What We Saw: Patriots at Falcons

Nick Folk and the Patriots defense balled out in fantasy production. Everyone else on the field? Not so much.

Patriots @ Falcons

Final Score: Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

Rookie starting quarterback Mac Jones and the New England Patriots made light work of the Atlanta Falcons on another night of misery for Matt Ryan in Atlanta. The Patriots’ march to the postseason continued under the astute tutelage of rookie Jones, who threw just one incompletion in the first half to give his team a 13-0 lead at the break. By far the most consistent and impressive of rookie quarterbacks in the 2021 class, Jones once again showed command of the playbook, spreading the ball around to his receiving corps and leaning on the productive run game at the right times.

A week after throwing two interceptions and completing just nine passes in the loss to the Cowboys, Matt Ryan once again looked helpless behind a torrid Falcons offensive line that could not cope with the Patriots’ potent defensive schemes. The frustration for Arthur Smith and his quarterback was all too evident on the sidelines.

 

The second half was a hard watch to say the least as both defenses played to a high level. Nick Folk kicked two long field goals (he finished with 16.00 fantasy points in Yahoo! leagues) and Josh Rosen, introduced after Ryan was benched late in the game for the second time in a week, threw a late pick six to compound the destitution for the Falcons. I mean, it almost looks intentional!

 

After that debacle Smith gave rookie Feleipe Franks a chance to show what he can do. He immediately threw a pick to Adrian Phillips and the game finally ended after a final two minutes that lasted a lifetime. “Quel nightmare!”

 

If you had the Patriots defense this week in fantasy too, you’ll be very pleased with the 28.00 points they put up thanks to four interceptions and that defensive score from Kyle Van Noy.

What’s 28 minus 3? Eeek!

 

New England Patriots

 

Quarterback

 

Mac Jones: 22/26, 207 yards, TD, INT, 3 sacks | 6 carries, 1 yard

 

It was a night of two halves for rookie quarterback Mac Jones โ€“ he was effectively methodological in the first half, propelling his team to a clear lead at the break thanks to his accuracy over the middle of the field and his ability to find his receivers near the sideline to set up short yardage on third down that his running backs had no problems converting.

 

Jones had no issues picking apart the Falcons defense in the first half. Hunter Henry failed to be on the same page in the red zone on the first drive, but Jones easily found a wide open Nelson Agholor for a 19-yard touchdown on the Patriots third drive of the game, taking advantage after busted coverage from the Falcons defense.

 

Jones once again showed excellent vision and his ability to read the defense and get the ball out quickly was the key to him effectively building a lead in the first half. He completed 14-of-15 for 136 yards and the touchdown to Agholor. It was an impressive showing.

It was a different story after half time, however as the Falcons made some good adjustments and cut off the middle of the field. Jones went 8-of-11 for just 71 yards and an interception after the break, the Falcons sacking him three times and forcing the Patriots into three punts on the first four drives. His pick was a forced throw down the middle that A.J. Terrell read beautifully and stepped in front of Jonnu Smithย to take the ball away. It was his first attempt of the day over 20 yards.

 

Jones also showed signs of frustration late in the game as he took a big 12-yard sack on third down trying to seal the game in the fourth quarter. He just about did enough to get the Patriots over the line today, however when the defense made changes he struggled to adapt. That is something he will need to work on as the business end of the season approaches.

 

Running Backs

 

Rhamondre Stevenson: 12 carries, 69 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

Damien Harris: 10 carries, 56 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards

Brandon Bolden: 1 carry, 1 yard | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards

 

The fact this running back room was held without a touchdown in a favorable matchup will irk many fantasy managers, however both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson were both effective carrying the rock and never had to get out of third gear to make an impact in this game. Stevenson made a splash early on with a nasty stiff arm that only endears him to us even more.

 

Stevenson got the bulk of the work in the second half as the game looked to be heading the Patriots way. This tough run, in which he showed excellent feet and ability to read the field, was called back due to a penalty but the play highlights Stevenson’s qualities as a change of pace back with burst.

 

Damien Harris missed last week’s win over the Browns as he recovered from a concussion, and the Patriots didn’t need to deploy him as a workhorse back in this one with Stevenson proving he is more than capable splitting carries. Harris touched the ball five times in the 7-play, 76 yard touchdown drive in the first half, breaking off two big runs that set up the score.

