By Danny Cox
If the New England Patriots could get their offense and defense on the same page and working together as a solid unit, they would easily be the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Throughout this season, they have had one or the other working, but very rarely have the offense and defense both been moving along at full speed.
On Sunday night, they looked through the fog and were operating on all cylinders for a 23-7 rout of the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.
Tom Brady went through the motions, but he did it with a lot of energy and accuracy to lead the Patriots to a big victory. As the night came to an end, he finished with 249 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing. Chris Hogan was New England’s top receiver with 71 yards on four receptions while Brandin Cooks also had four receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Dion Lewis had a decent game with 76 yards on the ground, but he wasn’t the only one getting things going in the rushing attack. Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee each added 31 yards to balance out the offense and keep the Falcons guessing throughout the night.
After scoring 17 points in the second quarter, the Patriots offense seemed to stall a little bit, but they were able to control the ball and the clock.
Maybe it was the fog or maybe it was an off night, but the Falcons just didn’t play well or with a lot of fire. New England’s defense pressured Matt Ryan and kept after him, but the one weapon they couldn’t stop was Julio Jones, who had 99 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions.
Devonta Freeman did have 72 yards on just 12 carries, but the Falcons had to abandon the running game after going down by 17 and then 20 points.
The Patriots didn’t cause any turnovers and they had only one sack, but they were able to keep the Falcons out of the end zone and away from scoring opportunities for the majority of the game. Kyle Van Noy came up with a huge stop early in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal at the New England 1, stuffing Taylor Gabriel for a five-yard loss on his only carry of the night.
Special Teams: B
Danny Amendola only had one punt return attempt and Dion Lewis had one kickoff return, but there was not much to be said for either.
Ryan Allen had a good night punting, even with just two attempts. Stephen Gostkowski is the star of the evening as he hit both extra point attempts and all three field goal attempts with a long of 38 yards. That is a huge difference over the performance of Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who missed both of his field goal tries.
Cassius Marsh came up with a big play at the end of the first quarter, blocking Bryant’s 37-yard field goal attempt to keep the Falcons off the board.
Whatever was said in practice or in the locker room this week needs to be repeated by head coach Bill Belichick next week. Something clicked in the minds of both the offense and defense to get them operating at the top of their game and on a level where they worked as a unit. Honestly, this game could have been much worse for the Falcons, but the fog likely played a factor in the Pats finishing a few things out.
This was a huge victory for the Patriots, who handed a preseason Super Bowl contender their third straight loss. Now they need to keep this momentum going as they will face off with the surging Los Angeles Chargers in their next game—the Chargers who have won three straight and shut out the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Still, if New England continues to play like they did on Sunday night, no team in the NFL can stop them.