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FINALLY!!

Seven games into the NFL season, the Patriots finally, FINALLY put together a complete game in all three phases of the game in their win Sunday night over the Atlanta Falcons.  Granted, the Falcons have struggled since their embarrassment in last year’s Super Bowl, but they are still loaded with talented players on both sides of the football.  This season, the Patriots’ defense has made much more inferior opponents look like offensive juggernauts.  But not Sunday night.  It was as if the Patriots suddenly realized the season was nearly half over, and it was time to play some ball.

In past articles have I presented stats and tried to analyze and justify my observations.  I’m not going to do that in this article, because the Patriots passed the all-important eyeball test.  I really liked what I saw Sunday night, especially from (I can’t believe I’m writing this) THE DEFENSE.  They looked like a championship team, a team that said to the Falcons “You are not coming into our house and getting revenge for last year.”  The defense set the tone for the game from the Falcons’ first possession and continued to not only hold their own, but to dominate throughout the game. 

The much-maligned defensive backfield, lacking Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, finally turned in a stellar performance with fill-ins Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones stepping up and, with the help of a suddenly rejuvenated Malcolm Butler, stifled the Falcons’ receivers.  The communication issues and finger pointing that plagued the defense in the first six games was nowhere to be seen.  Instead of letting receivers slip behind them for big plays, the defense attacked and made plays when needed, especially on third down.

The offense featured their most balanced attack of the season.  Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White all rushed the ball effectively, taking the pressure off the passing game.  The most impressive drive of the night occurred at the beginning of the fourth quarter after the defense came up huge to stop Atlanta on a fourth and goal from the two yard line.  The offense took over at their own six yard line with 14:32 remaining and a 20-0 lead.  The ensuing drive effectively mixed the run and the pass to burn five minutes off the clock and take the fight out of the Falcons after they began to show signs of life.  Though the drive only resulted in a field goal, it was enough to put the game out of reach.

Not to be outdone, the special teams grouped also contributed a big play with a blocked field goal to stifle a first quarter Atlanta drive for an early lead.  Complimentary football at its best.

It may have only been one game and one win, but it was an important win and potentially a season changing game.  The Patriots recognized they were better than what they had shown and decided enough was enough.  This was the team New England has embraced and the rest of NFL fans have come to despise. The Patriots finally showed up for the 2017 season.  We’re on to San Diego.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 


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