The New England Patriots have now won five consecutive games after taking down the Falcons on Thursday in Atlanta 25-0. Mac Jones and the Patriots offense built up their lead pretty early in this matchup, scoring 13 points over their first three possession to begin the game. New England's lone offensive touchdown of the night came courtesy of a 19-yard pass to Nelson Agholor from Jones. And as the Patriots' offense built up a solid enough cushion, Bill Belichick's defense thrashed the Falcons from the jump.
Matt Ryan had little time to throw the football whenever he dropped back to pass and was sacked three times in the first half (four total sacks for the game). Even when Atlanta was in a position to put points on the board, poor execution plagued them. The biggest example of that came on the Falcons third drive of the day. They were able to bring the football as far as the New England 14-yard line, however, a 13-yard sack and a subsequent illegal formation penalty on a field goal attempt led to a missed 50-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo. The second half wasn't much better for the Falcons as Ryan was picked off on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter that effectively eliminated any chance of a late rally (or backdoor cover).
Jones finished his day completing 22 of 26 for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The backfield totaled 138 yards rushing with Rhamondre Stevenson (69 yards) and Damien Harris (56) leading the way. Meanwhile, Ryan completed 19 of 28 for 153 yards and two interceptions.
For more on how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below.
Why the Patriots won
The Patriots' defense continues to be the backbone of this winning streak and its improved play over the last month-plus has raised the ceiling for this team exponentially. They were able to apply pressure on Ryan early and often, and from every which way. New England pressured Ryan on the outside with Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy both coming up with sacks along with up the middle of the line with tackle Davon Godchaux. In all, Ryan was sacked four times on the night and was hit a total of 12 times.
Those sacks also come up in timely spots. As we noted in the intro, one of the bigger blunders by Atlanta came on that botched red zone execution in the second quarter. On a third-and-1 from the Patriots 14, Kyle Van Noy was able to sack Ryan for a 13-yard loss, which ultimately sparked a meltdown that resulted in zero points. In the second half, that pressure then translated into turnovers as New England's defense finished with four straight interceptions to end the game. Two were from Ryan while the final two picks came off of backups Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks.
Offensively, the Patriots continued to be efficient out of the gate. Jones spread the ball around early and completed 14 of his 15 first-half throws for 136 yards and a touchdown as New England built up a 13-0 lead. In all, Jones completed throws to nine different Patriots pass-catchers. Meanwhile, Damien Harris was the catalyst on the offense's lone touchdown of the evening as he accounted for 43 of the team's 76 yards on the scoring drive.
Why the Falcons lost
Atlanta looked like an under .500 team for the bulk of Thursday's contest. As we've previously touched on, the Falcons' offensive line really had trouble keeping Ryan upright for the bulk of this contest, particularly at the tackle spots as the pressure seemed to constantly be coming off both edges. With Cordarrelle Patterson out for this game, the backfield struggled mightily, totaling just 40 yards for the game on 2.5 yards per carry. The defense largely did its job as it held New England to a manageable 13 points for the bulk of this game, but the offense simply couldn't keep up its end of the bargain.
While the Falcons were overpowered for most of this game, they also couldn't get out of their own way at times. The issues leading up to Koo's missed 50-yard field goal was a prime example, but there were a number of other instances where Atlanta shot itself in the foot. After an interception by A.J. Terrell, the club had some questionable play-calling on their ensuing possession that produced zero points (more on that sequence below) and there were a few play calls that simply didn't make sense.
Atlanta also found itself in a number of third-and-long situations and was only able to convert two of its 11 third-down situations for the game. When your 11 total drives consist of five punts and four interceptions, you're not going to win many games.
While it may not have felt like it at times, the Falcons were technically in this game for the majority of the contest. There was a brief sign of life after Terrell was able to pick off Jones on a rare poor decision by the rookie as the Falcons were getting the ball on their own 48-yard line with the score just 13-0. Atlanta was able to move the ball deep into Patriots territory and as far as the New England 16-yard line. It was at this point where some questionable plays were called by head coach Arthur Smith.
On third-and-1, Ryan handed the ball off to Keith Smith, who would travel for no gain. Then, as the Falcons elected to go for it on fourth-and-1, they again handed the ball off, this time to Qadree Ollison, who would turn in the same result as Smith and force a turnover on downs. While going with the ground game is a logical call, it seemingly would have made more sense to have Ryan sneak the ball forward.
That was the Falcons' last true shot of making it a ball game and they couldn't get over the hump for that extra yard.
Play of the game
Ryan's first interception to Devin McCourty was a good view of how this entire night went. The Falcons quarterback barely set his feet after his dropback and immediately had two Patriots defenders in his grill. That forced to him to loft a pass to the right side of the field and McCourty was able to sprint to the sideline to make the catch. The throw was intended for rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, but he seemed to slow up on the route has he battled with safety Kyle Dugger off the line of scrimmage. That's as solid of complementary football as you'll find by New England with the pass rush helping the secondary create a turnover.
Meanwhile, an honorable mention for play of the game was a nifty pass by Ryan to Mike Davis early in this matchup where the quarterback had to fit the football in a tight window over Judon's helmet. While that play or drive didn't result in points, it was arguably the best throw of the game.
From here, the Patriots will head back to Foxborough and prepare to play host to the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. Meanwhile, the Falcons will be heading on the road to face the Jaguars in Jacksonville.