Patriots

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

Bademosi rises to the occasion in Patriots' defensive backfield

FOXBORO -- “It’s not a coincidence,” said an AFC scout. “Bill found someone who will do what he’s asking, will play it the way he’s asking and -- as an aside -- let Malcolm [Butler] play like Malcolm.”

The scout reached out to me. He watched what we watched Sunday night (or tried to watch through that damn fog). The Patriots defense against the Falcons was unrecognizable from the first six weeks of the season . . . which is to say it was good. No receivers running free with the closest defender in a different area code. No defensive backs gesturing “what the hell?” to other members of the secondary after yet another chunk play. After surrendering 26 of those chunk plays (20 yards or more) through the first half-dozen games, the Pats coughed up just two against a Falcons offense that was historically good just a year ago and returned basically the same personnel.

And Johnson Bademosi has been a central figure it the Pats revitialization.

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“Hey man, he’s been doing amazing, man,” Duron Harmon said Sunday night. “For him to fill in the role he’s been filling in -- covering Julio [Jones], covering everybody -- like he’s been playing phenomenal. I’m really excited for him. This guy just got here and is playing really good football for us.”

We detailed last week where Bademosi came from and the daunting assignment he had in front of him this weekend. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Julio Jones is the perfect weapon. As Bademosi told me after the game, Jones has it all: Speed, strength, run after catch, smarts. So how could an undrafted player who done his best work as a special teamer match up with that?

Well, for starters, the Pats were wise not to isolate Bademosi on Jones without help. There was always a safety tilted in that direction. The staff also didn’t make it a 1-on-1 affair from start to finish. Bademosi and Butler played sides mostly, meaning sometimes the former Stanford product got Jones but other times, it was Mohammad Sanu or Taylor Gabriel. Not exactly a walk in the park, but a little less stressful.

“I mean he’s one of the biggest threats on offense, and in order to stop the offense, you have to limit him,” said Bademosi of Jones, before adding, “They’re a familiar opponent. We studied what they do, prepared like it was the most important game of our lives and so that’s how it happened.”

Point is though, it was never suppose to happen with Bademosi as a central figure. This was suppose be a Stephon Gilmore game. The Pats paid him boatload of guaranteed cash for nights like this, to match up against the physical freaks like Julio Jones, or Mike Evans a couple weeks prior. But with Gilmore out the last two weeks, Bademosi is playing corner full-time and excelling.

“He’s their unsung hero right now,” said the AFC scout. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s going to be very interesting when Stephon comes back.”

At worst, Bill Belichick and the defensive staff have found an added layer of competent depth for their secondary, a physical corner unfazed by his new role. At best, they’ve found a player who will fight to keep the spot that belonged to Gilmore, forcing the former Buffalo Bill to raise his level to get on the field and stay there.

Bademosi knows better than to focus on that. All he’s doing now is what he can do.

“We’re all just taking advantage of our opportunities,” said Bademosi. Are you enjoying those opportunities? “A lot.”

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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.

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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.