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Falcons vs. Patriots: Hat tips & head-scratchers

Oh boy.

NFL: New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This game was terrible. You’re forgiven if you did not stay up to witness the entire thing, as sleep is far more important and this was like pouring muriatic acid into your eyeballs.

The Falcons failed to wager a point against the Patriots and moved to 4-6, the freefall of their offense on full display in this nationally televised tilt.

Hat tips

A.J. Terrell’s pick

Cornerback A.J. Terrell tallied his first interception on the season in textbook fashion. This was no easy feat, but Terrell has proven all season long that he’s adept at the unexpected. Reading quarterback Mac Jones’ eyes the entire sequence, Terrell was able to position himself in coverage to jump in front of tight end Jonnu Smith to create the third quarter turnover.

Save for the time missed due to injury, there’s no sophomore slump here.

Defense

If we’re forced to hand out plaudits, the defense gets a nod in this one. Considering New England’s recent offensive run, it’s remarkable that Atlanta was able to keep the Patriots to under two touchdowns in the first half.

This game finished 25-0, but it felt like a fifty burger was on the menu when you factor in the Falcons’ dreadful performance on offense. Thank the defense for that.

Head-scratchers

Matt Hennessy overmatched

The Falcons put a lot on center Matt Hennessy’s shoulders heading into his second season. Staked with the lofty task of taking over for Alex Mack, Hennessy has proven respectable enough as a starter in his sophomore season.

Thursday was not that day.

He was simply overmatched against Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore (as most are, that dude is massive), allowing four hurries and contributing to the duress that quarterback Matt Ryan was under all night.

He’s young, he’s talented, but this was not his game.

Erik Harris gets runneth over

Big yikes. Safety Erik Harris became mocking replay fodder after New England running back Damian Harris steamrolled him on the Patriots' third drive. After the Patriots’ line picked up a couple of blitzes, the Atlanta safety was basically baptized by the hard-charging Harris.

Per PFF, he finished the day with a 29.3 tackling grade. Abysmal day at the office.

Jason Spriggs lines up incorrectly

If you want to inspire confidence in your coaching staff, strong work on special teams is often the way. This was not the way.

The backup right tackle was in protection for Younghoe Koo’s second-quarter field goal attempt. Koo put it through the uprights, but the points were negated due to Spriggs lining up in an illegal formation.

Younghoe Koo would miss the 50-yarder after the penalty was enforced.

Offensive line

Awful in this one. The Atlanta offensive line allowed four sacks to New England, picking at a scab that’s been lingering for years. Matt Ryan is enjoying a solid season under center, but bend-don’t-break doesn’t work with quarterbacks in the tail end of their career. If he doesn’t get adequate protection, bad things will happen.

They happened against the Patriots.

Friendly fire

Emblematic of Atlanta’s season was the third-quarter offensive drive where wide receivers Tajae Sharpe and Russell Gage ran parallel crossing routes and ... collided.

Even more confounding is that there was nothing flawed with the play design. Based on the coverage, it could have even led to a touchdown if one of the receivers ran the proper route.

This Falcons team just can’t seem to get out of their own way.