The Atlanta Falcons have to learn how to finish games. In each of the three games this season, the Falcons have held a double-digit lead. In two of those games, including last week against the Miami Dolphins, the Falcons lost.
And thus, the team sits at 1-2, and is preparing to face a 3-0 New England Patriots team.
What Mike Smith has been good at throughout his tenure as head coach of the Falcons is ensuring the team doesn’t lose back-to-back games.
Since 2008, the Falcons are 21-3 in games following a loss. And they haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2009.
Atlanta currently ranks as the seventh-best passing offense in the league, and they’ve done it by riding wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones leads the league in receiving yards with 373. He’s also tied with Patriot wide receiver Julian Edelman for the league lead in receptions with 27.
The other top members of the Falcons’ passing attack have been largely ineffective. Tight end Tony Gonzalez looks a bit sluggish after missing a large part of training camp, and wide receiver Roddy White has been hampered by a high ankle sprain.
Although the Patriots are undefeated, the Falcons present the first real challenge. Thus far, New England has defeated the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Combined, those teams are 3-6.
To make matters worse for the Patriots, Tom Brady hasn’t looked normal. Granted, his top targets have been sidelined with injuries – wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was signed to fill Wes Welker’s role, and tight end Rob Gronkowski – but Brady has been missing passes he usually makes.
Currently, he’s working with two rookies in second-round draft pick Aaron Dobson and undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins, and the aforementioned Edelman.
Against the Bucs last week, Brady and the two rookies did manage to find a little rhythm, but there was no connection whatsoever in the first two games.
There is a chance at least one of Brady’s top targets return against the Falcons. Gronkowski was listed as questionable for the Bucs game, so he’s apparently nearing return.
The last time the two teams met was Week 3 of 2009 in Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots took the game 26-10. Brady sports a perfect 3-0 record against the Falcons.
If the Falcons had pulled out a victory against the Dolphins last week, I would have picked them to lose this game. However, Atlanta’s ability to bounce back after a loss cannot be denied. I think the Falcons get the win and get to .500.
Points Scored: 23.7 (12th)
Total Offense: 379.0 (9th)
Passing Offense: 289.0 (7th)
Rushing Offense: 90.0 (22nd)
Points Allowed: 24.7 (20th)
Total Defense: 375.0 (23rd)
Passing Defense: 296.0 (25th)
Rushing Defense: 79.0 (5th)
New England Patriots:
Points Scored: 19.7 (22nd)
Total Offense: 340.3 (17th)
Passing Offense: 217.7 (22nd)
Rushing Offense: 122.7 (12th)
Points Allowed: 11.3 (2nd)
Total Defense: 309.0 (8th)
Passing Defense: 188.3 (6th)
Rushing Defense: 120.7 (24th)