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Patriots vs. Falcons: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots

Atlanta Falcons v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

If you’re a fan of the classic show Seinfeld (and if you aren’t you need to remedy that ASAP), you’ll likely recall an episode of called “The Opposite.” It’s easily one of the best episodes of the entire series, as it’s the one where George Costanza realizes that every instinct he has ever had is completely wrong. Every decision he has ever made is incorrect. Upon realizing this,he decides to do the complete opposite of whatever it is he’s thinking and see where that takes him.

The result? A beautiful new girlfriend and a job with the New York Yankees.

Well I’m officially George Costanza now, and the 2017 NFL season is my own personal episode of “The Opposite.” Absolutely every instinct, thought, and sentiment I have about the NFL this year is completely wrong. I have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s time for me to just start saying the complete opposite of what I’m thinking.

Because while I predicted a Patriots win during my pregame show with Rich Hill (and wasn’t that far off on the score, either), I fully admitted that my pick was based on nothing more than my complete cluelessness and the fact that nothing makes sense in the NFL this year at all. When it comes to this season, I got nuthin. So I’m just going to start doing the exact opposite of whatever I think is correct and see where that takes me.

Starting with this incredibly convincing win.

  • As this was the first Sunday Night Football game I actually tuned into this year, I hadn’t seen any of the pregame intros and lead-ins. This year’s is fine, I guess. I always wonder how much they cost, and I also wonder how much actual football fans care in the slightest about who is singing and what color the sparks are that shoot out when Gronk CGI spikes it. Then again, the NFL hasn’t cared about fans for a very long time now.
  • Speaking of color...the Patriots just don’t seem to lose games while wearing their color rush uniforms.
  • The Patriots are losing coin tosses at an alarming rate. I’m not sure if they have changed up their strategy or somebody changed their lucky socks or what, but New England needs to stop kicking off to start the third quarter.
  • I want to put a little odometer on Dion Lewis’s ankle that tracks how far he actually runs per game. He finished with 76 yards on 12 caries last night, but the amount of time he spends juking around, he most likely ran about 400 yards.
  • This was a win, and a convincing one at that, so it’s important to focus on the positive. So I’m going to get all of my criticisms out of the way now so we can keep on being all happy and enjoy this Victory Monday.
  • FLAGS. Eight penalties for 65 yards. At one point there were more flags thrown then there were minutes off the clock. And unlike in the past, most of these penalties were legitimate. The Patriots now lead the league in OPI calls, and are good for at least one bonehead holding call per game.
  • That said... when I was a kid, I played a lot of video games. And in a lot of the games I played, characters had a special attack or ability that did a lot more damage, but also sucked away your life bar so you had to be careful not to overuse it. I’d like to find a way to apply that concept to the referees.
  • How about we don’t show the ref making the call on TV? Just have the audio playing and cut to Giselle in the stands instead? Maybe if the refs knew nobody would see their stupid face, they wouldn’t be so willing to throw a flag every thirty seconds.
  • Red Zone offense continues to be an issue here. Two TDs in five trips...actually, you know what? That actually might be enough to get it done in 2017, seeing as how every team in the league is awful. But you’d want to see more TDs when you’re inside the 20.
  • Stretch runs to Mike Gillislee - why? Why do the Patriots insist on taking the between the tackles runner they brought in to grind out yards and make him run east and west first? Maybe Gillislee really, really likes stretch plays or something. It’s the only explanation I have.
  • Just as everyone predicted, neither offense could get anything going in the first quarter as the vaunted defenses of the Patriots and Falcons held.
  • On the Patriots side of the ball... how about Johnson freaking Bademosi? Covering Julio Jones, no less? I had never even heard of him until last week, but he’s legit playing like a shutdown corner.
  • He’s also one of the better tacklers in that secondary. This is one area where being a special teamer translates very well; Bademosi likes to body his receivers, as he’s used to a player running at him with a full head of steam. I don’t want to jinx it...and since my instinct is telling me he’s going to be a gem, that means it’s time for him to come crashing down to earth, but it has been a really nice storyline thus far.
  • And also as everyone predicted, Rex Burkhead got the bulk of the early carries.
  • One area of frustration for me thus far in 2017 is the way that the Patriots don’t ride the hot hand at running back. Burkhead ran incredibly well early, so they took him out and put Dion Lewis in. Lewis started getting into a rhythm, so on game Gillislee. It’s clearly deliberate, and at this point it has to be a concerted effort to limit everyone’s touches to ensure that, come December and January, none of the backs are worn down. The Patriots as a team ran incredibly well - 162 yards on 36 total carries, including a whopping six yard run from Tommy B - but no back carried the ball more than 13 times. That has to be deliberate.