 

Harris only had three touches in the second half as the team wisely chose to limit his usage coming off the concussion.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Kendrick Bourne: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 42 yards

Nelson Agholor: 5 targets, 5 receptions, 40 yards, TD

Jakobi Meyers: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 39 yards

Hunter Henry: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

Jonnu Smith: 2 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards

N’Keal Harry: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

 

Meh! The output from this receiving group doesn’t inspire fantasy managers to go out and trust them week in, week out. None of the six receiving options mustered more than 50 yards and no receiver caught a ball for more than a 19-yard gain. Still, they all did their jobs well and provided their quarterback with functional options across the formation. Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers all showed up in the short passing game thanks to their ability to execute routes, create separation and make plays in contested catch situations. Meyers did draw a 20-yard defensive pass interference call on Fabian Moreau to set up a field goal, but he also made this fantastic grab on third down late in the second half to ensure the Patriots put three points on the board to extend their lead at the half too.

 

The best grab of the night came from tight end Hunter Henry, who hauled in a lovely throw from Jones in the third quarter.

 

Although it doesn’t show on the stat sheet, N’Keal Harry seems to be growing into this offense more than any other time in his Patriots career. He saw a couple of targets in the passing game and also had a nice rush which was called back for another penalty.

 

In total, both teams combined for 14 penalties for 131 yards in a scrappy affair that unravelled into chaos late in the game.

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

Matt Ryan: 19/28, 153 yards, 2 INT, 4 sacks

 

Another week, another tough day at the office for the veteran Matt Ryan, who cut a frustrated figure from start to finish as Arthur Smith failed to get this offense moving on the ground or through the air. A tough matchup was made tougher by the confirmation that utility man and the go-to option for Ryan this season, Cordarelle Patterson was ruled out with injury.

Ryan failed to move the chains on four of the Falcons first five drives, the only effective drive ending in a missed field goal as Younghoe Koo‘s initial successful 45-yard kick was negated by an illegal formation before his 50-yard field goal missed to the left. The play calling on that drive also left a lot to be desired.

 

Still, Ryan always makes some big time throws in any game. This was one of the best throws on the night from either quarterback.

 

Ryan looked battered and bruised after each drive, limping off the field on multiple occasions, bleeding and looking exasperated as the trainers checked his wrist, ankle and most of his other body parts in between drives. He was finally benched down 16-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the game after a high throw to Olamide Zaccheaus was tipped into the hands of J.C. Jackson for an interception.

 

To make matters worse, Ryan then had to stand on the sideline as both Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks threw picks. An embarrassing night for Smith and his quarterbacks.

 

Running Backs

 

Qadree Ollison: 9 carries, 34 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 0 yards

Keith Smith: 3 carries, 8 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

Mike Davis: 3 carries, 1 yard | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards

Wayne Gallman: 1 carry, -3 yards

Parker Hesse: 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards

 

This could be the worst running back room in the entire NFL. Mike Davis was a non-starter on the ground, seeing only three carries for one yard total. Wayne Gallman saw only one carry and even fullback Keith Smith ran for more yards than both those backs. Depth back Qadree Ollison was the only one in this room who could hold his head up after this insipid performance. 24 of his 34 yards came on three back-to-back runs on the missed field goal drive in the first half, however. He was a none factor after the break.

 

Over to the Falcons mascot to sum up this rushing performance nicely.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Russell Gage: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 49 yards

Kyle Pitts: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards

Olamide Zaccheaus: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards

Tajae Sharpe: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards

 

It was no surprise that Bill Belichick completely took away the big play ability from rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. The exciting young first-round pick out of Florida was carefully marshalled most of the night as the Patriots defense brought up the safeties for extra coverage. Kyle Dugger in particular had a lot of joy on pass break ups on Pitts.

 

Without Pitts this offense is completely stagnant and the images of Ryan berating his offensive line or receivers after punt after punt was demoralising for even the neutral to watch. Russell Gage saw plenty of action in short passes out of the slot but once the Falcons fell behind by two scores, that tactic went out of the window. At times it felt like this receiving corps just didn’t really know what to do. My colleague Ben Brown got this spot on. A miserable night all around.

 

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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