slides: What to Watch For: Falcons vs Patriots
Sunday, October 22, 2017
New England Patriots (4-2) will host the (3-2) Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of Super Bowl 51 on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl, coming back from a 28-3 deficit to win 34-28.
“They all hold a special place in your mind, but every game is different. They’re all different scenarios and situations. I mean, obviously, winning the game, it’s an incredible moment in your life. Like I said, we got to celebrate it. This year I don’t think we’re really where we need to be. We’re, certainly, 4-2 – I think there’s a lot of things we wish we had done better and we’re still working to improve. That’s where we’re at. We’re focused on playing a great team. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of respect for this coaching staff, these players, and I know they’re going to be at their best on Sunday night," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn added, “for sure we’ve talked about it. The biggest thing we’ve said was you don’t get to go replay games. You don’t get to go replay the Super Bowl. We lost last week and we don’t get to go replay the Miami game. One of the sayings we have is, 'The only fight that matters is the one you’re in."
Super Bowl champions are 5-2 in regular season Super Bowl rematches going back to 1970.
Kick-off is set for 8:30 p.m.
Patriots vs. Falcons All-Time
The Patriots are 8-6 all-time against the Falcons with the first meeting taking place in 1972.
Prior to last season's Super Bowl, the Patriots and Falcons hadn't met since 2013 when the Patriots beat the Falcons 30-23.
Overall, the Patriots have won five straight games over the Falcons.
Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Falcons vs Patriots
Matt Ryan vs Pats D
The Patriots secondary will once again be without cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe meaning Johnson Bademosi and Johnathan Jones will see time.
The defense also enters the game having given up 300 yards passing in every game this season. They are the first team in history to do that.
All of this should mean advantage Atlanta.
However, the Falcons offense has struggled so far this season.
The Falcons have scored only 17 points in each of their last two games, and quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown six interceptions so far this season. He had just seven all of last season.
"They're very well balanced. They run the ball. They've got two good backs that they seem very comfortable leaving either one of them in the game. They throw the ball at all three levels well. They have a lot of catch-and-run plays. They have intermediate routes and they can throw the ball deep," said Belichick.
The Falcons offense is led by Ryan and consists of wide receivers Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohammad Sanu. While running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are also effective in the passing game.
One way the Patriots can slow down the Falcons offense is by getting to Ryan, which they were able to do in the second half of the Super Bowl.
One of the key players in getting to Ryan will be Trey Flowers.
Flowers has 3.5 sacks so far this season and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the best edge defender on the team.
Flowers will be matched up against Jake Matthews, who is ranked 34th out of 60 offensive tackles.
Ryan has been sacked ten times so far this season.
Last week, Dion Lewis saw as many snaps and carries as he has all season.
Against the Jets, Lewis rushed 11 times for 52 yards and a touchdown. His previous high in carries was seven.
The Falcons are allowing 4.3 yards per carry so far this season so Dion Lewis, as well as, the rest of the running backs could be in for a big game.
Using the run game will also help to control the speed of the Falcons defense.
"It's as fast of a defense that we've played or that I think we will play. They have great team speed. They have speed on the defensive front, linebackers, in the secondary. They're a very fast team, explosive," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his Wednesday press conference.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a key part of the Patriots offense.
So far this season, Gronkowski has averaged eight targets and 15.1 yards per catch. Overall, he has hauled in 26 passes and four touchdowns for 401 yards.
In this game, Gronkowski will likely see guys like Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who earlier this week said he believes that he matches up well with Gronkowski.
When Gronkowski was asked about the matchup, he responded, "they're a good defense. You've got to go out there and you've got to play your best football. I feel like at any time, any given time, if I'm not playing my best football, if I'm not taking the coaching points, if I'm not doing the things right out there on the field then I feel like I could be covered by anyone. But also at the same time, if I'm doing things right, feeling good, taking the coaching points then I feel like I can get open on anyone."
Make or Break Stretch
Sunday night's game marks the beginning of a make or break stretch for the Patriots.
Following the game against Atlanta, New England will stay home to host the LA Chargers before a bye week.
Following the bye, the Patriots play on the road at Denver and then in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders.
They then play five of their last six games against division opponents. The other game is against the Steelers.
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