- Amid the heavy fog that fell in New England, the highly anticipated Super Bowl rematch fell flat as the Atlanta offense continued to sputter.
Three thoughts on the Patriots 23–7 win over the Falcons on Sunday Night Football...
1. It’s time to pull the plug on Steve Sarkisian and give Raheem Morris a chance at offensive coordinator. The Falcons eventually got some points on the board at the end of the game—the team’s first points in 90:31 of game time—but this performance was a continuation of one of the most disappointing storylines of the season. Sarkisian’s goal appears to be creating a more horizontal offense than the one that carried Atlanta to a Super Bowl last season, and yet, against a pass defense that has struggled mightily this season, with multiple injuries in the defensive backfield and no elite pass-rushing threat, the Falcons failed to gain ground in any meaningful way until the fourth quarter. Morris, assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, has experience with the offense during a time when it was arguably the most prolific in the league, unlike Sarkisian, who must accept the lion’s share of the blame here.
2. Kudos are in order for the Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for putting a lid on Julio Jones for as long as such a talent can be contained. Special teams ace Johnson Bademosi, among others, was effective in limiting Jones and forcing Ryan to go elsewhere with the football, and the Falcons’ star receiver was only effective during Atlanta’s garbage-time scoring drive, largely because he wasn’t being bracketed the way he’d been all game. One would have expected a big game from Austin Hooper against a Patriots team that has been especially vulnerable to opposing tight ends, but Hooper managed just one catch for six yards. Have the Patriots righted the ship on defense? There’s a big matchup looming against a resurgent Chargers offense with exceptional team speed, and New England’s performance will tell volumes.
3. It will be a long flight home for Adrian Clayborn, whose bone-headed and deserved roughing-the-passer penalty wiped an interception off the board in the first quarter, which led to a Patriots first down and eventual touchdown to go up 7–0 in the second quarter. Ditto for kicker Matt Bryant, who missed two field goals that appeared to take the wind out of the Falcons. These two teams came out throwing haymakers, but only New England sustained the intensity for four quarters. Some high-profile mental errors were a big factor.