Sunday night's matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was expected to be a barometer for both teams heading into kickoff. The Pats were 3-0, but their competition had been iffy and the team didn't look particularly impressive, especially on offense where the passing game looked mortal for the first time in years. The Falcons were 1-2 and in dire need of a quality win to reassert themselves among the NFL's elite teams.
The Patriots won 30-23, staving off an admirable comeback attempt by Matt Ryan and the Falcons. A quarter of the way through the NFL season, both teams now have a better sense of who they are. The Pats are certainly trending upwards, with reinforcements in the passing game on their way. The Falcons, meanwhile, have minimal margin for error if they want to make the playoffs, especially with injuries mounting on both sides of the ball.
Dave Choate at Falcons blog The Falcoholic did not pull any punches in his analysis of Sunday night's loss. The Falcons appear to be in trouble, and fans may need to reevaluate their expectations for the team, according to Choate:
We can't keep pointing out what this team has done in previous years, because thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, this team bears little resemblance to the teams that were perennial playoff contenders from 2008-2012. The Falcons are playing uninspired football, they look anemic and sloppy on defense and they hurt themselves on offense constantly with penalties and poor execution.
The mood is much better at Patriots blog Pats Pulpit. The Pats may have had some bumpy stretches on their way to 4-0, but undefeated is undefeated, and according to Greg Knopping the team is only getting better:
The critics will still say what they want about the Patriots, and much of what they say will probably be true, at least to an extent. But what no one can doubt is that these Patriots are improving. Heading into week five, the Patriots are a much better team than they were week one. It's scary to think how good they could be once they get their top three skill position players back on offense.