Tom Brady's Passing Chart
Entering Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch Tom Brady's 38.8 pass attempts/game trailed only Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer atop the NFL leaderboard.
Brady's 29 pass attempts against the Falcons was by far a season-low, in fact, in the previous six games, he attempted at least 35 passes in each game.
The distance on Tom Brady's passes has been a major storyline this season, but this week it was more about direction than distance for Brady.
The five-time Super Bowl champion targeted the left sideline on 16 of his 29 pass attempts and 150 of his 249 passing yards went in that direction.
The Patriots made a concerted effort on offense to stay away from Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, who's one of the league's best cover corners.
Trufant lined up to Brady's right on 59 of his 72 snaps on Sunday and was targeted just three times in coverage.
Brady opted to target other Falcon defensive backs such as cornerback Robert Alford (5/7, 85 yards allowed in coverage) and safety Keanu Neal (4/8, 35 yards, TD).
Brady also wasn't waiting around to get hit by the Falcons' pass rushers, as his time to throw was a swift 2.33 seconds, by far his fastest release of the season.
Brady is still going deep 15% of the time through seven weeks, which ranks third in the NFL behind Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor and Houston rookie Deshaun Watson.
But we have seen it level off a bit in terms of deep passes in recent weeks.
Entering Week 7, Brandin Cooks had just one reception for 19 yards out of the slot this season.
Cooks has always been more of an outside receiver, but against the Falcons, 56 of his 65 receiving yards came on plays where he started in the slot.
One of those plays was a touch "pass" by Brady on a jet sweep that went to Cooks for a touchdown, but the production from the slot position is still interesting none the less.
This was not a big Danny Amendola game but once again all of his production in the passing game came out of the slot, and he hauled in another first down pass from Tom Brady.
The Patriots offensive line continues to round into form.
Tom Brady was sacked twice in this one but one came on a free run to the quarterback after a blitz went unaccounted for and the other was a Vic Beasley sack where Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn forced Brady to step up in the pocket and into Beasley.
In all, Tom Brady was pressured on just 25% of his dropbacks on Sunday night, and left tackle Nate Solder was the only Patriots offensive lineman to give up multiple pressures.
Solder continues to struggle at left tackle. His 25 total pressures allowed on the season is tied for the sixth-most among all offensive tackles.
The Patriots offensive line also deserves credit for the season-high 162 yards accumulated on the ground (4.5 yards/carry), and appears to have found a rhythm over the last few weeks.
Pass Rush/Run Stops
The lack of a pass rush from the front seven continues to be an issue for the Patriots.
Matt Ryan was pressured on just 29.7% of his dropbacks and had an average time to throw of 2.94 seconds, the fifth-highest mark in the NFL in Week 7.
Some of the pass rush struggles can be chalked up to strategy in this one.
The Patriots blitzed Matt Ryan on just 8 of his 34 dropbacks and used a variety of three and four-man rushes throughout the game.
However, the lack of timely pressure is still a huge concern, as the Patriots continue to hurry quarterbacks late in the down to accumulate most of their pressure stats.
The Dont'a Hightower breakout season as a pass rusher remains in a holding pattern as well.
Hightower didn't generate a single pressure on 18 pass rushing snaps in Week 7.
The Patriots' lack of an edge rusher that can consistently beat offensive tackles and get contact on the quarterback is their biggest weakness in terms of personnel in 2017.
The Patriots' coverage stats tell you a lot about why the Falcons only managed to score seven points on offense.
The matchup the Falcons picked on the most was whichever receiver was facing safety Patrick Chung in coverage.
The Patriots mainly played with two cornerbacks on the field (Malcolm Butler and Johnson Bademosi) and it was Chung that served as the third cornerback.
The Falcons liked that matchup, especially when Chung was covering WR Mohammad Sanu, failing to see that there were bigger advantages elsewhere.
Atlanta targeted running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman a combined four times, and tight end Austin Hooper saw just one target.
Going after Chung and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (6 targets) and Johnson Bademosi (4 targets) played to the strength of the Patriots' defense both in terms of personnel and strategy.
The Patriots were well prepared to deal with the Falcons' talented wide receiver group, as they used a variety of combination coverages with corners and safeties working in tandem to bracket receivers such as Julio Jones.
They then were able to hide, partially because of the Falcons' play calling, their poor coverage linebackers, mostly dropping them into underneath zones, and the Falcons allowed them to stay away from isolating a linebacker on one of the talented Falcon running backs.
The Patriots' defensive backs were more than up to the task on Sunday night, and the Falcons couldn't adjust to find more favorable matchups.
(h/t Pro Football Focus: https://www.profootballfocus.com/products/elite#edge)