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Halftime analysis from Patriots-Falcons

08.19.10 at 9:36 pm ET
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Strong start for the Patriots this evening in Atlanta ‘€” New England holds a 14-3 lead at halftime. A few quick notes on the first two quarters of action:

‘€¢Wes Welker didn’€™t get the start, but was heavily involved in the first drive of the night, a 12-play 80-yard sequence that ended with a New England touchdown. Welker was in for six snaps, and ended the night with two catches for 20 yards. Looked good, make nice cuts and was able to absorb a nasty hit from Atlanta defensive back Christopher Owens that came after a missed block from Randy Moss. (To be fair, it was a tough block for Moss to make.)

‘€¢Tom Brady finished the first half 10-for-12 for 85 yards and a touchdown. He took 24 snaps, and helped engineer a pair of scoring drives. He took a bad hit after rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski missed a block (he fumbled the football), but pretty much what you’€™d expect from No. 12, who hit rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez with a touchdown pass on a four-yard play in the second quarter. After a season where the Patriots’€™ offense struggled and also had red-zone problems, it was a good sight to see for New England football fans.

‘€¢The New England offense did a nice job keeping balance, its first 26 offensive plays, there were 13 rushes for 71 yards and 13 passes for 79 yards. Other than Brady, stat standouts included Fred Taylor, who got the start and carried 11 times for 54 yards and a touchdown (which came on a 21-yard jaunt and featured some great blocking by tight end Alge Crumpler.) Randy Moss had two catches for 24 yards and Aaron Hernandez had two catches for 18 yards.

‘€¢The New England defense opened in a 3-4 and stuck with it through the bulk of the first half. No surprises in the starting lineup, which included rookie inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. Spikes almost went wire-to-wire in the first half, staying in the game even after the starters were yanked late in the second quarter. According to our highly unscientific numbers, Spikes finished the first half with 27 snaps.

‘€¢As a group, the Patriots’€™ defense yielded one extended scoring sequence, an 11-play, 49-yard series run by the starting Atlanta offense, which ended with a 46-yard field goal from Matt Bryant that gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead. But that was it from the Falcons ‘€” a missed field goal attempt and an interception (from Jonathan Wilhite) ended Atlanta drives.

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