Monthly Archives: October 2017

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FOXBORO — After the disastrous start to the season, the Patriots defense has made amends.

After holding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets to under 20 points, the unit played even better on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots made shutting down Matt Ryan & Co. look easy during their 23-7 victory at foggy Gillette Stadium, as the defense stifled the Falcons on third and fourth downs.

The Falcons finished the game completing 22 percent of their third-down conversions (2 of 9). They also went one for three on fourth down.

The mere fact that Atlanta tried for multiple fourth-down conversions in the first half showed how little respect they had for the Pats defense. The unit, however, proved to be up to the challenge.

The defense started the game out with a three-and-out. On the next series, after stopping the Falcons again on third down, Ryan ran for a gain of nine on fourth-and-7.

The next third down, however, Patriots cornerback Johnson Bademosi deflected a pass intended for Falcons superstar receiver Julio Jones. That set up a field goal, which Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh blocked. Two third-down stops led to field-goal attempts, but the Falcons didn’t convert either (block and miss).

The Patriots deflected three of Ryan’s seven pass attempts on third down. After Bademosi’s play, undrafted free agent cornerback Jonathan Jones made a diving breakup at 1:19 of the first, on third-and-10. Patriots CB/safety Malcolm Butler also came up big, on third-and-1. At 14:42 of the fourth, he deflected a pass intended for Jones in the end zone.

Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy also played a big part, coming up with three tackles in clutch situations. On the second third down of the game, the linebacker stopped powerful Falcons running back Devonta Freeman for a loss of three yards. Van Noy also stopped Jones six yards shy of the first down on third-and-20 at 2:36 of the second.

Van Noy’s biggest play came at 14:36 of the fourth. On fourth-and-1, at the 1-yard line, the Falcons ran an end around, but Van Noy sniffed the play out. He was able to get by tight end Levine Toilolo and hit wideout Tyler Gabriel for a 5-yard loss.

In the secondary, it was a joint effort to try and contain Jones, who finished with nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. The receiver caught passes against Butler, Bademosi, safety Duron Harmon and free safety Devin McCourty.

Bademosi played well giving up one pass on two targets for 15 yards. Butler was up and down, allowing five catches on seven targets for 51 yards. He allowed a touchdown, which Jones ripped out of his hands. Jonathan Jones didn’t allow a catch on three targets.

The bulk of Ryan’s production came in the open flat (7 for 7, 40 yards) or in front of a soft zone (4 for 4, 47 yards).

Offense outstanding

The Patriots’ offense played the opposite of the Falcons. Tom Brady and his group were outstanding on third down converting 54 percent of the time (7 of 13). This was truly the difference in the game.

Credit goes to the offensive line as Brady had plenty of time to throw the ball when he needed to.

The first third down the Pats saw, the Falcons blitzed, overloading the right side. Brady got rid of the ball in 2.59 seconds to hit tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first.

Faced with a thrird-and-16, at 7:54 of the first, Brady had 3.62 seconds to throw the ball and hit receiver Chris Hogan for a gain of 20. Next, third-and-8, at 7:45 of the second, Brady had 3.83 seconds to throw and he hit Gronk for 27 yards.

Brady had over 3.6 seconds on four of his eight third-down pass attempts. It’s nearly impossible to stop the quarterback when he has that much time.

Brady was also accurate. Of his eight incomplete passes only four (three wide and one overthrown) were inaccurate. Two other were dropped, one was due to pressure and another was deflected.

Brady’s first “touchdown pass” didn’t take much effort on his part. He simply shuffled the ball to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who swept from the left to right side in front of the quarterback. Cooks had some help though on this 11-yard touchdown run.

Gronkowski led the way blocking for 11 yards. Cooks is so fast, that he held onto to Gronk’s jersey as the pair plowed into the front left corner of the end zone, through four defenders for the score.

On the 2-yard line, Brady didn’t need much time for his second touchdown. The quarterback released the ball in 2.89 seconds after a pass fake to Cooks on the right side. He threw a low pass to versatile running back James White, who was open in the front of the end zone.

Special teams key

It was easy to see why Patriots coach Bill Belichick was so happy after Marsh’s field-goal block. It was perfect execution by the special teams unit.

At 1:11 of the first quarter, the Patriots tipped their hand, but the Falcons still couldn’t stop them. As Falcons kicker Matt Bryant lined up for the 37-yard field goal attempt, the Patriots loaded up six plays on the right side of their field goal unit as opposed to only four on the left. With six Patriots rushing on four Falcons defenders, the mismatch was obvious before the snap.

On the left side, the Patriots had (in order from left to right) Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Marsh, Dont’a Hightower, Nate Ebner and Jones.

