Sunday night wrap-up: See how they run

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For weeks, we’ve all been fascinated by the Patriots’ ability to withstand the loss of so many receiving targets.

What they’ve really decided to do is work around it, and set up the offense in a way you wouldn’t think you’d have to when you have Tom Brady under center.

The Patriots decided to run early on, and body punch the Falcons into submission during a 30-23 win on the road. A frantic comeback by the Falcons’ offense didn’t change the fact the Patriots leaned on them throughout.

In the first half, the Patriots ran the ball on 15 of their 24 snaps, playing a game with a payoff that they had to trust to be cumulative, since they lack quick-strike targets in the passing game.

Ordinarily, if you have Brady and you let him throw it nine times in a half, you’d be sued for malpractice.

But the cracks started to show in the Falcons defense as the night went on, and LeGarrette Blount’s 47-yard touchdown cannot be explained by his athleticism alone.

The Falcons have been thinned up front by injuries, so pounding on them isn’t a unique approach. But it was an effective one.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. The Falcons are now 1-3, defying reason.

If it doesn’t turn around quickly (though their comeback indicates it might), they will have wasted a remarkable final year by Tony Gonzalez.

Despite not going through much of what you’d call training camp or preseason, Gonzalez hit the Patriots for 12 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

His professionalism has allowed him to stay at this level at the age of 37. He’s a mismatch the Patriots couldn’t cover in the first half, and they’re not the first team he’s done this to.

2. Tonight was a night when the Falcons could have really used a reliable running game of their own.

When Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork left early with an ankle injury, there was a hole in the middle, but the Falcons aren’t built to capitalize on it while Steven Jackson’s out with a hamstring strain.

Jason Snelling’s an acceptable backup option with some short-yardage skills, but not a long-term answer. They stuck with Michael Turner beyond his expiration date, and Jackson would be a perfect replacement. But only if he’s on the field.

Of course, there are problems up front on the offensive line that keep it from being as effective as in the past as well, and those might be the bigger one. But Jackson’s absence was evident.

3. Speaking of Wilfork, it sounds crazy to say he’s under-appreciated, he’s one of the best players in the NFL. But the impact he has on a defense is undeniable.

The Patriots have some clear issues on defense, and Gonzalez exploits many of them. They don’t have the linebacker or safety to take away a pass-catching tight end across the middle.

Wilfork’s not going to do that, but having him chewing up the middle of a line makes it easier for the Patriots to patch behind him.

If he’s out for any amount of time with this right ankle problem, the Patriots have a major issue.

4. It’s easy to wonder if Brady even bothers to learn the names of the people he’s distributing the ball to.

All his normal targets are hurt (or elsewhere or otherwise detained), but he still spreads the ball efficiently enough, whether he’s throwing it to Rob Gronkowski or Matthew Mulligan.

He’s also not turning around and handing it to Adrian Peterson or anything, but they’re still able to run play-action no matter who’s behind him.

Quarterbacks are the great deodorant in the NFL, and if you have a good one, it takes care of a lot of other problems.

5. Great call, Greg Schiano.

Blount and Aqib Talib clearly couldn’t help the Buccaneers right now.

Talib is working on making himself rich, with four interceptions in four games. He signed a one-year deal with the Patriots after coming over from Tampa Bay in trade last year.

Certainly the situation is more stable in New England, which allows them to take on somebody else’s problem (see No. 4), but Patriots coach Bill Belichick fleeced his pal on those two deals, which netted the Bucs a fourth-rounder and track star Jeff Demps.

43 responses to “Sunday night wrap-up: See how they run

  1. Falcons fans are a joke that place was empty with plenty of time to go cant believe that u deserve to lose just for that and that’s coming from someone who hates the pats

  2. Any questions this week pundits and Patriots doubters? They went into Atlanta and won. Not something you see often. Hopefully the sarcastic attitude that the Patriots have been treated with will be scrapped for at least a week.

    This team is 4-0 and they’re not even close to full strength. In the end all this time without Gronk, Amendola, and Vereen may pay off. Thompkins looks good and his chemistry with Brady is growing every week.

  3. It is pretty amazing that the Patriots are undefeated with who they lost on offense…Even though Brady is not putting up huge stats, him and Belichek deserve some props for winning.

  4. The Bucs received a third round pick for Talib and a 7th and Demps for Blount. I’m not sure why Blount was traded, but Talib couldn’t stop getting in trouble. You forget, but Talib was coming off another suspension before he was traded. His contract was set to expire and the Bucs weren’t bringing him back. How could they? One more suspension and he’s out for the season. The Bucs could never get Talib’s value in a trade (just like they can’t now for Freeman), but credit the Bucs for getting a good draft pick when Talib was set to leave the team at the end of the season.

    Wasn’t this very website trashing the Bucs for giving Talib chance after chance, and now they are getting slammed for trading him when he couldn’t stay out of trouble? Give me a break. New England knows this as well, which is why Talib was brought back on a one year deal. It won’t be so easy next season, because Talib is playing to get paid and you better believe a team like Washington, with Talib’s buddy Raheem Morris on the staff, will make a huge offer.

  5. If the Saints win tomorrow night they will be running away with this division. If they lose, they are still way ahead. Go Saints!

  6. “Clear issues on defense”? What would those be? They had linebackers in Hightower, Mayo and Collins sticking with Gonzalez all night, but he was able to make a lot of great catches over and around them: not an issue, just a great player making great plays and the same thing with Julio…he was shut down all night until he made a couple great catches over good coverage…the Patriots defense has the makings of an elite defense this season, especially with the way Talib and Dennard have been playing, and as of right now I don’t know any “clear issues” that are affecting them

  7. I have to give credit to ATL. They’ve definitely perfected the last second choke job. A great deal of practice must go into honing it into such a work of art.

