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Final, 30-23 Patriots: It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the Pats walk out of Atlanta with a huge road win.
Fourth quarter, 41 seconds, 30-23 Patriots: A 49-yard bomb to Jones set up the Falcons in the red zone, but the defense locked down after that. Talib broke up a pass to Roddy White on fourth-and-goal, and the Pats will sneak away with a victory.
Fourth quarter, 1:50, 30-23 Patriots: Brady fumbled the snap on fourth-and-inches, and the Falcons now need to pick up 63 yards in 1:50. They have two timeouts left, so it’s not unrealistic.
Fourth quarter, 1:54, 30-23 Patriots: Blount was stopped on third down short of the sticks … or was he?
The play is under review (the replay system wasn’t working earlier but apparently has been fixed?).
Fourth quarter, 2:00, 30-23 Patriots: After a QB sneak by Brady on second-and-2, the Patriots will have a third-and-inches on the other side of the two-minute warning. Get the inch, win the game.
Fourth quarter, 2:55, 30-23 Patriots: The Falcons prove their young guys can drop passes too, with Levine Toilolo dropping a sure touchdown on third down. The Falcons take the field goal and now trail by seven. They have all three timeouts remaining but elected for the onside.
Michael Hoomanawanui recovered the kick this time, and the Pats get the ball at midfield.
Fourth quarter, 3:05, 30-20 Patriots: With a third-and-1 coming up from the Patriots’ 7-yard line, Bill Belichick calls timeout.
The Falcons still have a lot of work to do if they want to tie this one up, but they’re surely making a game of it.
Fourth quarter, 4:21, 30-20 Patriots: The Falcons give themselves a chance with — who else? — Tony Gonzalez hauling in a touchdown pass. And now the Falcons have recovered an onside kick which Zach Sudfeld couldn’t handle.
Things have gotten interesting.
Fourth quarter, 6:18, 30-13 Patriots: Josh Boyce gets a reception that counts this time, as he did a nice job of picking the ball up off the turf and running for a first down and a gain of 24 yards. The drive didn’t get much more, but Stephen Gostkowski booted a 49-yarder to tack on another three points.
Brady is now over 300 yards for the first time all year, and the Pats are minutes away from a 4-0 record.
Fourth quarter, 9:35, 27-13 Patriots: Aqib Talib has been playing great defense on Julio Jones all night, and he just made his best play of the night. He stayed inside of Jones on a streak up the right sideline, and the played Matt Ryan’s pass brilliantly.
The Patriots take over just shy of midfield, looking to take some time off the clock.
That’s four interceptions for Talib, after he had just two last season.
Fourth quarter, 9:43, 27-13: One way to make everyone forget about your drop on a second-and-8? Make an incredible touchdown catch while falling out of the front corner of the end zone.
That’s what Kenbrell Thompkins did, and like I said in the last update, it will likely be enough to ice this one away.
The play of the drive came on the third-and-8 that followed the Thompkins drop, as Edelman was left all alone on the left side and took off for a gain of 44 yards. Edelman now has 118 yards, and Thompkins has 118 as well.
Fourth quarter, 11:52, 20-13 Patriots: Thanks to a third-down sack by Michael Buchanan, the Falcons settle for a field goal, and a touchdown drive by the Patriots here would just about put the game out of reach for the Falcons. They will likely be bringing their best defensive effort of the night, and the decibel level should reach its high as well, so it won’t be easy for Brady.
Fourth quarter, 14:26, 20-10 Patriots: And you thought LeGarrette Blount was slow?
The big-bodied running back just showed he’s got plenty of giddy-up, bursting through the line of scrimmage and outrunning four defensive backs all the way to the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown run. It’s the Patriots’ first rushing touchdown of the season.
That run was set up by a third-and-19 pass from Brady to Thompkins over the middle. A bad call for a hit to the head gave the Pats an extra 15 yards, and Blount did the rest. That was some real speed.
End of third quarter, 13-10 Patriots: Josh Boyce’s first career reception is wiped off the board due to a defensive holding call the Pats needed for a first down, and when the fourth quarter begins, the Patriots will face a third-and-14 from their own 17 after a screen to Brandon Bolden lost four yards.
I think the Patriots have relied a little too much on the short passes behind the line of scrimmage tonight. Really, only one to Ridley was successful, and Brady’s been a lot better when he’s gone deep.
Third quarter, 1:53, 13-10 Patriots: No Wilfork, no problem … so far.
Joe Vellano slipped through the defense to sack Matt Ryan on a first down for a loss of 13, and the Falcons eventually have to punt.
Brady and Co. will start this drive on their own 11, which is a step up from their last drive, which started on their own 7-yard line.
