After a couple of weeks at home, the Patriots head south this weekend for a Sunday night matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
The game is the second of five scheduled national television games for the Patriots. In addition to the Falcons game, the Patriots played the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 12 and will play at Carolina on Monday Night Football on Nov. 18, vs. Denver on Sunday night on Nov. 24 and at Baltimore on Sunday Night Football on Dec. 22.
The Patriots have allowed a total of 34 points through three games this season, but the defense has allowed only 27 points this season (seven opponent points came on a fumble return). The 34 total points allowed by the Patriots are the fewest for the team through three games since 1979, when New England started the season by allowing 33 points in the first three games (losing 16-13 to Pittsburgh in overtime, beating the New York Jets 56-3, and winning 20-14 at Cincinnati)
The Falcons enter the game with a record of 1-2, dropping a 27-23 loss to the Dolphins in Miami in Week 3. The Falcons outgained the Dolphins 377 yards to 285 yards, including a 146-90 split on the ground. RB Jacquizz Rodgers and RB Jason Snelling fueled the Birds running game as the duo combined for 139 yards on 29 carries, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Rodgers ﬁnished the game leading all rushers with a career-high 86 yards on 18 carries (4.8 yards per carry). Snelling recorded 111 total yards from scrimmage on 15 touches, posing his third career game with 100-plus scrimmage yards after rushing for 53 yards on 11 carries and adding 58 yards on four receptions, including a seven-yard touchdown.
WR Julio Jones posted his second straight 100-yard game, catching nine passes for 115 yards. This season Jones has caught 27 passes for an NFL-leading 373 yards while averaging 124.3 yards per game.
DE Osi Umenyiora notched his ﬁrst sack as a Falcon and ﬁnished the game with two sacks, and two forced fumbles. In total, Atlanta’s defense sacked Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill ﬁve times for a loss of 41 yards.
To help you get ready for tonight’s game, here are five things you need to know:
This week’s game will be broadcast to a national audience by NBC and can be seen in Boston on WHDH-TV Channel 7. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth providing color. Michele Tafoya will 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis.
2. An Even Series
The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will clash this week for the 13th time in the regular season and for the first time since 2009 when the Patriots beat the Falcons, 26-10, on Sept. 27 at Gillette Stadium. That victory tied the all-time series at 6-6.
The 2009 victory also marked the Falcons’ first trip to Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots have won the last three times the teams have played in the regular season with wins in 2001 and 2005 at the Georgia Dome in addition to the 2009 victory.
Prior to those three wins, the Patriots had suffered four straight losses to the Falcons, dating back to 1989.
The two teams spent a week working with each other at the Falcons facility prior to a 2010 preseason game.
QB Tom Brady’s first start against an NFC team was on Nov. 4, 2001 against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Brady completed 21-of-31 passes for 250 and three touchdowns in a 24-10 win.
3. What to look for this week
Tom Brady needs one touchdown pass against the Falcons to extend his streak to 52 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. It is the second longest streak of all time, behind Drew Brees (54).
Brady (139) needs one more win to become the fifth NFL starting quarterback to lead his team to at least 140 regular season victories and join Brett Favre (186), Peyton Manning (157), John Elway (148) and Dan Marino (147).
Brady tied Drew Brees with his ninth NFL game with four touchdowns, 300 yards and no interceptions against St. Louis (10/28/12) and needs one more such game to be alone in first place.
Brady has the fifth most 300-yard games in NFL history with 53, behind Peyton Manning (75), Drew Brees (70), Dan Marino (63) and Brett Favre (62).
Brady (339) needs three touchdowns against the Falcons to move into a tie with Fran Tarkenton (342) for fourth place all-time.
Brady needs one more touchdown to become the fifth NFL player with at least 340 career touchdown passes.
Julian Edelman has the highest punt return average in NFL history at 13.0 (83-1076) and is one of seven NFL players with a punt return average of 12.0 or above.
Edelman needs one more punt return for a touchdown to set the team mark with his fourth punt returned for a touchdown. He is tied with Irving Fryar and Troy Brown with three returns for a touchdown.
STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKIStephen Gostkowski is tied with Adam Vinatieri for the team lead with eight career 50-yard field goals and needs one more to break the tie and become the team’s all-time leader.
ROB NINKOVICHRob Ninkovich has the most fumble recoveries of any NFL player over the last four years (2010-13) with 10 and can add on to that total with a fumble recovery against the Falcons.
- The Patriots have forced a turnover in 30 straight games dating back to 2011. The last time the Patriots did not register at least one turnover was on Oct. 9, 2011 vs. the New York Jets.
- A win over Atlanta will give the Patriots its first 4-0 start since 2007 and its seventh time starting the season at 4-0.
- The Patriots will attempt to extend their streak to four straight games without allowing an opponent score in the fourth quarter.
- The Patriots have allowed just 34 points in the first three games and need to hold Atlanta under six points to set the team mark for fewest points allowed in the first four games of the season. The 1997 team allowed just 40 points in the first four games.
4. Patriots-Falcons Connection
New England Ties
- Falcons Owner Arthur Blank graduated from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson was named in Blank’s honor in 1998.
- Falcons Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter served as the offensive coordinator at Boston College from 1994-1995.
- Falcons Offensive Line Coach Paul Dunn served as the offensive line coach at the University of Maine from 1990-1993.
