Best and Worst: Patriots 23, Falcons 7
FUGUE STATE START
The amount of pregame pyrotechnics had the stadium looking like a dream sequence for the first 10 minutes. Then it was real fog late in the second quarter.
DYING ON THE EDGE
Tom Brady got a dose of De’Vondre Campbell in the back when he came unblocked off the left edge in the first quarter for a strip sack.
DON’T KNOW HIS OWN STRENGTH
The number of penalties on which there is moderate handfighting and no flags fly is high. But in the first quarter, Rob Gronkowski tracked a downfield pass and – at the last moment – put his left hand out to get a touch more clearance from the DB. The DB was semi-jolted, a flag flew and the completion was wiped out.
There were seven assessed penalties in the first six minutes of play.
The Falcons got 9 on a fourth-and-7 play late in the first quarter from the Patriots 48 with 3:56 left in the first quarter.
NO CASHING IN
Cassius Marsh emerged from the right side of the Patriots field goal block crew to wriggle in and block Matt Bryant’s 36-yard field goal attempt.
GOT ‘EM IN THE EARHOLE
Adrian Clayborn took a running start and labeled Tom Brady in the left side of his helmet on a deep throw to the end zone early in the second quarter. The pass was picked off in the end zone by Robert Alford but the 15-yard penalty was assessed putting the ball at the Atlanta 16. Two plays later, they were in the end zone.
THIS AIN’T THE CFL
Rob Gronkowski got a running start on a play midway through the second half and was called for a very obvious false start.
DROPPIN’ DIMES DROPPIN’ DIMES
On the ensuing play, Brady scuttled around the pocket, got small, then found Gronk for a 26-yard gain with a pass placed delicately in Gronkowski’s hands just before he exited the field of play.
BEHIND IN HIS WORK
Brady hit Chris Hogan for a 20-yard pickup on third-and-16 but misfired to him in the end zone in the second quarter. Both passes were behind Hogan as a weird number of throws from Brady to Hogan have been this season.
With a fourth-and-6 at the Patriots 47, Matt Ryan and the Falcons went for it again and Ryan overshot Mohamed Sanu with Jonathan Jones in coverage.
THAT WAS A MISTAKE
The Patriots chugged downfield to cash in on the Falcons’ dice roll just before half as the Patriots scored on a Brady-to-James White touchdown to make it 17-0 at the break.
SECOND HALF DOINKAGE
The Falcons put together a competent drive to start the second half and Matt Bryant bounced another 36-yard attempt off something other than the large net behind the goal posts. This one hit the left upright.
STAND OF THE YEAR
The Patriots bowed up and turned away Atlanta on four plays inside their 10 late in the third and early in the fourth – the final two coming from their 1-yard line – in what was possibly their best defensive execution of the season.