  8. If the D improves over the season like they usually do under Belichick, and the O gets Amendola and Gronk back, the Pats could be real good by season’s end. Real good.

  9. The mugging Tony Gonzalez received was beyond ridiculous. A rookie, Josh Boyce, got better treatment from the officials.

    Well done Walt Coleman and your crew of ineptitude.

  10. The Patriots have many holes on defense? Have you been watching these past 4 weeks? Even though Gonzalez had a fantastic night (and credit to him) the Pats D was all over him throughout the game, he just made some amazing catches while covered.

  11. That Falcons D got a lot of holes in it. Then again Weatherspoon is out and so was Asante Samuel.

  12. It’s easy to wonder if Brady even bothers to learn the names of the people he’s distributing the ball to.

    They’ve all been there since training camp and now 4 games into the season. Why wouldn’t he?

  13. I really thought the Falcons would win this one at home. I bet all those people who picked the Falcons or the 49ers as Super Bowl favorites this year are shaking their heads right now…

  14. brilliant game planning by BB… Patriots are so lucky to have him…
    look at tampa bay in contrast.. talented roster but Schiano is just not good enough… he wants to surround himself with his boys… his game management is horrible…

  15. Ask yourself this, where would the Falcons be if they had Tom Brady at QB?

    Exactly, and Tom Brady is 37 years old.

  16. You have to love it as a New England fan.

    Its been such a privelage watching Tom start from scratch to 3 SBs, then break every record with big name receivers, and doing it all over again this year.

    There was never a legitimate discussion that SpyGate led to how great they were in 07, revamping completely in 10, and in years beyond.
    Only jealous whiners and chirpers on the internet.

    This season is solidifying their reputation and leaving the spygate and cheating accusations in the dust.
    Regardless of the organization. There is no question about Tom Bradys greatness. And when he takes another no-name team to the AFC title game again, he leaves the discussion of whose who, or the Brady Manning debate behind completely.

  17. D Gnatt.. Keep it coming baby! Couple twigs here, few thin branches there. Before you know it the pats will be firing on all cylinders..If you could, and of course only for the childish haters whose lawns have been burnt and soiled by THE New England Patriots over the past decade plus, please write up the pats record and rankings W/L vs League ; since spy gate! If you have the time and chance of course. I do believe its the best record in the NFL since 2006~7, but I’m not 100 percent positive. Maybe you could confirm. These savages wont believe my word.
    Thanks DGnatt~ Patrick PassInterference10yd penalty1stDown.

  18. Schiano reminds me off the Broncos coach, McMichaels(?) who traded away everyone( Cutler, etc..) to get his type of guys. Turned out great for that Headcoach.

  19. Ask Joe Flacco the difference Talib made in the AFC CG last winter. When Talib was in the game, Flacco got little accomplished.. When he got hurt, the flood gates opened. He may have serious off the field issues, but Talib can play.

  20. .

    ”Belichick fleeced his pal (Schiano) ”

    It’s a reach to say that Talib and Blount would have performed at the same level for the Bucs. They appear to be players who benefitted from a change of scenery.


  21. Talib has shown that an elite CB is MANDATORY to having a good defense. I am happy he’s on the team, and his excellent play has lifted the whole unit.

    But it pisses me off knowing that the Pats let go of Law and Samuel when they should have known the impact of an elite CB. 4 years of Kyle Arrington as the #1 CB really hurt the Pats championship window.

  22. Yea, the run game and some red zone defense for the win. Sounds crazy when you say it was the Pats after that sentence.

    I’ll take it though, 4-0, with one win in the Georgia Dome. Not many teams win there.

    Actually, I think I would have prefered a loss if it meant Wilfork isn’t done for the season.

  23. As a Saints fan I have to tip my hat to Gonzalez. You couldn’t cover any better than New England did but he just didn’t care, he was going to make those catches. The one where Ryan threw it up for him in the back-right of the end zone was just sick. Dude could play 10 more years if he wanted.

  24. Pats opponents combined record? 5-11 Broncos? 4-12.
    Hey Al Michaels? Who’s got the softer schedule? Who has potential pro bowlers at at every wide out position? Now, who has rookies and college qb’s for receivers?? Manning is a God, Brady is struggling. Both 4-0. One will choke come January. Come on Al, who will THAT be???

  25. Manning is god??? In the church of the wholy whiner maybe. Peyton needs all pro players surrounding him and STILL only one lonely SB ring. He’s been playing with first ballot HOF players his whole career, Brady takes a bunch of no names and castoffs from teams and winswinswins besides it’s still only a GAME. Luck has a lot to do with winning games, skill will only get you so far if you don’t get the bounces and even the best of the best have gone their whole careers without even a playoff win. Dan Marino comes to mind, how many rings? GOOSE EGG!!! but he was a great QB and he looks awesome since he’s been doin the NUTRI SLIM, Lots of money but no RINGS. Elway was an Awesome QB but he didn’t get the bounces until the end of his career, he had some great supporting players too, same again first ballot HOFers. Montana is still the best QB ever and he had Rice, a great coach and plenty of luck. Farve was handed a ring, luck of the draw playing Bledsoe / Pats… Bledsoe had a cannon but he also had a bad case of the yips. The Pats even made Jim McMahon look awesome back in the day, that team was all DEFENSE and Patsies showed up to lose, didn’t even have a chance with Eason. Grogan if he was healthy would have been a better gamer. He did get them their only TD that game.

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