The Rear View Mirror – Game Seven
The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 on Sunday Night Football. The Falcons (3-3) have struggled in the 2017 season, including three consecutive losses in the AFC East (Buffalo, Miami, and now New England). If not for Julio Jones’ snatching an end zone interception out of Malcolm Butler’s hands in the 4th quarter for their lone score, the Falcons could have been shut out in Foxboro.
Kyle Van Noy blows up a fourth-and-goal jet sweep at the one yard line
Published by BostonGlobe.com
Nine Observations from Game Seven…
1. Before bringing down Tayler Gabriel for a goal line, four-yard loss in the 4th quarter, linebacker Kyle Van Noy (in on seven tackles) caught running back Devonta Freeman for a loss of three on third-and-four in the in the 1st quarter. Freeman combined with Tevin Coleman to match their season average of 4.8 yards per on 18 carries.
2. For the second consecutive game, cornerback Johnson Bademosi logged significant playing time (in on 55 of 57 defensive snaps, per ESPN Boston) in relief for injury scratches Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe. Bademosi knocked down a third-and-four pass attempt to Julio Jones in the 2nd quarter and later he (in on seven tackles) made a nice tackle on Jones along the right sideline in the 3rd quarter.
3. Bademosi also recovered a field goal block near the end of the 1st quarter, after defensive end Cassius Marsh squeezed between a strong rush from Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Brown. In his post-game analysis, Coach Belichick noted that the play was designed to send six rushers against only four blockers on the left side of the line. In addition to the blocked kick, Atlanta’s Matt Bryant also missed a 36 yarder in the 3rd quarter
4. Defensive lineman Adam Butler beat right guard Wes Schweitzer for a sack of quarterback Matt Ryan (233 yards, 7.1 average per completion) in the 2nd quarter. The sack helped set up a turnover on downs when cornerback Johnathan Jones’ tight coverage of Atlanta receiver Mohamed Sanu created an incompletion on fourth-and-six. Adam Butler also brought down Devonta Freeman for short gain on a pass in the right flat in the 4th quarter.
The game will be remembered for the heavy fog that rolled in during the second half.
Photograph by Billie Weiss/Getty Images, published by ESPN Boston
5. Running backs Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, and James White combined for 202 running and receiving yards on 38 “touches” in the game. Left guard Joe Thuney made a nice block on Adrian Clayborn to spring Dion Lewis for a 25-yard run early in the 2nd quarter. Late in the 4th quarter, Lewis ran off left tackle, and squeezed past simutaneous hits from Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett to the line of scrimmage to pick up 13 yards.
6. Rex Burkhead returned to his first action since game two and contributed three nine-yard runs on the Patriots’ 2nd quarter drive that culminated in a field goal. Burkhead showed his running versatiliy as the first carry was off a delayed handoff in shotgun formation against the Falcons’ nickle defense (five defensive backs). The second run was a zone right run behind fullback James Develin that Burkhead bounced outside. The third run was straight up the middle behind man blocking and no fullback.
7. In the 1st quarter, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell hesitated before blitzing off left end and sacking Tom Brady (249 yards and 8.6 yards per completion) on a play action pass play. Later in the same quarter, the other outside linebacker, Vic Beasley, spun off Marcus Cannon to bring down Brady for a second sack. Recognition to the Patriots’ interior linemen for their 16 running plays inside the tackles gaining 5.9 yards on average. The 17 plays run off tackle or around the end averaged 4.2 yards.
8. Wide receiver Chris Hogan lead the Patriots with 71 receiving yards, including a twenty yard, first down conversion over the middle on third-and-16 in the 2nd quarter. Hogan’s receiving targets are way up in 2017 (6.7 per game compared to 3.6 in 2016) but his catch percentage (60% vs. 67%) and yards per catch (13.5 vs. 17.9) are down.
Over the past four games the offense has reduced hits on the quarterback
9. A good night for Tom Brady on third-and-long situations. Overall the quarterback faced ten third downs of eight yards or longer, and Brady converted five of those into first downs. He completed seven-of-nine for 81 yards, plus one six-yard scramble. Credit to the offensive line who did not allow the defense a single quarterback hit on those third-and-long plays.
…And one comment about Game Eight.
After starting 0-4, the Los Angeles Chargers travel to Gillette stadium this Sunday riding a three game winning streak. While Philip Rivers and the passing offense has been middle-of-the-road (15th best in the NFL), running back Melvin Gordon is averaging a disappointing 3.4 yards per carry. New England’s running backs will have an opportunity for a big day as the Chargers’ run defense is second-worst in the league through the first seven weeks.