Atlanta 7 at New England 23
October 22, 2017
By: Allison Smith
And I don’t just mean the weather. It seems that after the first New England score, the fireworks went up, and the fog came down. From that point on, it was clear that the fog set in on the Falcons as well, taking over 90 minutes to score points from the previous game to just over 5 minutes left in this one.
The game started well enough. The Falcons won the coin toss, deferred to the second half, and put their fast and physical defense on the field. The Patriots had a 5-minute, 9 play drive that resulted in a forced punt short of midfield. At this point, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal both were already amassing tackles and making their presence known. Then, the Falcons offense came out….and….went 3 and out. Again. Then Matt Bosher comes out to punt. Short. Again. Not to be a Negative Nelly, but this is likely when Falcon fans should have turned off the game and gone to bed. We all know, they were going to refer to the Super Bowl 200+ times, so at best, we would be tortured to the end of the game, win or lose.
On the second Patriot possession, the first play, Tom Brady drops back and is immediately sacked by De’Vondre Campbell. So, you start to think this may go well. On 2nd and 17, Brady goes deep to Rob Gronkowski, who is called for offensive pass interference. Suddenly, a couple plays later, the Patriots are punting again.
While everything is still looking positive, the Falcons take the field again. Ryan fakes to Tevin Coleman, bootlegs to Julio Jones, who has a stretch run, gaining 16 yards. Devonta Freeman and Coleman are sharing the load already. On a 4th and 7 near midfield, Ryan drops back and looks, then takes off running to the right and gains the first down. After a short Freeman run, have a play action pass to Mohammed Sanu for 19 yards over the middle. A few plays later after a pass to Andre Roberts is knocked incomplete, Matt Bryant comes on to kick a 37-yard field goal….and Cassius Marsh comes between the left guard and tackle and blocks the attempt. This is for sure your sign. Good news, Ben Garland is in for special teams and ended the play after the Patriots recovered the blocked kick.
Again, first play of the Patriots drive is met with a sack. This one, after a nice spin move by Vic Beasley, Jr., giving him his 3rd sack of the season. Desmond Trufant stuffs the run, and the first quarter ends in a 0/0 tie.
On 3rd and 11, the offense draws Brian Poole and a speeding Grady Jarrett into the backfield, now on 3rd and 16, Brady finds Chris Hogan for 20 yards downfield. And this is how the rest of the game would go. Atlanta NOT converting on third downs, while New England had big gains on third downs. Brady has a pass intercepted by Robert Alford in the end zone, it is nullified by a roughing the passer penalty (similar to last week, not a late hit, but head to head hit) by Adrian Clayborn. On the sideline, Head Coach Dan Quinn asked what they called, and it seemed Claybo was confused on when you can still hit the quarterback, not realizing out of the pocket, he was still seen as a quarterback and could not be touched. Now at the Atlanta 16, two plays later, the Patriots score the first touchdown of the game.
The Falcon offense comes back out aggressive. Ryan fakes it to Freeman and throws a bomb to Julio, but his feet are tangled with the defender and it’s second down. A pass behind the line to Taylor Gabriel, then hit a defender in the helmet, and Bosher is back on for a 49-yarder, where Justin Hardy hits the punt returner immediately.
The Patriots continue their drive, and again the Clemson tandem of Jarrett and Beasley combine for stop. On the 2nd down, Beasley applies the pressure and causes a 1-yard pass play that Jarrett ends with a solo tackle. Then Neal, watching Brady’s eyes, has a perfect pass knockdown in the end zone, causing a New England field goal.
With under 5 minutes until the half, the Falcons start their comeback drive. Freeman has a nice 11-yard crossing the field gain, gives a little juke and has a great cutback, and then his speed kicks in. The offense goes no huddle, 13 yards to Sanu, a 6-yard run by Freeman is called back with offsetting penalties, then the single target to Coleman is incomplete, and Ryan is sacked. With 3rd and 20, Julio Jones catches a 14-yard pass for his 8007th receiving yard (2nd fastest to 8000 yards). Sadly, the Falcons needed 20 yards, but with 4th and 6 to go, again, at midfield, the offense stays on the field. A Ryan overthrow of Sanu gives the Patriots great field position with almost 2 minutes to go. Seven plays later, the Patriots have their second touchdown of the game and take a 17/0 lead into the half. The Falcons did have 3 offensive plays, but not enough to get far enough down the field for even a Bryant field goal attempt.
