The New England Patriots shut out the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football with a final score of 25-0. Now at 7-4 they have very much established themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL right now.
With that said, here are 10 takeaways from the game.
1. We’re going streaking! C’mon guys, bring Snoop, and don’t forget your green hat, the Patriots are going streaking!
New England has won five straight, and is one of the hottest teams in football right now. Not only are the Patriots winning these games, they are blowing teams out: they have outscored their opponents 175-50 during their five-game winning streak. After a 2-4 start, we thought that maybe the success would not come before next year, but the Patriots are now 7-4 and find themselves right in the middle of a fight, not only for a playoff spot, but for a division title.
2. The Falcons cannot escape 28-3. One more note about this fifth consecutive Patriots win: the final score was 25-0. 28 - 3 = 25.
Oh, the longest partial lunar eclipse in almost 600 years also took place right after the game. It lasted 3 hours and 28 minutes.
3. New England’s defense stifles another opponent: Although the Patriots offense did not light up the scoreboard like it did last week, the game was never really in jeopardy, because the New England defense simply would not allow the Falcons to do anything. Matt Ryan was sacked four times and picked off twice. The Falcons leading rusher was practice squad elevatee Qadree Ollison, who finished with 34 yards — 22 of which came on back-to-back plays. Overall, the Falcons averaged just 2.5 yards per carry.
Once again, some of the underneath stuff was open for the offense, but the Patriots refused to get beat deep, and forced another team to try to beat them by throwing short passes all the way down the field. Once again, their opponent was either unwilling or unable to do so, and the Patriots pitched their first shutout since a 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers last year. New England looks to have one of the best defenses in football right now.
4. Kyle Van Noy shines again: This is going to come as a shock to you, but it seems like I was wrong about Kyle Van Noy. A few weeks back, in this very column, I wrote the following about him:
I like Van Noy, but I am ready to give his spot to Jamie Collins if he continues his up-and-down play: he is significantly more athletic than Van Noy. Give Collins a shot at his spot and see what happens, because I don’t think you can get significantly worse production than you’ve gotten out of that position so far.
Since I made that proclamation, Van Noy has been one of the best players on a dominant defense. He had a great game on Sunday, and followed it up with a statistically dominant game on Thursday. Van Noy finished with eight tackles, a pair of sacks, and a pick-six. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Van Noy is playing fantastic right now, and is a big reason why the Patriots are currently on this winning streak.
5. The running back rotation is healthy again: The rotation that the Patriots have been using may not be ideal for fantasy lineups, but it is great for winning football games. Rhamondre Stevenson finished with 12 carries for a nice 69 yards, while Damien Harris finished with 10 carries for 56. They also both added one catch. Each guy seemed to be getting a different drive, which is something New England also did last time both were healthy, and it kept them both fresh.
The two young backs were running through arm tackles, initiating contact on safeties trying to tackle them, and stiff-arming defenders to the ground. Having two backs that can run the way these guys can is a great luxury, and the Patriots are reaping the rewards of it right now. With both of them averaging over 5.5 per carry, they are essentially unstoppable.
Being able to run the ball this effectively is going to make life a lot easier on Mac Jones the rest of the season. Speaking of whom...
6. Mac Jones plays a fine game: Mac Jones finished 22-for-26, and had 207 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception. There were times where it looked like the Falcons was confusing him, and he wasn’t completely sure what to do. They got him a few times on delayed blitzes, where it looked like the rookie thought the guy was going to be blocked and ended up either taking a sack instead getting rid of the ball, or changing the protection to get that free guy blocked.
I also think the interception was not great. It looked to me like the decision there should have been to check it down to Damien Harris; instead he tried to force it down the field to Jonnu Smith. It looked like he didn’t see Smith until late, and then took to long getting the ball out (while also appearing to throw off his back foot).
Bottom line is this: you can’t have turnovers like that happen down the stretch if you expect to compete for the division and beyond. Still, an 84 percent completion rate these last two games is pretty good. Especially for a rookie player that is still very much learning on the job.
7. Jakob Johnson needs to be praised as one of the best fullbacks in the NFL: We have talked a lot about the offensive line, the wide receivers blocking, and, of course, the running backs, but we have not talked nearly enough about Jakob Johnson. The Patriots’ fullback has been a machine this season, and he has done a great job opening holes for all of the team’s backs.
Johnson had another stellar performance on Thursday, consistently cleaning out defenders and opening up running lanes for both Harris and Stevenson. Fullback is a position that has gone through a lot of changes the last few seasons, and a lot of teams simply don’t use it much anymore. It is a hugely important spot on this team, though, and Johnson is proving to be one of the best in the league.
8. Matthew Judon shines again: Ol’ Red Sleeves continues to be the best player on the Patriots defense. Judon was constantly in the backfield wreaking havoc again. He also had another sack, setting a new career-high with 10.5 on the year now. We’re in Week 11, in case you forgot.
Judon is the guy that sets everything else up. The Falcons were constantly throwing extra guys at him, freeing up other players like Christian Barmore and Devon Godchaux to be able to go against one block instead of multiple. At some point, I’m going to stop including him in this article, but he’s just so good every week that he deserves to be mentioned.
9. The Falcons’ decision-making deserves some scrutiny: The Falcons drafted Kyle Pitts fourth overall this year, and he is a fantastic player. He is perhaps one of the most electric and exciting offensive players to come out of the 2021 draft. With that being true, I still would not have drafted him if I were Atlanta.
This Falcons team has a million holes, and it is simply not very good. You could have either traded back to pick up additional assets, or you could’ve stayed where you were and taken a quarterback. This team is a long way off, and, as evidenced by the relief appearances of Josh Rosen and rookie Feleipe Franks, it simply does not have a backup who can come in and run the offense in case something were to happen to Matt Ryan.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but the Falcons simply don’t have anyone that can take over for their 36-year-old quarterback.
10. It is never too early to look ahead: The Patriots have won five in a row, and have positioned themselves in the middle of the fight for a playoff spot. After this mini bye, they host the Tennessee Titans, who are currently atop the AFC and on an impressive streak of their own. After the Titans, the Patriots go to Buffalo. Those two games are going to decide what their season looks like.
Win one or both, and you could be fighting for the AFC East title (and maybe even the top playoff seed in the conference). Lose both of these games, and you are all of a sudden on the outside looking in at a postseason spot.
We have been saying it since their winning streak started, but these next two weeks are hugely important for the Patriots. They could decide what happens at end of this season, and possibly even after that. New England is not a perfect team, but neither is any other in a highly-contested AFC, and that gives the Patriots a real shot at a deep playoff run. They simply have to keep their foot on the gas.