped push Atlanta out of field goal range. Facing a 2nd and 11 at the Patriots 23, Flowers sacked Ryan for a loss of 12 yards back to the 35-yard line. The next play was a holding penalty on Atlanta that pushed the ball back to the 45-yard line.

There his third down pass was incomplete forcing a punt rather than a field goal attempt and Brady drove the ball 91 yards in 2:33 for his own “John Candy” moment to tie up the Super Bowl.

The Patriots defense held Atlanta’s high scoring offense to just 21 total points with seven in the second half with none in the fourth quarter. They held them to 1-8 on third downs including 0-5 in the second half. I think Ryan and the Falcons’ offense qualify as “having faced somebody.”  It was a tough game but they passed their test.

Now let’s go to a Super Bowl parade…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Brady Wills Patriots to Incredible Comeback Super Bowl Win

Steve Balestrieri
February 6, 2017 at 1:26 am ET

 Some quick observations on the Patriots thrilling come-from-behind Super Bowl win.

Sorry World, we all know you are sick of seeing the Patriots win but you’ve got to put up with another Super Bowl win. And this one was one for the ages.

After being down 21-0 and 28-3, Tom Brady led an epic comeback to push the Patriots to an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in what had to be one of the best Super Bowls in the 51-year history of the game. James White ran the ball in from the 2-yard line with just over 11 minutes left in OT, his third TD of the game to finish the most improbable of comebacks.

The Patriots seemed dead in the water late in the third quarter, the Falcons had everything going their way, the high-flying offense was clicking and their young, fast and athletic defense was all over the field and doing a tremendous job of disrupting the timing of the NE-wide receivers. Tom Brady was being hit, more and more often as the Patriots had to abandon the running game.

Brady Incredible 4th Qtr/OT: But Tom Brady has the heart of a lion and he never quit, never got frustrated and kept grinding. His fourth quarter was one for the ages. The drive to send the game to extra time was a Brady classic, a 91-yard drive in 10 plays in 2:33 followed by a two-point conversion, a pass from Brady to Danny Amendola to tie things up.

The Patriots won the toss in OT and promptly drove down the field 75 yards in 8 plays where White sent New England home with its fifth Lombardi Trophy.

Brady finished 43-62 for an NFL record 466 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. After his fourth-quarter heroics in the Super Bowl two years ago against Seattle, I thought his place in NFL history was cemented. But this one was even bigger, this was a comeback for all time greatness and even his harshest critics will be left scrambling for answers now. He stands alone with 5 SB wins, 4 SB MVPs and IS the greatest QB of all time.

With the game seemingly lost, Brady rallied the team and caught fire. He finished 26-33 for 283 yards as the Patriots scored on their last five possessions in regulation and overtime combined.

Matt Ryan continued the trend of the regular season MVP losing the Super Bowl despite playing very well. Ryan finished 17 of 23 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. But the Falcons only scored seven points in the second half, something that will haunt Ryan over the summer.

James White had a phenomenal game and caught an NFL record 14 passes for 110 yards and a score. He added six carries for 29 yards and two more scores.

Uncharacteristic Mistakes Hurt Early: The Patriots were victimized by a LeGarrette Blount fumble, something he rarely does and a terrible decision by Brady where he was picked off for his first pick-six in his playoff career.

Blount hadn’t fumbled since Week 2 but great credit has to go to Deion Jones the Falcons linebacker who stripped the ball.  The Falcons quickly turned that turnover into seven points.

Brady made a poor decision under pressure and attempted to go to Danny Amendola while Julian Edelman was wide open across the middle. The ball was expertly picked off by Robert Alford who returned it 81 yards for a touchdown that made the score 21-0.

Run Defense Settled Down After Being Gashed Early: On the Falcons first run of the night, Devonta Freeman burst 37 yards for a tremendous run to get them out of a deep hole in their own zone. But after that, he carried 10 more times for 38 yards. He finished with an impressive 5.8-yard average but after that big first carry, the defensive line did a better job of buckling down.

Tevin Coleman had seven rushes for 29 yards. But the two backs only caught 3 passes out of the backfield, although one from Freeman went for 39 yards.

The Patriots defense wasn’t great… but they regrouped and made some really big stops in the second half, allowing Brady and the offense the time they needed to engineer the comeback. Atlanta was just 1-8 on third down.

When the team really needed a turnover, Dont’a Hightower delivered, a strip sack of Ryan that set-up Brady in the offense in great field position to score in the fourth quarter. When the smoke clears, the defense allowed Ryan and the high-flying Atlanta offense only 21 points.

So, the Patriots broke the NFL record for the largest deficit ever, no one had ever come back from a deficit larger than 10 points and the 25-point differential was easily the biggest ever in Super Bowl history. Brady set a plethora of individual records but the bottom line is, this was a fantastic team win. Bill Belichick as always, deflected all of the praise to his assistant coaches and the players but this one is a feather in his cap.

Cue up the Duck Boats Boston, the Champs are coming home! And they now have a ring for the thumb.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Falcons Super Bowl LI Key Matchups, Prediction

Steve Balestrieri
February 3, 2017 at 8:44 am ET

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons from Houston, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The Patriots reach the mothership for the ninth time in their history, which is the most in NFL history, breaking a tie with the Steelers, Cowboys, and Broncos. The duo of Brady and Belichick reach the big game for the seventh time in 16 seasons with Brady under center.

This week’s game will be broadcast by FOX and can be seen locally on WFXT Channel 25 in Boston. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Chris Myers will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (16-2) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship 36-17. Tom Brady was brilliant completing 32 of 42 for 384 yards and three touchdown passes. Chris Hogan had nine catches on 12 targets for 180 yards and two scores.

The Falcons (13-5) defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship. Matt Ryan continued his dominant season, tossing for 392 yards and four touchdowns. Julio Jones had the same stat line as Hogan with nine catches on 12 targets for 180 yards and two scores.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Falcons are meeting for just the 14 time in their history with New England holding a 7-6 all-time edge. But Tom Brady is undefeated in four games against Atlanta, including a 30-23 win in the Georgia Dome back in 2013. Which was the last time the two teams met.

Needless to say, there has never been a matchup of this magnitude between the two teams.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense: