By: Steve Balestrieri
The Patriots put together a much better effort on Sunday in dominating the Bucs to go 3-0 on the young season. Now the opponents will get much tougher and the next three games starting with the trip to Atlanta will give a much better look at where the team is at thus far.
The Falcons come in at a surprising 1-2, dropping a last minute game to the Dolphins and are dealing with some issues, not the least of which like New England are a myriad of injuries.
Let’s take a look at 5 First Impressions of the Falcons:
Atlanta Lacking “Killer Instinct”?- The Falcons, as was mentioned above have had their issues closing out games recently. The team starts off fast, which should be an issue for the Patriots but they seem to fade late in games.
Going back in their last five games, Atlanta has outscored its opponents 91-40 in the first half. But in those games the Falcons have been outscored 90-34 in the second half. This will be an interesting part of the game to watch as the Patriots haven’t given up any 4th quarter points yet this season.
Injuries Taking Their Toll-The Falcons, like the Pats are dealing with multiple injuries to key players right now and they’ve been taking their toll. Defensive end Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing were lost for the season during Week 2’s win over the Rams.
In addition, RB Steven Jackson has a thigh injury and could miss the next 1-3 games. WLB Sean Witherspoon is on IR designated to return and will miss eight weeks with a Lisfranc injury.
WR Roddy White has been playing but is nowhere near 100 percent dealing with a bad ankle sprain suffered in preseason. And LT Sam Baker (Knee/ankle) missed the Dolphins game.
Falcons Deep At Running Back-With Jackson on the mend against the Dolphins the Atlanta running game was turned over to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling and both turned in impressive performances.
Both had yards per carry averages of 4.8 with Rodgers gaining 86 yards on 18 carries and Snelling gaining 53 more on 11 carries. Snelling had a combined 100 yards rushing and receiving chipping in with an additional 58 yards out of the backfield including a big 34 yard catch.
Osi Washed Up? Not By A Long Shot-Defensive End Osi Umenyiora was deemed by the Giants to be done this off-season and he was signed by the Falcons. Most Patriots fans remember Umenyiora as a disruptive force inside and he still seems to have a lot left in the tank. Osi was part of an excellent effort along the defensive front seven chipping in with 2 of the team’s five QB sacks against the Dolphins. He also had two forced fumbles in the game. They also had six QB hits as this will be an issue to monitor on Sunday night for the Patriots offensive line has had its issues the past two games with providing pass protection.
Julio Jones Is Ryan’s Go-to Guy-The Falcons with all their injuries are leaning on Jones their big (6’3,220) wide receiver from Alabama who is in his third season and already has 27 catches for 373 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Against Miami, Ryan targeted Jones 12 times and he responded with 9 catches for 115 yards. With Roddy White still hobbling, Jackson out and tight end Anthony Gonzalez seemingly a step slower this season, the onus is on Jones to produce and he has.
Watch for Jones to be matched up with Aqib Talib in much the same manner that he lined up with Vincent Jackson in Week 3.
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