Patriots

Brees channels Belichick on replacement officials: It is what it is

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Brees channels Belichick on replacement officials: It is what it is

FOXBORO -- Last summer, it was the players who were locked out by the NFL. This year, it's the officials.

NFL game officials are looking for a raise, and in their absence have arrived replacements. Substitute referees have been at Gillette Stadium this week to not only monitor play between the Patriots and Saints, but also to hone their knowledge of the NFL rule book.

They haven't made much noise in the last two days, but the men in stripes did make a few calls on Wednesday. Two defensive holding calls were made; a personal foul call would have been made -- the closest official waived his yellow flag in the play's general direction -- when Jimmy Graham got up and spiked a ball near Dont'a Hightower's feet after a catch; later in the practice, a play that appeared as though it could have been called pass interference on the Saints was not called; also, Tyler Urban juggled a Ryan Mallett pass as he stepped out of bounds in the end zone, but the closest official raised his arms and ruled it a score.

There were no real egregious errors made by the officials, it appeared. But former vice president and senior director of NFL officiating Mike Pereira feels as though it's only a matter of time before the league discovers the difficult situation in which the substitutes have been placed.

"I feel bad for the replacement people," Pereira told WSCR-AM in Chicago on Tuesday. "They're so overwhelmed."

Drew Brees wouldn't say whether or not he's concerned about the subs -- who have been plucked from college and high school leagues -- affecting the outcomes of games negatively.

"It is what it is," Brees said after an extended pause. "I understand that those control what goes on with the officials or those negotiations so whoever is out there officiating is officiating, and we'll just focus on doing our job."

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt had a similar sentiment, even though -- as Pereira pointed out in his interview -- there were several missed calls in the preseason opener between the Saints and the Cardinals on Sunday.

"We're gonna play the hand we're dealt" he said. "We're out here to get better. We're not gonna complain about the officials, we're not gonna talk to the officials. Do your job. If there's a bad call we'll see it and give you a mulligan somewhere down the line. Just get better at what you're doing."

It would be reasonable to assume that the replacement officials may miss some calls that the regulars would not. But will players try to take advantage of the inexperienced eyes upon them? Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly said no. He and his teammates on the line won't be trying to get away with anything any more than they normally would.

"What we try to do is try to be in the best position and do the technique right to not get called for anything," he said. "We're not out there trying to commit fouls and avoid getting caught. We're trying to do it right, and if you do it right, you're not going to get called for anything."

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

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EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon.