Match-Up Mania: Falcons Real Challenge For Patriots Defense

Defenders like Tommy Kelly have to get to Matt Ryan.

Defenders like Tommy Kelly have to get to Matt Ryan.

After three weeks of glorified preseason games, the New England Patriots face a “real” opponent tomorrow night in the Atlanta Falcons. No offense intended to the Bills, Jets or Bucs, but compared to Atlanta, the Pats’ three prior opponents have no offense. That might help to explain why the team’s defense is allowing just 11.3 points per game.

Defensive match-ups are crucial tomorrow night as New England’s offense is not yet ready for prime time. Eventhough Tom Brady’s two top targets, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, are apparently playing – Maybe? – Sunday, it’s still time to focus on the defense. Neither player can be expected to be at 100% and fully integrated into the offense.

Back to Atlanta. Matt Ryan. Julio Jones. Tony Gonzales. While they might be struggling at 1-2, this is the strongest looking offense the NEP has faced to date. Look for two things that seem pretty obvious factors to make a team successful: pressure and coverage.

Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich both know they have to get to Ryan especially with top runner Steven Jackson on the shelf forWeek 4. Ninkovich complimented Ryan. “He’s a smart quarterback,” he said. “He knows when to get the ball out of his hand. He doesn’t take too many sacks.”

Ninkovich knows he has to be ready.

For me, I just fill up the gas tank because it’s going to be a night where you gotta have a lot of high-energy rushes. They’re going with an up-tempo offense, so the D-line has to do a good job of doing their assignment.

Ryan has been pretty efficient this season with the fourth-best completion percentage to date. If he keeps getting the ball to his receivers consistently, it’s up to the defensive backfield to keep the Falcons in check. Enter Aqib Talib.

Talib should be covering Jones. Even if he doesn’t admit he knows he will. “I don’t know what the plan is,” Talib said. “Whatever the plan is, that’s the plan.” Bill Belichick must love that guy.

Bill knows one player can’t necessarily decide a game. Other DBs have to step up, too. “That will be key this week just to play very well as a unit,” safety Devin McCourty said. “We’ve got to come as a secondary and all have our best games of the season.”

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