The New England Patriots have won five games in a row, with the latest of those victories coming in dominant fashion on Thursday Night Football. Beating the Atlanta Falcons on the road with a final score of 25-0, New England improved to 7-4 and another step closer towards playoff contention.
The Patriots played a near-perfect game on a short turnaround. With that said, let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Thursday’s contest.
Winner: LB Kyle Van Noy
It’s taken some time for Kyle Van Noy to get going here in his second stint in New England, but he’s been arguably the defense’s most dynamic player over the last few weeks. Against the Falcons, he had a career night with two sacks, two tackles for loss, eight tackles in total and a pick-six. It was arguably the best game of his career.
Bill Belichick praised Van Noy’s versatility in his postgame press conference with his ability to play all over the defense, both inside and outside, off-ball and on the edge. If the Patriots want to be playing late in January, they are going to need this version of Van Noy showing up on a weekly basis.
Winner: DT Christian Barmore
The rookie continued his dominance on Thursday night by consistently beating double teams and pushing the pocket for guys like Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy to pick up their sacks. Barmore’s ability to draw this much attention as a rookie due to his explosiveness and variety of pass rush moves has allowed the other members of the Patriots’ front to make plays on the ball.
He likely will not win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors due to the outstanding play of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, but Christian Barmore continues to show that he may end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2021 draft.
Winner: OLB Matthew Judon
Eleven games, eleven straight weeks of Matthew Judon popping up in the winner category. Judon set a career-high in sacks on Thursday night by picking up his 10.5th sack of the season and moving into third third place league-wide. Judon's consistency week-in and week-out both against the run, the pass and in the kicking game has allowed this Patriots to reach a whole new level.
The high-priced free agency addition is worth every penny so far.
Loser: C David Andrews
It is hard to get on David Andrews due to his consistency and leadership amongst the offensive line, but he was flagged for two holding calls last night. One of them negated a monster run from Rhamondre Stevenson that would have put the Patriots in the red area. Andrews has been one of the best center across the league all season long, and we’re sure he will bounce back next week and continue to lead the league’s top O-line.
Winner: RB Damien Harris and RB Rhamondre Stevenson
On a night where the Patriots offense stalled a bit, it was still able to move the ball efficiently through both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. With Harris being cleared to play yesterday and after Stevenson’s big game on Sunday, we knew going in that both would have pretty substantial roles and split the work.
With both Harris and Stevenson running the ball (and fullback Jakob Johnson leading the way) and the types of physical backs that they are, the Patriots will continue to bully teams up front and wear defenses down. If Mac Jones can continue to play turnover-free football — something the rookie quarterback failed to do on Thursday — New England will be a tough out with these two guys leading the way and continuing to show that “bully ball” mentality.
Winner: S Kyle Dugger
Fresh off his best game as a pro on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Kyle Dugger picked up right where he left off. He was matched up with Kyle Pitts for most of the night and held the talented rookie to just two catches. He made a big play early on in the game on third down where he showed the improvements he’s made in coverage when he stuck with Pitts and made a nice play on the ball.
Dugger has been a budding star in this defense and has been a chess piece for Bill Belichick. A lot of people talk about the 2021 draft class (deservedly so) but Kyle Dugger leading the 2020 class was another slam-dunk pick by Belichick.
Winner: Nick Folk
The Patriots’ place kicker continues to perform at a Pro Bowl level, contributing 13 of the team’s 25 points. While he did miss an extra point following Kyle Van Noy’s pick-six, he was money before that play: Folk made kicks from 32, 44, 53 and 33 yards out and therefore helped New England stay on top despite the offense’s inability to finish drives.