  • Speaking of QBs running it- I’m ecstatic that, for once, a quarterback didn’t scramble for a huge first down on 3rd and 6. Props to Matt Ryan for waiting until 4th down before making a play with his legs.
  • I don’t trust Molly from General Electric as far as I can throw her. Sure, she seems like a brilliant engineer who knows how to maximize efficiency and ensure that we’re all able to afford a nice, low, electirc bill...but when the robot apocalypse comes and we’re all forced to live undeground, Matrix style, Molly is going to have a lot to answer for.
  • Another trend I’ve been noticing this year: the 2017 Patriots might be the equivalent of a fighter who doesn’t get going until he gets clocked in the face. Looking back over the past few weeks, you can almost pinpoint the exact moment where the Patriots woke up and got to work.
  • Last night’s? As the 2nd quarter kicked off, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 16 at their own 20, following a blocked FG attempt to keep the game scoreless. The plays preceding the third down were: sack, run for no gain, false start. The possession before that went one yard in three plays. The one before that was a Chad Pennington-esque eight play, 22 yard drive that went nowhere. But on 3rd and 16, Brady was able to step up in the pocket and hit Chris Hogan over the middle for 20. Dion Lewis picked up 25 on the next play, and Brandin Cooks was in the end zone on a shuttle-toss sweep a few plays later. The Patriots would score on every single drive following this one, and it for sure represents the offensive turning point.
  • Apparently Chris Hogan had a few teeth knocked out in practice this week. Practice, folks.
  • Tommy B might want to check his teeth as well...that hit he took from Adrian Claiborne isn’t something I want to see ever again. They kept showing it in slow motion, and all I could think about was this.
  • Thank Tebow for that hit, though...because there was clearly some major miscommunication between Brady and his receiver - I think the intended Target was Philip Dorsett. Every once in a while, Tommy B will throw a really, really bad pick, and that almost happened again last night. My instinct tells me he’ll have at least one red zone INT this year, though, so that bodes well for him being perfect inside the 20.
  • What was great about that pick, though, is we got to see Gronk put Robert Alford in a bodybag on the return. Gronk also followed that tackle by harnessing his inner Bobby Boucher on the Cooks TD. What a beast.
  • Cooks is really starting come into his own in this offense. I don’t like the way that he looks around for a flag every time the ball is thrown in his direction regardless of whether or not he catches it...but that’s pretty much all I don’t like about him.
  • You won’t hear me give Nate Solder any crap for the rest of the year. His son just began chemotherapy. Blocking for a gorgeous millionaire might not be incredibly high up on his priorities list.
  • I’m surprised the Patriots tried so many screens against a Falcons defense with excellent lateral speed. Screen passes are great against a strong pass rush, but when the linebackers have phenomenal recovery speed, the result is a lot of what you saw last night.
  • David Harris did something! Alert! David Harris did something! He came in on a blitz and forced an early Matt Ryan throw! Cue the duckboats!
  • After Adam Butler’s first sack as a pro, Atlanta faced a 3rd and 20 from their own 37. Amazingly, Matt Ryan didn’t scramble for 21 yards. He also didn’t scramble for seven when Atlanta went for it on 4th and 6.
  • New England went into halftime with a 17-0 lead...three whole scores. Nothing to worry about in terms of a comeback, right? Right?
  • As of halftime of last night’s game, the Patriots defense hadn’t allowed a TD in four straight quarters. What?
  • That number almost went up to six as the 54 straight unanswered points the Patriots scored on the Falcons streak came to an end late in the 4th quarter. I still have no idea what’s going on with this defense, but they’re keeping teams out of the end zone.
  • Speaking of streaks coming to an end...congrats to Joe Thomas. Over 10K snaps played for the Browns. That’s 10K more snaps than any player ever wants to play for the Browns.
  • Fun Patriots fact: TJ Connelly is the regular DJ for almost all Red Sox and Patriots games. He’s in charge of intro music, third down music, the works. As last night’s fog rolled in, he decided to bust out “Smoke on the Water” and “Purple Haze.” Get that man a raise.
  • And while we’re talking about... I demand that the NFL look into Bill Belichick’s illegal manipulation of the weather. Or maybe he had coaching assistants buy out every fog machine in the region. Either way, get ready to lose some draft picks.
  • I knew that having a corp of pasty white receivers would eventually come in handy. If only the Pats had decided to wear their all-white color rush uniforms, Burkhead probably could have snuck all the way down the field completely undetected.
  • The coolest part about the fog, in my opinion, was the full-time switch to the rear vision cam. It offered a cool perspective, almost like a real-life Madden.
  • The only problem with that angle is that it’s harder to really break down the game. Luckily, it was well over by that point anyway. It just Sucks for everyone who paid out the wazoo for tickets last night.
  • I absolutely love how the NFL makes this huge deal about helmet-to-helmet hits. Meanwhile, offensive and defensive linemen are headbutting each other to death on every single snap and running backs lead with the face, no problem.
  • Maybe Atlanta was so scared of blowing another lead they simply decided to never have one.
  • Live look at the 2017 season as a whole.