By Matthew Asher
The unpredictability of any sport is both a blessing and a curse. If someone told you before the season started that the New England Patriots would be 4-0 without Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker catching passes from Tom Brady, you’d probably think they were crazy. If they also told you Atlanta would be 1-3 despite getting Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora in the off-season, you might look to commit them to a loony bin.
That’s exactly what happened as New England was able to escape Atlanta with a 30-23 win. It was almost a reverse of everything Atlanta has done this season. They spotted New England 17 points and attempted to make a comeback. Unfortunately when you give the Patriots a three-score lead, even when Brady shoots himself in the foot fumbling the ball with less than two minutes to go, it’s never going to be an easy win.
The Falcons are officially having the worst season in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era. As mentioned earlier in the week, the last time Atlanta started off a season 1-3 was 2007, the year before Smitty was named coach and Matty Ice was drafted.
The season is only a quarter complete, but the Falcons need to take a good, long look at themselves and figure out how to salvage their final 12 games of the season, specifically how to score in the red zone.
Tony Gonzalez gets an A+
Tony Gonzalez may be questioning his decision to return for a 17th season. You can’t fault Gonzalez’ effort in this one because in the first half, he basically was Atlanta’s offense. Matt Ryan completed 18 passes for 176 yards in the first half, Tony pulled down seven of them for 90 yards and was responsible for Atlanta’s lone touchdown in the first half.
By the end of the game Tony finished with 12 receptions for 149 yards and both Falcons touchdowns. Just how effective was he? During Atlanta’s final drive he was double covered from the line of scrimmage every play. If that doesn’t make sense simply picture Tony as a gunner on the punt team with two Patriots pushing him the entire way. He was a force to be reckoned with.
Atlanta’s defense gets a D
This was a very puzzling game. At halftime with the game tied at 10, the Falcons seemed to be doing an okay job of containing New England’s offense. Brady had completed just five of nine passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, and the Patriots were only able to rush for 64 yards.
But once halftime came and went Atlanta’s defense seemed to self-destruct again. Brady threw for 220 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Kenbrell Thompkins caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown while Julian Edelman pulled down seven catches for 118 yards. New England only ran for an additional 68 yards in the second half but Legarrette Blount was able to score on a 47-yard run which should have been stopped around the line of scrimmage.
Atlanta’s red zone offense gets an F
Matt Ryan may have thrown for 421 yards but seemed incapable of completing a pass once Atlanta got inside the 20-yard line.
Six times the Falcons were in the red zone. They were able to muster one touchdown and turned the ball over on downs twice. The final drive ending on downs is understandable because they needed seven points to tie. But in the second quarter, with Atlanta only trailing 7-3, Smitty decided to roll the dice on fourth down and lost big time.
Atlanta will stay at home as they play their third straight AFC East opponent, the surprising 2-2 New York Jets on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. EST.
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.