- Falcons Linebackers Coach Glenn Pires, a native of New Bedford, Mass., was a four-year letterman as an offensive lineman at Springfield College. Pires began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Melrose (Mass.) High School and also served as the defensive line/linebackers coach at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. from 1985-1988.
- Falcons QB Matt Ryan was a standout quarterback at Boston College from 2004-2007. Ryan led the Eagles to national prominence in his junior and senior year, compiling back-to-back 10-plus win seasons and earning First-Team All-America and ACC Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2007.
- Falcons T Jeremy Trueblood was also a member of the Boston College Eagles from 2002-2005 and started at left tackle on Matt Ryan’s offensive line during the 2005 season. Trueblood received Second-Team All-ACC honors as a senior in 2005.
- Falcons CB Robert McClain was a defensive back and return specialist at Connecticut, where he compiled 10 career interceptions and one punt return for a touchdown during his four-year career from 2006-2009.
- Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard is a native of Rochelle, Ga., and played football at Wilcox County High School, located about 150 miles southeast of Atlanta.
- Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff was the Director of College Scouting in New England from 2003-2007. During his five-year tenure overseeing the Patriots area scouts, the Patriots compiled a 77-17 and won two Super Bowls (2003 and 2004). Dimitroff’s father, Tom, also played one year for the Boston Patriots in 1960.
- Falcons Defensive Line Coach Ray Hamilton played his entire nine-year NFL career as a defensive tackle in New England and is fifth on the Patriots all-time sack list with 54. Hamilton also had two coaching stints in New England as an assistant defensive line coach from 1985-1989 and Defensive Line Coach from 1997-1999. He graduated from Suffolk University in Boston, Mass. in 1977.
- Falcons CB Asante Samuel was selected by New England in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft and spent five seasons with the Patriots from 2003-2007. Samuel recorded 22 interceptions in New England including a career-high 10 picks in 2006, the second-most by a Patriot all-time behind Ron Hall (11 in 1964). Samuel reached the Pro Bowl in 2007 before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 29, 2008.
- Patriots OL Will Svitek signed with Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2009 and appeared in 45 games, primarily at left tackle, in four seasons with the club before signing with the Patriots on March 17, 2013.
Former NFL Teammates
- Patriots DB Kyle Arrington (2008-2009), RB LeGarrette Blount (2010-2012) and CB Aqib Talib (2008-2012) were all teammates with Falcons T Jeremy Trueblood on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. K Matt Bryant also joined Arrington and Talib on the Buccaneers during the 2008 season.
- Patriots OL Will Svitek and Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez were teammates for three seasons from 2005-2007 on the Kansas City Chiefs. Svitek and Gonzalez were also teammates on the Falcons from 2009 to 2012.
- Falcons RB Steven Jackson was teammates with Patriots WR Danny Amendola for four seasons (2009-2012) and TE Michael Hoomanawanui for two seasons (2010-2011) on the St. Louis Rams.
- Patriots DT Tommy Kelly was teammates with Falcons LB Omar Gaither during the 2012 season on the Oakland Raiders.
Former College Teammates
- Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount and Falcons WR DrewDavis were teammates at the University of Oregon for two seasons from 2008-2009.
- Patriots RB Brandon Bolden was teammates with Falcons DT Jeria Perry during the 2008 season at the University of Mississippi.
- Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower and Falcons WR Julio Jones were teammates for three seasons (2008-2010) at the University of Alabama and both played critical roles in the Crimson Tide’s 14-0 national championship season in 2009.
- Patriots LB Chris White was teammates with Falcons LB Jamar Chaney during the 2009 season at Mississippi State.
- Patriots WR Josh Boyce was teammates with Falcons DE Stansly Maponga for three seasons (2010-2012) at TCU.
5. Did you Know?
- The Patriots are 3-0 for the eighth time in team history and for the first time since 2007. New England is now 3-0 for the fourth time under Head Coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots also started 3-0 in 1964, 1974, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2007. In the NFL since 1990, 75.4 percent of teams (86 of 114) that started 3-0 have made the playoffs.
- The Patriots have allowed a total of 34 points through three games this season. The Patriots defense has allowed only 27 points this season (seven opponent points came on a fumble return). The 34 total points allowed by the Patriots are the fewest for the team through three games since 1979, when New England started the season by allowing 33 points in the first three games (losing 16-13 to Pittsburgh in overtime, beating the New York Jets 56-3, and then winning 20-14 at Cincinnati). The 34 points allowed are the second fewest in team history in the first three games, trailing the 1979 team.
- The Patriots have now forced a turnover in 30 straight games dating back to 2011, and including all 16 regular season games of 2012 and now the first three games of 2013 after CB Aqib Talib intercepted QB Josh Freeman in the second quarter. The NFL record for most consecutive games with a turnover since the merger in 1970 is 71 by Philadelphia from 1985-1990. The last time the Patriots did not register at least one turnover was on Oct. 9, 2011 against the New York Jets.
- Bill Belichick won his 208th career game, bringing him within one win of Chuck Noll for fifth place on the NFL’s all-time wins list.
- Tom Brady extended his touchdown streak to 51 straight games last week with at least one touchdown in the second quarter with his 16-yard touchdown pass to WR Kenbrell Thompkins. It is the second longest touchdown streak in NFL history, behind Drew Brees (54) and the longest active streak. Brady and Brees are the only NFL players with streaks of 50 or more consecutive games with at least one touchdown.