Aaron Dobson was heading to the locker room, so his night appears to be over.
Third quarter, 5:24, 13-10 Patriots: A nice looking drive by the Patriots stalls in the red zone (sound familiar?), and Gostkowski tacks on three points with a chip shot.
On third-and-goal, Aaron Dobson absorbed a bit hit to his head by Thomas DeCoud, and he was in clear pain on the ground. It may “just” be a neck stinger, but either way, the Patriots are hardly deep enough at receiver to lose anybody.
The drive went 89 yards, with Julian Edelman picking up 54 of the yards.
Third quarter, 11:40, 10-10: Well the Patriots’ defense was at least up to the task, thanks in part to Aqib Talib breaking up a slant to Julio Jones on second down, and then Jones dropping a pass over the middle on third down.
The Pats will take over inside their own 10-yard line, though, which should make things difficult for them if they can’t pick up some positive yards on the ground on first down.
Third quarter, 12:58, 10-10: That drive was just plain ugly. A holding call on first down, an illegal shift on second down (the penalty was declined) and two failed screens lead to Ryan Allen punting out of the New England end zone on a fourth-and-20. That’s not at all how they drew it up in the locker room.
Brandon Bolden did return to the game, catching one of those screen passes for a loss of five yards.
Third quarter, 15:00, 10-10: Vince Wilfork will not return due to his ankle injury, Brandon Bolden may return with a knee injury, and the Patriots and Falcons are under way in the second half.
Halftime, 10-10: Brady takes a knee and this one heads to halftime all tied up.
Second quarter, 38 seconds, 10-10: Tony Gonzalez entered this game with 11 receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown in the first three games of the season. Tonight, he has seven receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown, and it’s not even halftime yet.
The Patriots just don’t have an answer for Gonzalez right now, and that was clear when the tight end hauled in a pass near the right sideline, sent Steve Gregory flying out of bounds and ran into the end zone to tie the game at 10.
Second quarter, 2:23, 10-3 Patriots: Kenbrell Thompkins can catch tonight, and he showed it on that drive. First, he caught a 7-yard comeback on the opening play of the drive, and two plays later on a fake double reverse, Brady’s deep pass was underthrown, but Thompkins went up and got it over safety William Moore.
Thompkins may have gotten some help from Moore’s shoulder pads (Thompkins’ arms looked like they were too far apart at the point when the ball hit his chest), but that’s no matter. The drive didn’t go very far after that, and Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal was juuusst good enough to give the Pats a seven-point lead.
Second quarter, 6:19, 7-3 Patriots: The Pats’ defense comes up with another red-zone stop, keeping the Falcons out of the end zone and getting a bit fortunate on fourth down with an awful pass by Matt Ryan.
The Falcons drove pretty well until they hit the red zone, and with a fourth-and-2 from the New England 7, Mike Smith decided to go for it. Ryan rolled left and overthrew an open Roddy White by about 8 yards, and the Falcons turned it over on downs.
Second quarter, 12:43, 7-3 Patriots: Matthew Mulligan is someone that most folks tuning in tonight did not know, but now they do.
The tight end out of Maine — Maine! — found some space in the end zone after a play-action fake by Brady on third-and-goal from inches out of the end zone, and Brady zipped a pass between two defenders and into Mulligan’s gut.
That drive was an impressive show of force by the Pats ground game, with Ridley, Blount and Bolden picking up 51 yards.
Second quarter, 13:35 3-0 Falcons: As expected, the play has been overturned. Here comes a second-and-goal from inches out.
Second quarter, 13:35 6-3 Patriots: Brandon Bolden capped off the drive by running right through Desmond Trufant, but replay showed his knee touch down with the ball inside the 1-yard line. Expect a second-and-goal from a few inches out after the review.
End of first quarter, 3-0 Falcons: The Pats’ drive has looked like this so far: screen pass, run, run, run, run, run, run.
Stevan Ridley picked up 24 yards on the screen and another 26 yards on his three runs, with LeGarrette Blount picking up seven yards on two carries and Brandon Bolden gaining eight yards on his one carry.
It’s not flashy, but it’s working. Second-and-6 from the Atlanta 8-yard line awaits the Pats when the second quarter begins.
First quarter, 3:48, 3-0 Falcons: Chandler Jones is causing headaches for left tackle Sam Baker. Jones’ rush forced Baker to tackle him to the turf on the first play of the drive, negating an 18-yard run by Jaquizz Rogers. Two plays later, Baker got his hand up in Jones’ facemask, and the Falcons were unable to convert their eventual third-and-20.
