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Keys To The Game Week 3: Falcons Writers Weigh In

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We're unveiling a brand new feature this weekend, one that's sure to delight young and old alike. It's not the Dave the Falconer video logs, but it is excellent reading.

I've reached out to several writers and readers who cover and/or love the Falcons to get their car keys keys to the game against the New England Patriots. There's also tlozwarlock and I, but that's probably not much of a surprise. We have a triumvirate of readers this week, the lineup of whom may change from week to week if there's enough interest. Please indicate your interest in writing in future weeks to at, and hopefully we'll keep expanding this by the week.

Check out everyone's keys (and for those who chose to, predictions) right after the jump.

Atlanta Managing Editor J. Michael Moore muses (from the site):

  • Show no fear. Sometimes, the only language an opposing quarterback gets is pressure. The Jets found ways to put a hand in Tom Brady’s face last week. A blueprint for beating the Patriots? Perhaps, but it depends on each team’s personnel.
  • Feed the Burner (especially in the rain). Good chance of storms this weekend in New England. That should dampen the Patriots effectiveness in the passing game and give the Falcons — and their Pro Bowl running back — a slight advantage.
  • Be ungracious guests. The Patriots are a silly 25-4 against first-time visitors to Gillette Stadium. A key to victory is overcoming this stat.

Atlanta-Journal Constitution writer Mark Bradley keeps it simple: Rush Brady. Attack the Patriots' defense. Don't fall too far behind. Don't get rattled on the road.

Reader BigManChili blasts: On Sunday, our Atlanta Falcons travel to Foxborough, Mass to take on the New England Patriots. The 2007 Patriots offense was one of the best the National Football League has ever seen, setting all-time DVOA records for Team Offense (42.0%) and Passing Offense (75.4%). Tom Brady went on to have an all-time great season, with over 4800yards and 50TD (single season record). That team was unbeatable (or at least seemed to be), but this season's incarnation of the Patriots can be beat.

Don't get me wrong, it's not easy, but as the New York Jets demonstrated in Week 2, the gameplan is easy: Get to Brady. Any pressure is good pressure, but there's certain situations that have shown to be extremely effective. 

1) Good coverage on 1st down: Against the Jets last week, Brady was 8-of-18 for 72 yards on 1st down. With Wes Welker banged up this week and the typical running game of New England, keeping them trapped in obvious passing situations will allow our Birds to key on the pass, which leads us to...

2) Pressure Tom Brady: I don't know if it's physical discomfort with the knee or a mental issue, but 2009 Tom Brady isn't 2007 Tom Brady. Looking at film of NE/NYJ, it's easy to see that Brady just plain isn't "right". The most obvious "tell" of Brady's continued mental rehabilitation is his footwork, and the effect it has on his throws. He doesn't step up in the pocket to set his feet and throw, especially when there's traffic around the offensive line. The result is overthrows, sailed passes, and general inaccuracy.

3) Contain Randy Moss and Wes Welker (or Wes Welker 2.0, Julian Edelman): I know it sounds obvious in principle, but it must be discussed. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are perfect compliments to each other, with each player responsible for a diametrically opposite role in the offense. Randy Moss is, well, Randy Moss, and he does what we all know Randy Moss for: going deep, drawing double coverage, and spreading the field. Wes Welker, however, is what really makes this offense go. He has an ability for reading coverage and getting open in front of the coverage and making steady short gains, and this short passing supplements the running game for the New England Patriots. Limiting the space Welker (or Edelman, if Welker can't go) has to work underneath and get his YAC is going to be key to keeping their offense bogged down in 2nd and 3rd-and-long situations, and allows our defense to key on stopping the pass.Keeping the Patriots offense limited in what they can do is the key to this matchup on Sunday.

Tom Brady, right now, is more vulnerable than he's ever been in his career. His mobility and evasion is suspect, his precision targeting is unreliable right now, and he's susceptible to being rattled. If we win this game on Sunday, the game ball will be held by someone on defense. We know the offense will be effective and score enough points to win, but those 23 defensive players will decide whether we come home with our heads held high, as a team, or sulking as individuals.

Reader TO Falcon talks: The Falcons will be heading to ye olde' Foxboro with an immensely difficult task. After a tough loss to the Jets last week, the Patriots are being questioned, something which won't go down well in Belichick's office. Like an enraged animal they should be looking to silence critics and they have the perfect opportunity against a percieved team weakness in Atlantas secondary.

On the other hand our beloved Falcons will be looking to keep pace with New Orleans, who destroyed a top 5 defense in Phillie, and keep this well oiled offence ticking.

Ultimately, the outcome of this game will be the play of the quarterbacks and the defenses that oppose them. Matty Ice has seen a rise in the amount of times he's been called into action this season and I don't see that changing. We are still a run first team, but as such the Patriots will stack the line and try and break through the mean Offensive line.

Taking home field advantage into consideration, look for Brady to have the wake up call he needed and attempt to ignite himself once more, the Patriots rarely loose twice in a row, but maybe the years of dominance are finally over.


Reader runningback writes: Instead of going to deep into the overall keys, I am just going to concentrate on one thing that is worrying me.  The "slot machine" effect.  Even if Wes Welker doesn't play, we have to stop Julian Edelman from doing his Welker impression. We have to stop  those dinks/dunks/screens that Brady has been relying heavily on the first two games.  Subbing for Welker last week Edelman caught 8 passes for 96 yards but here is the f'ed part of it all,  Edelman, a 7th round rookie was targeted 16 times last week.  This tells me that the Pats are sticking to their gameplan regardless of who is in there. First game of the season Welker had 12 catches for 93 yards.  The are basically using the slot receiver in place of their running game.
Birds 31, Pats 24.

tlozwarlock trumpets: Key #1: Sack/Pressure/Scare Brady. If the Falcons are going to win, Brady will have to be shaking in his boots every time he lines up under center. If the Jets can do it, I think we can too.

Key#2: Ball control. One drive last weekend ate up almost six minutes of game time. I say this because Tom Bradyis a comeback artist. He can't orchestrate a 4th quarter miracle if he's sitting on the sideline.

Key#3: Tony G. This is one of those "duh" statements. Tony has scored a touchdown the past two weeks. Let's see if we can get him two more.
I'm still calling this one a Patriots win, even if that means catching the ire of every reader on the site. Just call me superstitious. I eagerly await the Falcons proving me wrong. 38-35 Pats, for those requiring numbers.

Dave the Falconer declares: As I've mentioned before, stopping the Tom Brady-Randy Moss connection is absolutely the most critical thing we can do on Sunday. I don't fear the running game nearly as much as I fear Moss putting 150 yards and two touchdowns. If Michael Koenen can continue to work his magic and grant the Patriots poor field position time in and time out, we'll have a very good chance of holding on for the win.
31-27, Falcons