Four days removed from arguably its best outing of the season, the New England Patriots offense looked fine against the Atlanta Falcons. It certainly did enough to complement a dominant defensive and help secure a shutdown victory.
But while it did have its fair share of positive moments in the 25-0 win — the Patriots gained 138 yards on 28 non-kneel-down carries, for example — the New England offense also was a bit more inconsistent than it looked like against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. That was especially true in the passing game as quarterback Mac Jones pointed out after the game.
“I think they emptied the clip on what they were going to try and bring against us,” the rookie QB said during his postgame press conference. “They did a good job on the defensive side. We can do better on offense, so we’ll do that and it all just starts with watching the film. It’s a short week but there’s no excuses. We can play better, and we will.”
Backed by a defense that produced four turnovers and gave up only 3.2 yards per play, New England’s offense scored 19 points: the unit found the end zone on a 19-yard scoring pass from Jones to Nelson Agholor, and it also added four Nick Folk field goals. The score was finalized when linebacker Kyle Van Noy registered a pick-six off of Falcons backup quarterback Josh Rosen late in the fourth quarter.
Settling for four field goals and only scoring one touchdown is not ideal, though, even if it was enough to beat the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Neither is going just 4-for-12 on third down, or throwing an unnecessary interception in the third quarter.
Jones still finished with a good-looking stat-line — the first-rounder completed 22 of 26 pass attempts for 207 yards as well as the aforementioned touchdown and interception — but he also was sacked on three occasions. Those takedowns can be attributed to Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees not being afraid to send additional pass rushers:
Dean Pees' defense brought Mac Jones down 3x tonight, all by blitzers— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) November 19, 2021
#1: perfect timing anticipating PA. tough blitz pickup to make
#2: looks like Brown sees slot blitz a tick late
#3: think Jones holds this bc the CB squats on the out. Also got OL to slide the wrong way pic.twitter.com/cc61DnHEY8
Jones’ interception and the three sacks he took were not the only negative plays by the Patriots offense. As head coach Bill Belichick was quick to point out after the game, penalties also were an issue.
“We had holding penalties offensively and that put us in some long-area situations, and I think we had a couple of good runs called back on that too,” Belichick said. “Too many long-yardage penalties and too many long-yardage situations, mostly due to penalties. And Dean got us on a couple of blitzes that put us in some long-yardage situations too. It was kind of stories, some good plays and then a play that really kind of knocked us out of the drive. Happened several times.”
New England was flagged five times, with two of those penalties coming on offense: a David Andrews holding call negated an impressive 28-yard run by Rhamondre Stevenson, while a hold called against Jonnu Smith wiped a 13-yard N’Keal Harry run off the board.
At the end of the day, however, those and other miscues were not enough to help Atlanta seriously challenge the Patriots on Thursday. New England still won decisively to improve to 7-4 on the year.
The team’s self-critical quarterback said so himself.
“It was a good team win and the defense stepped up and played really well,” Mac Jones pointed out. “The goal is to score one more point than the other team. We were lucky enough to do that. It’s really hard to win in the NFL and you can’t take anything for granted. You just have to watch the film and get better but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is scoring one more point than the other team.”
It may not have been perfect, but it was mission accomplished for the Patriots yet again.