On the punt, Edelman got absolutely crushed by Drew Davis after waving for a fair catch, but there was no penalty. That was a bad judgment call by the officials.
First quarter, 6:15, 3-0 Falcons: A lot happened in the past few minutes, so I’ll buzz through them in bullet form:
Vince Wilfork suffered an ankle injury and his return is questionable. I doubt we’ll see him again.
Aaron Dobson dropped a pass that hit him in the gut after he ran an out route without the sharpest cut.
Kenbrell Thompkins dropped a third-down pass that hit his hands. It led to a punt.
The Patriots had converted a third-and-1, but it was negated because Brandon Bolden had not reset himself in the backfield before the snap. The Thompkins drop came on the ensuing third-and-6.
First quarter, 9:23, 3-0 Falcons: The Falcons looked great driving down the field, with Tony Gonzalez proving impossible to cover with a big third down catch over Jerod Mayo. But once they got in the red zone, things got difficult. A quick screen to Julio Jones gained just a yard, and with tight coverage on the next two plays, Matt Ryan sent two passes far out the back of the end zone. They had to settle for three, which was a win for the New England defense, especially considering big Vince Wilfork was on the sidelines at the end of the drive.
As for Wilfork’s injury, it might be bad. He had no shoe or sock on his right leg, and he was on the back of a cart heading to the locker room. That is obviously a major story, and we’ll have any updates right here.
First quarter, 9:56, 0-0: The Falcons are driving in the red zone, but the Pats may have a bigger issue. Vince Wilfork was shaken up on the last play, calling for a visit from the training staff. Vince was standing, so it didn’t look like anything catastrophic, but that’s a noteworthy loss — even if just for one play down in the red zone.
First quarter, 15:00: Stephen Gostkowski’s kick went deep into the back of the end zone, and this one’s under way. First-and-10 from the 20 for Matt Ryan and Co. Let’s see how this one plays out.
8:27 p.m.: The Falcons won the toss and elected to receive. Kickoff just a few ticks away now.
8:12 p.m.: WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid reports that some big names are in the Georgia Dome tonight — Wayne Gretzky and Jim Carrey among them. Floyd Mayweather is also at the game.
8:07 p.m.: It’s the farthest thing from Tom Brady’s mind right now, as he’s minutes away from kicking off, but his record of 50 touchdowns in a season looks like it may not hold for long. Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns today, bringing his season total to 16. That puts him on pace for an absurd 64 touchdowns. Back in ’07, Brady had just 13 touchdowns through four games, but he did throw 17 touchdowns in the four games that followed.
One advantage that Manning will have should be in weather conditions. While Brady had six outdoor games in cold cities from mid-November through the end of the season, Manning will have just four. It’s much too soon to start worrying about how weather will impact Manning’s chase to get his record back, but he’s on a certain kind of roll right now that brings the whole thing into focus.
7:01 p.m.: There’s good news in the inactives list, as Kyle Arrington was not on the list and therefore was deemed healthy enough to play. His presence will be needed tonight in what may be an all-hands-on-deck situation.
Also notably absent from the list is Sebastian Vollmer, meaning his foot injury won’t keep him out of this one.
The Pats’ inactives are:
On the other side, the Falcons will be without Asante Samuel, a big loss for the secondary.
As expected, both Julio Jones and Roddy White will be in there tonight.
6:07 p.m.: The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports from inside the Georgia Dome that cornerback Kyle Arrington is working out with trainers. He spent much of the second half on the sideline last week, later showing up on the injury report with a groin injury. If he can’t go tonight, it will force rookie Logan Ryan to play a bit more than is on the game plan. Though hobbled, Roddy White is still Roddy White, and the same goes for Julio Jones. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard will be able to handle the bulk of the work, but an Arrington absence would no doubt stretch the Patriots a little thinner than they’d like to be.
5 p.m.: This should be a good one.
For nearly seven full days, you’ve heard about how the first real test of the season awaits the Patriots on Sunday night in Atlanta, and now we’re finally ready to see what it looks like.
Without Rob Gronkowski and without Danny Amendola, the Patriots will take on the Falcons in their home dome, as Atlanta tries to avoid falling to 1-3 on the season.
It’s no doubt a tough spot for the Patriots, and how well they fare could change the overall outlook on the season. If they win, particularly without Tom Brady’s two best receiving targets, it will become a lot easier to believe in the team’s chances of really competing in the AFC this year. If they get blown out, the doubters will be loud.
Realistically, we’re probably looking at a close game, with neither team at full strength right now.
From pregame through the final whistle, we’ll have all the updates right here in the live blog. So stay with it throughout the night as the Patriots try to move to 4-0.