In a foggy one in Foxborough, it was clear as day that the New England Patriots came to play with a stellar 23-7 win against the Atlanta Falcons in the rematch of Super Bowl LI.
This game showed the defensive toughness and lockdown potential that was originally envisioned.
This was the biggest test this defensive group would ever face this season and without two of their top three cornerbacks in Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore.
Malcolm Butler, Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones covered the Falcons receiving corp with ease giving up 152 yards passing in almost three quarters of play and only giving up 3 receptions for 33 yards to all-world receiver Julio Jones in that time span.
The pass rush was just as stellar enforcing pressure quarterback Matt Ryan with Adam Butler grabbing his first sack of his young career.
Head coach Bill Belichick had a lot of great things to say about his team but mainly his defense.
“We made a lot of plays when we needed to make them, red area, third down, some critical situations, goal line” Belichick said. “Give the players credit they were covering good receivers, they were playing against a good offensive team, good quarterback, good system.”
The unit didn’t seem fixable at first and there was skepticism if the group would ever turn the corner and adjust. Well against some of the most dynamic players in the NFL, it seems like they have at the right time. Just look at that goal line stand at the beginning of the 4th quarter.
Patriots safety and captain Devin McCourty applauded his group saying that everything was executed the way they wanted it done.
“I thought we executed our gameplan perfectly tonight.” McCourty said. “I thought we competed and made them earn every yard.”
The offense was no slouch either as running backs James White and Dion Lewis acted as the one-two punch expected from the two scat backs.
Lewis is getting healthier and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is starting to find speedster Brandin Cooks more and more as he had his third touchdown reception which was a great exhibition of his speed to get into the endzone.
Top Performers: Offense – 2 Defense – 4
Brandin Cooks: The Cooks and Brady connection was on full display and is one to watch going forward. He had 4 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Running backs: All four running backs Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Lewis, and White were used in a committee and it worked with all four running contributing in the running and passing game.
Malcolm Butler: Butler shut down everyone he covered only allowing 4 completions for 50 yards on 5 targets in the important moments of the game. Butler was also very physical with his tackling, stopping the run as well as catch and runs.
He did allow a touchdown to Jones which was almost intercepted in garbage time that will only be counted against him on the stat sheet but not to the defense overall.
The back up cornerbacks: Bademosi and Jones showed their prowess as cover corners and versatility and will be key parts of this defense going forward.
The defensive line: The defensive line was able to apply pressure and hold Devonta Freeman and Tevon Coleman disappointing days on the stat sheet.
David Harris: Harris was a no-show the first few games but with the injury to Dont’a Hightower in the early going, he was essential stopping the run.