Look, there’s nothing I can say that will make you feel better about this game. The Falcons just got destroyed in Gillette Stadium, more or less from beginning to end, and while nobody’s likely to get fired for the effort, they’re going to be justifiably raked over the coals. This game was an utter embarrassment.
If you care to re-live it, we did track the drives for this game. I’m so sorry.
The first drive saw penalty flags flying immediately for both teams. The Falcons got a five yard holding penalty on Desmond Trufant that gave the Patriots a first down, and then Chris Hogan got knocked for a penalty that made it 1st and 20. Then the Patriots got a first down on a connection to Rob Gronkowski, and Dontari Poe was jogging off the field and got caught by Brady, that bastard.
Fortunately, the Falcons got off the field after Robert Alford was able to play nice, aggressive coverage without a flag on third and long. A neutral zone infraction later, it was a touchback on the punt. Falcons ball.
Atlanta got a quick two yards on a run with Devonta Freeman and wound up with a 3rd and 2, but got nothing on a third down pass. Matt Bosher had a short punt, and the Patriots were back with the football. Awful start.
The very first play of the next drive was sweet, though, as De’Vondre Campbell came in hot and unblocked and sacked Tom Brady for a seven yard loss. The subsequent long completion to Rob Gronkowski was called back thanks to offensive pass interference. The Patriots had to punt, again.
Atlanta got on the field and gave it right back to the ground game, with a short gain for Tevin Coleman, and then a first down pass to Julio Jones. The team then called two quick runs to get to third and short. Stunningly, the Falcons went for it on 4th and 7 after a third down misfire, and Ryan scrambled for the first down. A big time pass over the middle to Mohamed Sanu later, the Falcons were in business. Unfortunately, the Falcons couldn’t get any further, and Matt Bryant came on for a 37 yard field goal try. It was blocked, somehow, and the Falcons still weren’t on the board.
Vic Beasley got a sack on the opening play of the next drive, the Falcons stuffed Mike Gillislee, and the first quarter was over.
The Patriots got moving after backing up to 3rd and 16, getting down the field effortlessly before a Robert Alford pick that was called back due to a roughing the pass call. Holy smokes, this team. That led quite naturally to an 11 yard Brandin Cooks touchdown grab, which gave the Patriots their first lead of the game.
Patriots 7 - Falcons 0
The next drive was pretty sorry again. The Falcons aired it out and tried to hit Julio Jones twice, but neither attempt connected, with some tight coverage/borderline pass inteference calls that didn’t get made. Matt Bosher was forced to punt. Again.
The Patriots got a couple of nice runs from Rex Burkhead and moved relentlessly until they got into the red zone, at which point Atlanta found its resolve and managed to get the stop, with a resounding Keanu Neal pass breakup in the end zone. Stephen Gostkowski hit the field goal.
Patriots 10 - Falcons 0
Atlanta needed a score at this point. Things got rolling early with a Devonta Freeman first down run, a Mohamed Sanu first down catch, and then a little stall out. Then a big stall out, including a sack of Matt Ryan which backed them up to 3rd and 20. They went for it on 4th and 6, and Matt Ryan couldn’t hit Mohamed Sanu. That’s that.
The Patriots, meanwhile, had no trouble driving down the field. They got down within the five yard line with 26 seconds remaining, and scored. They were now up three scores, and we were all mad as hell, as we should have been.
Patriots 17 - Falcons 0
The Falcons got the ball to start the quarter, with the fog closing in very metaphorically. The Falcons got a first down thanks to Matt Ryan scrambling on third and long, and then turned the ball over to their ground game, getting fairly close. Then Matt Ryan couldn’t connect with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu in turn on end zone targets, and Matt Bryant’s kick hit the upright, bouncing out. It was still 17-0.
The Patriots got a long, sustained drive that brought them all the way to the one yard line, and the Falcons at least got a stop. Field goal, New England.
Patriots 20 - Falcons 0
The Falcons actually put together a nice little drive, running well with Devonta Freeman and connecting on a couple of solid passes. They event got a Mohamed Sanu grab that brought them basically to the goal line. They then failed to score, even on fourth down, and ran a sweep outside with Taylor Gabriel with a half yard to go. It was, frankly, embarrassing.
The Patriots got another field goal on the next drive. Details are scant because I was blind with anger.
Patriots 23 - Falcons 0
The Atlanta Falcons got the ball with a desperate need to do something to salvage some measure of dignity...and they sort of did? The Falcons moved the ball down the field by repeatedly connecting with Julio Jones, mostly, and Julio got his first 2017 touchdown in the red zone. A moral victory still has victory in it, right?
Patriots 23 - Falcons 7
The Patriots just decided to run the clock down and put the Falcons out of their misery, to their credit. Then they knelt out the clock, and the game was mercifully over.