For just the eighth time in NFL history, we got a Super Bowl rematch in the ensuing regular season. The Super Bowl winners are now 6-2 in those games after the Patriots’ dominating win over the Falcons.
Final score: Patriots 23, Falcons 7
Patriots 23, Falcons 7: They did it! The Falcons ended their scoreless drought against the Patriots. Julio Jones, straight up thievin’, was not letting Malcolm Butler get this one:
It’s too late for the Falcons to make a comeback, but hey, it’s better than getting shut out.
Patriots 23, Falcons 0: The Falcons bled a lot of clock and got three points out of it. Who cares about that, though, when there’s THIS FOG:
Patriots 20, Falcons 0: Fourth-and-goal, what could go wrong for the Falcons?
In fairness, Atlanta offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is calling the plays from he booth, so the fog might be playing a factor.
Patriots 20, Falcons 0: The fog isn’t bothering the Patriots so much. They marched down the field until Mike Gillislee was stopped on third-and-goal. Stephen Gostkowski booted through the short field goal.
The Patriots have now scored 51 unanswered points against the Falcons, dating back to the Super Bowl.
Patriots 17, Falcons 0: It’s somehow even foggier out there:
So maybe that’s why Matt Bryant completely DOINKED this field goal attempt?
Halftime: Patriots 17, Falcons 0
Patriots 17, Falcons 0: James White scored his first touchdown of the season. You know, James White, the guy whose Super Bowl performance probably still gives the Falcons nightmares.
Fitting, because it’s spooky foggy out there right now:
Patriots 10, Falcons 0: The Falcons went for it on fourth down again at midfield, but this time Matt Ryan overshot Mohamed Sanu.
But, Julio Jones became the second-fastest receiver to reach 8,000 receiving yards, so that’s something.
Patriots 10, Falcons 0: The Patriots’ 14-play drive ended with a Stephen Gostkowski’s 29-yard field goal.
Cheer up, Falcons fans. Can’t blow a 28-3 lead if you’re down 10-0, right?
Patriots 7, Falcons 0: A touch pass from Tom Brady to Brandin Cooks — straight outta the Chiefs’ playbook — got the Patriots in the end zone:
The score came right after Brady was bailed out after an awful interception when Adrian Clayborn was flagged for roughing the passer:
So the Pats got new life — and made the most of it.
Patriots 0, Falcons 0: On fourth-and-7 from midfield, Matt Ryan dropped back and ... decided to run? Oh no, what you doing, Matt—never mind, he picked up the first down.
Alas, it didn’t turn into any points. Matt Bryant’s 37-yard field goal attempt later that drive was blocked by Cassius Marsh:
The first quarter ended 0-0, just like in the Super Bowl.
Patriots 0, Falcons 0: We’re still scoreless here, but the flags keep coming. Gronk looked like he came down with a big catch, but yep, that’s OPI.
Yes, we know you’re shocked that the Patriots got called for OPI.
Patriots 0, Falcons 0: Five accepted penalties on the first drive and 0 points. But we did get to hear Chris Hogan rep “Penn State lacrosse” during his SNF intro.
Before the game
The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons participated in one of the best Super Bowls of all time, and they’re set to go head to head again on Sunday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC (NBC Sports).
The last time these teams met was in Super Bowl 51, which featured the Falcons infamously blowing a 28-3 lead and losing in overtime. Both teams have shown more vulnerability this season, with the Patriots’ defense cratering and the Falcons’ offense struggling to get off the ground. Still, it’s going to be a fascinating matchup on multiple levels.
The Patriots are 4-2 and in first place in the AFC East following a 24-17 win over the New York Jets. The defense gave up a quick 14-0 deficit, but Tom Brady did what he normally does and engineered a comeback win, throwing two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski.
Losing to the Jets would’ve been particularly humbling for the Patriots, but they avoided the worst-case scenario and are now on a two-game winning streak, getting some shine back after a flat 2-2 start to the season.
The Falcons, on the other hand, are headed in the wrong direction. They started off 3-0, but the offense got stuck in a rut in Week 5 when Julio Jones left with a hip injury. The Falcons lost to the Buffalo Bills, 23-17. Things hit a new low last week when they blew a 17-0 lead to the Miami Dolphins, whose offense magically came to life in the second half. Now 3-2, the Falcons are in danger of losing ground to the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
The good news for the Falcons is that Jones is back to full health, though he has yet to score a touchdown this season. Much more concerning is the performance of Matt Ryan, who has just six touchdowns in the first five games while throwing six interceptions.
Most people expected the offense to take a step back from its historical highs of 2016, but Ryan simply isn’t playing good enough right now. The Falcons need him to be closed to his MVP form if they hope to beat the Patriots and get some form of closure after that Super Bowl humiliation.
- Neither the Falcons nor Patriots have lived up to expectations so far, as explained in this week’s Panic Index.
If the season ended today, the Patriots would at least win the AFC East. The Falcons wouldn’t even make the playoffs. There’s a lot of season left for the Falcons and Patriots to get it together, but the expectations for these teams certainly don’t line up with their actual performances so far.
- The Falcoholic believes it’s time to bring back Dwight Freeney.
The veteran defensive end is no spring chicken at 37, and would likely want at least $1.5 million for his services (which the Falcons could afford). But, what he could give the Falcons’ pass rush, which is improved but still not a dominant unit, in his play and the team in general from a leadership standpoint makes him someone Atlanta needs to seriously consider bringing in soon.
- Here’s a closer look at Steve Sarkisian’s puzzling use of Julio Jones.
He has turned into a possession receiver under Sarkisian’s system. In four-and-half games, Jones’ longest catch went for 34 yards. A combination of Matt Ryan’s poor accuracy on deep balls and Sarkisian using him on shorter routes is neutralizing the transcendent superstar. How can someone so dominant and talented limited? Dan Quinn is still trying to figure it out.
- Pats Pulpit looks at the tape and concludes that the Patriots’ running game is ready to break out.
Over the last 10 games or so you have to wonder if the Patriots become an offense that rushes for first downs and passes for touchdowns. They have missed Julian Edelman’s ability to be a possession receiver that moves the sticks consistently, and that has turned them into a boom or bust offense.
For years we have seen the Patriots use the short passing game as an extension of the run game, but without a consistent short passing attack, the Patriots may be better suited to flip that script.