The nearly unbeatable Atlanta Falcons have an unusually poor record against the lowly New England Patriots. This may shock you, but in the Mike Smith era, it appeared that the Falcons were easily out-coached by the Patriots. How could that possibly happen to Mike Smith, a true football mind? He was the architect of the three-man pass rush, and was among the first to write down player names on his notepad.
The Falcons have played the New England Patriots three times in the Mike Smith era. And yes, the Falcons lost all three times. Many thought those games felt fishy, as if the Patriots knew exactly what the Falcons were going to do. And Smith's adjustments were so instantly met resistance, that is was like he made no adjustments at all.
Thanks to this ESPN report, we finally have some answers. The Patriots have spent years stealing plays, formations, and signals of opposing teams. It all makes sense!
We all remember the 2009 game in Foxboro. According to Wikipedia, "The entire second half was completely dominated by the Patriots." That does not sound like Smith teams I know. The Falcons lost 26 to 10. The Falcons defense had zero sacks. No interceptions. Tight ends caught passes at will.
What happened? Did Bill Belichick bug the sidelines? The locker rooms? Was he watching Atlanta's practice from the Patriots satellite?
I think the only possible answers are yes, yes, and yes.
In 2010, Smith got his rematch. The tension was palpable. But something felt... off. The team was playing at home. But same result. The Falcons lost 28 to 10 in game two of the preseason. Brian Hoyer tore up the Falcons pass defense. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski somehow dismantled Atlanta's vaunted tight end coverage. The Falcons oddly struggled to rush the passer.
It was as if the Patriots knew exactly what the Falcons were doing. This oddly uneven performance could have been caused by only one thing: covert cheating by the Patriots. Do the Patriots have covert employees posing as Falcons personnel, planted in Flowery Branch to collect intelligence? Is there a group of heavily-trained counter-espionage Patriots fans that have spent years hiding their natural Boston accents?
Smith got one last shot at Belichick in 2013. The result was all too familiar. The Falcons lost. It was as if sacks did not matter, and the team failed to pressure Tom Brady all day. The defense gave up big plays in the run game and the pass game. Zero interceptions. Kenbrell Thompkins had his best career game.
None of this sounds like Mike Smith football. Another Patriots game. That same fishy feeling, and I am not talking about clam chowder. Do the Patriots have a nuclear submarine that is invisible to sonar? Are spy planes with infrared technology taking aerial photographs of the Georgia Dome?
It was as if the Falcons were cheated. The mad genius Belichick found the key to neutralizing the Falcons vaunted pass rush, through his intentional violation of football rules. How else can you explain the Falcons falling apart in the third quarter? Patriots cheating. How can you out-coach Mike Smith? You don't. Not legally.
The Falcons deserve those wins back.