The Patriots are finally beginning to rediscover themselves after a confidence-boosting game on Sunday. All it took was a matchup against the Falcons, who they beat in Super Bowl LI last February, to set them straight. The final score of 23-7 reflects New England’s play on the offensive and defensive end. Multiple players contributed to the end result.
Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski
The offensive passing game was fueled by none other than Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski finished the game with three receptions for 51 yards and half of a touchdown. Cooks ended the night with four catches for 65 yards and the other half of a touchdown (technically a whole one according to the stat books). The players alternated gaining first downs throughout the entirety of the game and continued the Patriots offensive push.
Gronk and Cooks’ most notable play was a combined effort touchdown early in the second quarter. Gronkowski acted as a human snowplow while Cooks drove them into the end zone to put New England on the board. Both players are averaging 50 receiving yards per game and Cooks also leads the NFL in deep pass receptions. The statistics regarding Cooks and Gronkowski are only going to get better as this regular season progresses.
Malcolm Butler and Johnson Bademosi
The Secondary is only getting better and New England couldn’t be happier. Malcolm Butler is becoming more consistent in his coverage and Johnson Bademosi burst onto the scene with a great game, proving he belongs in the Patriots rotation. Butler had six total tackles, one pass defended, and one almost interception. Anyone that Butler had to cover was covered; not once was he beaten for a long pass. He almost got away with an interception, but Atlanta’s Julio Jones simply had the better positioning in order to rip the ball out of Butler’s hands for a touchdown.
Bademosi ended the night with five tackles and two assists. The cornerback was presented with his opportunity to shine due to injuries in that position. Now that Belichick sees what Bademosi can do, it’s likely we will see more of him even once the others recover. Butler and Bademosi have the potential to recreate the Secondary into one fit for champions.
Dion Lewis is rallying the running backs as they solidify into a more consistent unit. Lewis ran 13 snaps for 76 yards, caught one pass for six yards, and had one kick return for 14 yards. Many of his athletic runs resulted in first downs or brought the team within a yard or so of the marker. It should be noted that after the first half, the rest of the running backs began to contribute. Burkhead, White, and Gillislee all got fired up and added to the run game once the second half started. Lewis can officially sit with kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the reliable players club.
Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon
The offensive line as a whole put up a better performance than previously this season. However, protecting Brady is still a major problem; Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon struggled in this area. Combined, the two allowed the quarterback to be sacked on a few plays. Brady took one especially nasty hit with nine minutes left in the first quarter. The replay clearly shows his head and neck snapping backward at an awkward angle as both players fall to the ground. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume Brady suffered a small concussion following that hit. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, the offensive line’s priority is to protect the quarterback. There still isn’t much improvement in that field and who knows how much more Brady will be able to endure.
Considering the Falcons only scored one touchdown late in the second half, the defensive line certainly did some things right. The line all but shut down Atlanta’s run game; leaving them with no choice but to pass. However, quarterback Matt Ryan was able to scramble for two first downs (one on fourth down) with little pressure from New England. Multiple times he was also able to escape the pocket and avoid being sacked while getting a good pass off. Much work still needs to be done regarding the Patriots defense, but at least they’re on the right track.
Patrick Chung finished the game on Sunday with five tackles and one assist. Chung had two well-guarded pass break ups and stopped runs. The strong safety also had a missed tackle and gave up a deep pass towards the end of the game. His statistics look better than those of last week’s game, but getting beat deep is a mistake that will eventually cause big problems. Chung is listed as the best strong safety on the Patriots team; he needs to step up in order to rally the other safeties.
As a whole, the Patriots gave us a glimpse of the team we used to know as Super Bowl LI champions. A few errors appeared here and there but the worst of the rust is finally gone. New England faces off against Los Angeles this weekend; I have a feeling good things are on the horizon.