Patriots

Pats offense provides little support in loss

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Pats offense provides little support in loss

FOXBORO -- While looking for answers as to what went wrong in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots will find three quarters in which their offense wasn't just non-existent, but detrimental as well.

New England trailed New York 10-3 after three quarters on Sunday. Tom Brady was 19-of-33 for 228 yards. Problem was, Brady had thrown two interceptions and lost a fumble during that span of horrendous offensive play.

Brady's first interception -- in the second quarter -- didn't result in any points for the Giants. Both teams went into the half scoreless.

But Brady's second interception led to the first points of the game -- a 22-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, five minutes into the second half. Brady was trying to force a throw through traffic and into the hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Deon Grant stepped in and picked it off, resulting in a 58-yard drive for New York.

On New England's very next drive, Giants linebacker Michael Boley rushed in from the back side and knocked the ball out of Brady's hand as he was coming back for a throw. The loose ball came down on Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams and was ruled a fumble recovery, giving New York the ball at New England's 10-yard line.

Running back Brandon Jacobs made them pay, taking the first play up the middle for a 10-yard rushing touchdown, and giving the Giants a 10-0 lead with 9:10 left to play in the third quarter.

At that point, the problem wasn't the Patriots' highly criticized defense. It was always dependable offense that was losing the game.

"Were not playing the way were capable of playing," said Brady. "So try to figure out the reasons why. We keep practicing. We keep battling out there. Ill say that theres a lot of fight in the guys."

That "fight" gave New England's defense a chance to win the game, after Brady led the Patriots down the field to score two field goals and two touchdowns on four straight drives.

Brady threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first was a 5-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez, 32 seconds into the fourth quarter, that tied the game at 10-10. The second came with 1:36 left in the game, and came on a 4th-and-9 pass from 14 yards out, as Brady connected with Gronkowski, giving New England a late 20-17 lead.

"It was all or nothing," said Gronkowski about his touchdown after the game. "We needed that play, and Tom just happened to look at me and read me. It's just a play that you go over in practice, just to get it down, timing and everything. He made a nice throw, and I just had to make a play on it. And it worked out well."

Staying true to the inconsistencies that plagued the Patriots' defense throughout Sunday's loss, Gronkowski had failed to catch passes from Brady on both second and third down. Brady's second-down pass went right through Gronkowski's hands in the end zone, while the third-down pass was a tougher play for Gronkowski to make at the front-left pylon because he had a hand in his face, but it still hit him in the hands and was dropped.

"I had two drops right before," said Gronkowski. "He put them right where only I could get them. I've got to be making those plays. I've got to get those. Luckily enough, he trusted me, and he came to me the third time. But we've got to be doing that all game. We've got to be catching them all, when they're all thrown to you. Just executing throughout the whole game."

That, the Patriots offense didn't do on Sunday. For what it's worth, Gronkowski finished with eight catches for 101 yards and Wes Welker finished with 9 catches for 136 yards. Brady had 342 passing yards and a pair of huge touchdown passes that, if New England's defense didn't allow Eli Manning to drive 80 yards and score a game-winning touchdown in a span of 1:21, would have been the difference.

But instead of harping on the Patriots' defense for not coming through in the clutch, the finger could -- and should -- be pointed at a Patriots' offense, for failing to put points on the board when they had several chances too.

Two crucial third-down situations in Giants territory will certainly be looked at during Monday's film sessions. Those failed attempts to put the ball in the end zone came at the end of the second quarter and midway through the fourth quarter.

The first resulted in a missed 27-yard field-goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski in the final seconds of the first half. The Patriots had to settle for that field-goal attempt because Brady over-threw a wide open Aaron Hernandez in the left side of the end zone on 3rd-and-7 at the Giants' 8-yard line.

The second resulted in a 45-yard field goal that Gostkowski made, which gave the Pats their first lead of the game at 13-10, with 7:08 left in the game. But had Brady connected with Chad Ochocinco deep down the right sideline on 3rd-and-7 from the Giants' 26-yard line, perhaps the end result would have been different.

"Yeah, we have to get the ball in the end zone when we get down close," said Brady. "We settled for field goals and that sort of thing. Its tough to come out with no points in the first half. We obviously played a very poor first half, but we battled back. We battled through some tough adversity there and put ourselves in a position."

Putting the team in position wasn't enough. And after the loss, everyone agreed. Offensive execution needs to be better for more than just the final quarter.

"What we were doing in the second half, driving and stuff, we've got to be executing all game," said Gronkowski. "In the first half, we've got to be doing that too, as an offense. Just executing, putting up points the whole game."

"Obviously if we could have fixed it, we could have made it happen sooner," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "That's what we were trying to do. We did the best we could. It wasn't quite enough."

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.