Gresh's Grades: Earning honors in Atlanta
Earning honors in Atlanta
An impressive victory for the Pats on so many levels. The offense, without the benefit of great field position, scored 30 on the road in a hostile environment. Defensively this team continues to get better and is developing an identity as Red Zone stoppers, holding Atlanta to 1-of-6 (16 percent) scoring in the red area. And the young kids on both sides of the ball are contributing as this team deals with critical injuries. At 4-0 is a great place to be, and I hope fans appreciate it.
This grade isn’t an 'A' for two reasons: 1) Drops by the wide receivers, and 2) untimely penalties/fumble. I just wanted to explain before heaping them with praise. This was the best balance they’ve had all season, with 31 pass attempts and 31 carries. They totaled 448 yards and converted third downs at over 50 percent. They established the run game early, even mixing in a screen to Ridley and some WHAM action run with Hoo-man as the WHAM blocker. The young receivers took another step forward, as small as it may be, in making Tom Brady more efficient. And a nod to the QB who I was tough on last week. Great performance this week, minus the fumble on fourth-and-2. Thirty points in that dome is something I’ll sign up for every time.
No sacks attributed to him. No interceptions. Magnificent reaction and recognition. He was also a maestro in reading the Atlanta defense, getting people lined up, and getting the offense into the right play. And you can tell he’s starting to trust his kids on the outside to make plays. The fumble I put on the coaches. The fourth-and-1 was setting up to be a stretch play to the left so the handoff point is further from the line of scrimmage. Because of that, TB12 didn't get all the way under center to get the snap since, athletically, he isn’t gifted enough to hand the ball off where it needs to be handed off to run that play. So he cheated a little and it caused a fumble, here and also on that fourth-and-1 play in Buffalo. He can’t get back that quickly, so stop asking him to run it.
RUNNING BACKS: A
Blount, Ridley, Develin and Bolden (before he got hurt) did a nice job of both running hard and protecting TB12 in the passing game. Develin has a couple clearout blocks that really stood out and he had a timely catch for 15 yards on a great night for him. Ridley protected the ball well and thrived in the passing game. As he’s worked on ball security, his running style hasn’t changed . . . . which isn’t easy to do. And Blount hit a home run because they kept pounding it and it paid off.
WIDE RECIEVERS: B+
Julian Edelman had a Welker-type game by getting open while running what seemed like different routes every time. His pivot route for 44 yards was huge in flipping the field. Kenbrell Thompkins put up big numbers but could’ve had more if he had held onto the ball and added some sharpness to his routes. Dobson got injured but wasn’t much of a factor. Josh Boyce is close; he isn’t consistent yet, but you can see his quickness and I promise before the year is over they will build a play-action pass for him and he’ll get a big one.
TIGHT ENDS: A
If I'd told you before the game that a) the coaches would add some WHAM motion run and they would be successful, b) a tight end would catch a TD pass in the red area, and c) the TEs wouldn't give up a sack, what would you have said?? Exactly. That’s why they get an 'A' as they wait for the big boy to return.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A-
Tough grade, I know, because they didn’t give up a sack and also ran the ball by leaning on this Atlanta front seven and eventually getting rewarded. But I really didn’t like the holding penalty on Mankins at the start of the third quarter, negating a nice run by Ridley, and they also had some procedural penalties. Center Ryan Wendell also has his part with the fourth-down fumble, even with what I wrote earlier about the play in my Brady evaluation.
If they had held the Falcons to 13 even after the botched onside kick, this would’ve been an 'A+'. After losing Vince Wilfork on the tenth play of the game, they played great red-zone and goal-line defense, sacked Matt Ryan twice, and held the Falcons to 58 yards rushing. They also kept Julio Jones and Roddy White out of the end zone, which is no small task. And they got an interception to boot. Got any more doubts, Mr. Tanguay??
DEFENSIVE LINE: A+
Two sacks by undrafted rookie free agents and an outstanding job by Joe Vellano filling in for Vince Wilfork, make for a stellar grade. The pass rush from Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan was relentless, and Tommy Kelly at times just caved in the pocket around Matt Ryan. I didn’t see them lose many one-on-one battles. which is encouraging because. with Wilfork done for the season, they will need consistent efforts like this.
The biggest negative here is that Tony Gonzalez caught 12 balls for 2 TDs, mainly against this group. Still, I would’ve done what the Pats did and let him get his yards while making life difficult for the WRs. But there was poor execution at times while dealing with the future HOF, mainly allowing too much separation even when there wasn’t a push off. I did think their open-field tackling was the best of the season. Even Jaime Collins got some time and had a learning experience.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
This group lost a jump ball or two, but whether it was Talib, Dennard or Arrington, they all did an outstanding job for handling the two big Atlanta WRs. Steve Gregory, who I’ve praised here for taking better angles, lost his feet allowing the first Gonzalez TD to happen. But their coverage in the red area and ability to play the ball was top-notch against some damn good receivers.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
The punting team did a nice job, including Ryan Allen hitting some booming kicks. Stephen Gostkowski was perfect on kicks for points and pounded the ball through the end zone on every kickoff. The issue here is the onsides hands team and Zach Sudfeld. You can’t turn that ball over. A must-make play wasn’t made and now this grade has to pay.
IT AIN'T BROKE...
1. The run game. McDaniels just has to stick with it. 2. Opportunistic defense. They take pride in keeping TDs off the board. 3. Roster management. No matter your feelings, 4-0 is hard to complain about.
...BUT IT NEEDS FIXING
1. Fourth-and-1 fumbling. Stop running the stretch play, please 2. Bad penalties. This is on both sides of the ball. 3. Hands team. **Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for nine years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.”**