The New England Patriots made a statement Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons in a 23-7 win at the fog-covered Gillette Stadium. The Falcons looked to avenge their horrendous loss in last years Super Bowl, but the offense was blanked by the suddenly stellar Patriots defense. The defense held Matt Ryan’s offense scoreless until late in the fourth quarter, when Julio Jones brought in a pass from the 1 yard line in garbage time. The game promised to be great, with many expecting the Falcons to bring their A game,but if anything they brought their C game.
Not all the blame can be put on the Falcons themselves though. The Patriots held Matt Ryan to 233 yards. This is a huge step forward for the defense, as they rank dead last in the league in yards per game at 426.7. The questionable secondary, that has been a problem all year long stepped up with great and perhaps surprising performances from Patrick Chung and Johnson Bademosi. The defense looked at the game as a turning point for them. As Devin McCourty told bostonsportsjournal.com,
“You can have an up-and-down beginning, but when you play against a really good team, it’s either we’re on it, or we’re going to get our doors blown off. I think that was that kind of feeling.”
This could be what sets the defense in motion the rest of the season from here on out. They faced an offense with an elite quarterback and plenty of versatile offensive weapons. However, the Patriots running back core showed its own versatility Sunday night as well. James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead all got into the passing game with seven receptions between the three running backs. Brandin Cooks also got into the action with a touchdown.
Yet, the defense remains the story line for the defending champions, as this is easily their best performance of the year- even without Stephon Gilmore who has admittedly struggled with his transition to the Patriots. If the defense can continue to improve, the Patriots will be right back on track to their sixth Super Bowl despite two early home losses.
What is also amazing to point out is that the defense also held Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to a collective 88 yards with zero touchdowns in eighteen attempts. With so many weapons it is a huge feat to shut down both the passing and running games. The team is back on top of the AFC East, and turned their focus to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. If the defense can repeat their week seven performance, it will be hard to think they won’t log another win.