The Falcons received the ball in the 3rd quarter, marched pretty well down the field until being stopped at the 17 (just inside the red zone) and then had Bryant hit the goal post on the 37-yard field goal attempt.
Once again, Brady and team march down the field, passing to Hogan, running behind Dion Lewis, and with a 1st and goal, the defense stands up, allowing the Patriots down to the 1, where Beasley and Kemal Ishmael combine to push Mike Gillislee back to the 3, forcing another field goal.
With a heavy dose of Freeman (who in his 3rd game that I have notice running really angry), and some help from Jones, the Falcons move down the field. On 2nd and goal, Sanu makes an awesome catch with double coverage and lands just outside of the end zone, 10 inches to be exact. Then, instead of Freeman or Coleman up the middle, or even Dontari Poe passing the ball, or a Sanu 12 Gauge, Ryan throws low to Jones allowing Malcolm Butler to make a good play on the ball. Then on a jet sweep to Gabriel, he loses 5 yards. This playing in completely questionable, but also, the execution was poor, with the blockers for Gabriel being easily taken down.
With an entire quarter to play, you can already feel the stake to the heart. The Pats drive down to the 20, where Poole makes the stop causing 4th down and the final field goal of the day. With over 9 minutes remaining, the Falcons use over half of that time, and over 90 minutes since their last score, to finally find Julio Jones in the end zone. Naturally, Ju makes a miraculous catch, snatching the ball out of the air and away from defenders.
Atlanta has an onside kick, recovered by the Patriots, who graciously only drove to the 17 where they took a knee from the 2-minute warning to the end.
Once again, there has been no offensive rhythm. If Freeman has a few good runs, they pull him out and put in Coleman. While I think they are both awesome running backs, and have crazy numbers, running in tandem, the team needs to pick a starter. Let Freeman, the highest paid RB in the league, earn his money. Let him tell you when he is ready for a break. Use Julio Jones….MORE. Make 3rd downs shorter. The first half were 3rd and 11, 8, and 2. Second half had 3rd and 16, 1, 8, and 9. Successfully on 2 of 9. Then, of course the famous 4th and 6 and 7s.
Freeman and Coleman combined for 88 yards. Julio was a yard short of 100. Sanu, welcomed back from his hamstring injury, was on fire with 65 yards, while others had 1 or 2 catches only. Once again, the defense was on the field too long, but does allow them to run up stats. Poe and Jarrett were both on the field for 77 snaps, Beasley for 47, Brooks Reed 45. Campbell led the team in tackles with 8 total and the forced fumble on the sack. Ishmael, who came in when Duke Riley went out injured, quickly amassed 9 total tackles, with Jones and Neal just behind with 11 and 10 combined. The Clemson boys had 5 a piece, and of course, Beasley’s sack.
Overall, this game was a complete suck. Even without the Super Bowl revenge, which clearly the team was not buying into, you would have thought they would have put on a better show. Now, we watch, and wait. See what the 3 game road trip holds. They head up to the 3 – 4 Jets, who just got beat by Miami earlier in the day. Then, to Carolina…which at least will be a home game for me, and many, many Falcon fans will make the 85 North trek. Hopefully, the fog will be lifted by next Sunday.
Injury Update: Deion Jones was dinged up, but returned to the game. Duke Riley is having knee surgery and expected to be out at least 4 weeks.
Due to the Riley injury, Sean Weatherspoon is back, bringing a veteran presence and some spunk back to the locker room. Let’s home this helps.
Iron Falcon: If one can continue to be awarded on such a bad loss. De’Vondre Campbell. He tried to set the tone early with a big sack and pressuring Brady all day. Julio Jones, for always being unselfish, getting to over 8000 receiving yards, nearly 100 yards on the day, and his first touchdown of the season, and not even caring because it was in a losing effort.
Photos Courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons