Tale Of The Tape: New England Patriots At Atlanta Falcons
- QuarterbackThe numbers are not very Tom Brady-like this season, but the Patriots have a 3-0 record. Brady has completed 73-of-127 passes for 698 yards with 5 TDs and 2 interceptions, and his passer rating is 79.4. Those are mediocre numbers and they are indicative of the lack of talent that Brady has to work with this season. Still, when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, you want Brady throwing the ball.Matt Ryan is one of the best regular-season quarterbacks in the league. That’s meant as a compliment, but when you don’t win in the postseason, it impacts your reputation. While he has the accuracy and quick release to dominate, Ryan could be more assertive in the fourth quarter.
- OffenseThe Patriots are not the offensive juggernaut they have been for so many seasons. The receiving crew is deficient and the running game is just decent. LaGarrette Blount had a chance to carry the ball in the win over the Bucs and he gained 65 yards. If tight end Rob Gronkowski is back for this game, that will be a big upgrade. Wideout Kenbrell Thompkins had two TD receptions vs. Tampa Bay.The Falcons are loaded with top-rated receiving talent in Roddy White and Julio Jones. White is a workhorse who will find a way to get open and make big plays, while Jones is one of the best big-play threats in the league. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers has the quickness to get through the gaps and attack the secondary. He had 86 yards vs. the Dolphins in Week Three.
- DefenseThe Pats could have a tough time containing the Falcons because of their skill-position talent. In addition to White and Jones, Tony Gonzalez is a top red zone weapon. Aqib Talib is a sensational cover man, while huge Vince Wilfork keys the Pats’ defensive effort against the interior run. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes had seven tackles and is quite solid.The Falcons are getting a lift from Osi Umenyiora at the defensive end slot. The former New York Giants star forced two fumbles vs. Miami in Week Three. The safety combination of William Moore and Thomas DeCoud gives the Falcons a big edge over most teams. They are both hard hitting and alert.
- Special TeamsThe Pats have excelled in their special teams coverage so far this season. That has not always been a strength. Stephen Gostkowski remains one of the most dependable placekickers in the league. Ryan Allen has been a decent punter, but he may not be any better than former Patriot Zoltan Mesko.Special teams have been quite solid for the Falcons as they have very solid coverage teams. Matt Bryant made 3-of-4 field goals against the Dolphins, and he has been quite consistent throughout the Falcons strong run. Matt Bosher averaged just 33.0 yards on his punts and he needs to do better.
The Falcons have gotten off to a slow start and they can’t afford to have a 1-3 record after the first quarter of the season. Look for their best effort against a New England team that is not as good as it’s 3-0 record. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor