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Keys to Winning: Falcons @ Patriots

Today, we face the Atlanta Falcons, a team we only square off with once every four years.  Tied with the Saints at 2-0, both teams are currently at the top of the NFC South.  NO takes on Buffalo today.  As 1-1 teams in the AFC East, NE and Buffalo will hope the other's matchup turns into a loss for them so either can sit alone at 2nd place in the East.  I'm sure Atlanta and NO are thinking the same.

But we're here to talk about the Falcons @ Patriots and the keys to winning.

  • Coaching - We always get on the players about their performance on the field, but the simple reality is coaching is one of the most important aspects of the game.  Whether in game prep or during the game, the coaching staff has to decide how to use the tools on the field.  From a preparation perspective, I really hope the coaching staff has been pounding on special teams.  The Jets' Leon Washington had over 100 return yards and a long of 43 in our Game 2 matchup.  It is my sincere hope that Scott O'Brien had no voice left after screaming at his guys.
  • Play Calling - The reason the Jets won was because they played to their strengths while not putting the team in a position where their weaknesses could lose the game.  Right now, the passing game is not there, especially against a blitzing and pass rushing team.  Well, based on the last game anyway.  Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag (blitz and rush Brady), NE needs weapons to make opponents nervous about sending the house or pulling a rusher out of coverage.  The typical weapon is screen passes and the usual suspects are Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk.  With Welker questionable on the injury report, those duties should fall to Faulk and, quite possibly, Welker Junior Julian Edelman.  I would also think pounding the rock would to unbalance the defense would be the thing to do.  Laurence Maroney needs to earn his paycheck.
  • Tom Brady - There's rust on #12 and it's hard to deny.  I can remember the media fawning over Brady's return as the second coming and proclaiming NE the odds on favorites for a Super Bowl win.  I remember writing how sick I was of it.  The endless power ranking nonsense putting the Patriots at the top of the heap was mind numbing.  But do not despair, my friends.  Tom Brady is a champion.  As a reminder, he's led his team to 3 Super Bowl wins in 4 trips.  Those who don't believe a quarterback has a larger share in a championship than any other player are either delusional or their Colts fans - take your pick.  Maybe they're both.  Tom will shake this rust and begin connecting with his receivers on an alarming basis.
  • Running Game - Our backs need to step up, particularly Laurence Maroney.  It's hard to tell if the coaching staff is limiting their use due to issues in the backfield or they're simply concentrating on the passing game but, at any rate, when they're called on, they need to produce.  A solid running attack is a great weapon against defenses that configure themselves for aerial assaults, especially in this pass happy league.  It makes them nervous.  They have to use more generic formations that are OK at both run and pass, rather than stellar against the pass.
  • Defense - Our defense, for all the reconfigurations it's going through, is doing fairly well.  We are dangerously thin at linebacker, but my biggest concern is the lack of an emerging pass rush.  I was hoping Derrick Burgess would be a maniac, but maybe that will develop in time.  I would like to see Matt Ryan VERY nervous today.  I needs to hit the ground a few times and be rushed on his throws.  Forget about prevent defenses and being cautious.  Throw the kitchen sink at him.
  • Passing Game - I've already talked about Tom Brady but, as a whole, the passing game needs to be back on the same page.  Receivers need to be adjusting their routes to what they're seeing on the field.  That's what Brady does and if the 2 aren't thinking the same thing, balls get dropped or thrown to the wrong place.  Getting back on the same page is crucial.

Speak up.  What are your thoughts on victory against the Falcons?  Will Falcons' DE John Abraham be a factor in this game?  Who will step in for the ailing Wes and Randy?  Game time is almost here.