When the ball was snapped, Brown and Hightower did such a good job to get a push on Jake Matthews and Ty Sambrailo, it opened up a gap for Marsh. He immediately shot in and dove to get a hand on the kick.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons signed defensive lineman Taniela Tupouto the active roster on Tuesday.

Atlanta (3-1) has suffered a few injuries to players along their defensive line over the past few weeks – Jack Crawford recently was placed on the injured reserve list with a bicep injury while Vic Beasley (hamstring) and Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee) have also been dealing with injuries.

Adding Tupou to the active roster gives the Falcons depth at this position. With this move, the Falcons’ roster is now set at 53 players.

Tupou was originally signed by the Seattle Seahawks as a college free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft out of the University of Washington. That season he saw action in one game for the Seahawks.

The defensive lineman signed with the Falcons in May and was signed to Atlanta’s practice squad in Week 3.

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Following each Falcons game, head coach Dan Quinn will break down a play from the game in which he thinks was a key play in the game.
This week, Quinn selected Andre Roberts’ 61-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter. If it weren’t for an interception on third down, Atlanta would have been in great position – at worst – to get in kicker Matt Bryant’s field-goal range to possibly tie the game.

Here’s Quinn’s breakdown:

• Quarter: Fourth

• Time remaining: 4:43


Above: Andre Roberts is back in the end zone to return for the Falcons.

Dan Quinn: “On this one, we are going to double one of their players. Joe (Vellano) takes one, Ben (Garland) takes one and there we go. All this has to be synchronized in time.”


Above: Ben Garland and Joe Vellano double-team Bills’ linebacker Deion Lacey and Roberts follows the lane they have created for him.

Below: On the second level, fullback Derrick Coleman’s trap block is key to allow Roberts to get to the outside and run in space.


Dan Quinn: “Derrick Coleman traps the 3, [and] he is going to come across behind the double and get a trap block. That’s the creativity on a kickoff return, who gets doubled, who gets trapped?”


Above: Rather than running away from Buffalo’s kicker Stephen Hauschka, Roberts attacks him straight on and then gets to the outside.

Dan Quinn: “He went right at the kicker and then broke him off outside. Just a good return, good energy for the team.”

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There aren’t a lot of guys to choose from to figure out who the best newcomer is for the Falcons this year. There’s this year’s draft class, starting with Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Then there’s Dontari Poe, the team’s marquee free agent signing.

McKinley already has a sack on the season, and he’s added seven tackles. He’s shown the speed that Dan Quinn saw in him at UCLA, and that explosion off the line of scrimmage is going to be fun to watch for years to come.

Poe’s impact is felt up front, even if it doesn’t necessarily show on the stat sheet. He’s able to get pressure up the middle and he’s helped the Falcons limit big gains on the ground. That’s a welcome change indeed.

It wasn’t an easy choice, so we let Dave, Jeanna, and Matt duke it out in a roundtable.

Dave Choate: Takkarist McKinley
No offense to speedy Duke Riley or big-time free agent signing Dontari Poe, but Takk’s been the best newcomer for these Atlanta Falcons, without question. He’s looked like the team’s third-best pass rusher behind Vic Beasley and (hilariously) Brooks Reed, he’s had a very short learning curve, and his speed and power off the edge will make him dangerous all year long. Given his sky-high ceiling and current level of production, he’s a slam dunk choice as the best player Atlanta’s added in 2017 thus far. Plus he’s my favorite Falcon on Twitter, by a wide margin.

Jeanna Thomas: Takkarist McKinley
McKinley is the easy call here, though I did at least give serious consideration to Dontari Poe. Takk missed a big chunk of offseason workouts thanks to a league rule that requires rookies from universities on quarter systems to return to school until after graduation, and he was also recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. That hasn’t stopped him from looking prepared and explosive so far this season. Plus, Takk is funny as hell, and he has a very good dog named Codeine, and he’s a great dancer. I’m glad to have him in Atlanta.

Matt Chambers: Dontari Poe
Poe plays an often overlooked position, but make no mistake, he’s been the biggest addition to Atlanta’s front seven. You’re not going to be able to look at his stats and see him as a playmaker, but you’ve seen a difference with the defense. The Falcons can suddenly get a stop on 4th-and-short. Their team stats are noticeably improved from last year. Falcons are giving up 0.3 less yards per carry, 3.2 fewer points per game, and 53 fewer yards per game. It all starts up front, and Poe is a huge reason for the improvement.

Well, it’s two against one. Dave and Jeanna win, and Matt loses. Congratulations, Takk McKinley. You’re the Falcons’ best newcomer.