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Upon Further Review: Patriots vs. Falcons

08.21.10 at 1:06 pm ET
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This is a weekly blog entry we’€™re calling ‘€œUpon Further Review,’€ one last look at the tape from the previous week’€™s game and meant to include some things we may have missed the first time around. Basically, it’€™s one last chance to empty out the notebook before the focus shifts to the week ahead.

‘€¢Rookie Devin McCourty was able to flash some physicality, a rare sight recently for New England corners who haven’€™t had the size or inclination to mix it up with opposing receivers. On a third-down play late in the first quarter, McCourty was matched up on Atlanta’€™s Roddy White, and he was able to get a really impressive jam on the 6-foot, 212-pound White. The short pass, meant for White, would have gone for a first, but it never got to its intended destination. In the second quarter, McCourty also took down Atlanta running back Michael Turner with what was pretty close to a one-on-one open-field tackle, which set up a third-and-4. There was some soft man coverage that allowed a first-down connection to Atlanta receiver Brian Finneran in the second quarter, but all in all, another good game for the first-year cornerback.

‘€¢All three of Wes Welker‘€™s catches were different types of receptions, which showed that the receiver hasn’€™t lost much when it comes to his overall pass-catching ability. The first was a short pass over the middle where Welker appeared to read the defense and pull in the ball with his back to the coverage, ending up with a six-yard gain. The second looked to be a simple route where he turned upfield. It ended up going as a 14-yarder, and this was perhaps Welker’€™s most impressive moment of the night because he had to reach back while going full steam to try and bring it in. (This one was something of a missed opportunity for the New England offense ‘€” because it was behind him, Welker had to slow down ever-so-slightly, which allowed defensive back Chavis Jackson to haul Welker down from behind. Could have gone for more.) The third was a simple screen, which was nicely sniffed out by Atlanta defensive back Christopher Owens.

‘€¢Tight end Aaron Hernandez really did a good job messing with Atlanta linebacker linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. On his first catch of the night, Hernandez came out of the backfield and caught a pass in the flat with Weatherspoon in coverage. As the tight end turned to head upfield, he sensed Weatherspoon closing in, and executed a little hitch, planting one foot forward before quickly stepping back. Weatherspoon ended up over-pursuing on the play, which gave Hernandez a few extra yards as the Patriots converted the third down. And then, on his touchdown catch he turned Weatherspoon inside-out and had the presence of mind to tip-toe along the back of the end zone and hold on to the football. (He almost knocked out teammate Brandon Tate in the touchdown celebration, but we’€™ll let that slide.)

‘€¢Safety Brandon McGowan, who had such a banner start last year in his first season, slid down the depth chart as the 2009 season wore on, and he’€™s having a poor start to the 2010 preseason. (Right now, he and James Sanders have been supplanted by Pat Chung and Brandon Meriweather.) He had a bit of a rough night ‘€” McGowan was on the field with the second defense for the duration of Atlanta’€™s 16-play, 80-yard fourth-quarter drive. At the end of the series, he failed to bring down Troy Bergeron on his 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown reception. (McGowan went for the big hit, but not only swung and missed, he took out his teammate Terrence Wheatley out of the play.)

‘€¢It was an up-and-down night for the New England offensive line. While there was plenty of good (Dan Connolly and Stephen Neal had some big blocks early, and Alge Crumpler delivered a key block on Fred Taylor‘€™s first-quarter touchdown run), there was also enough bad. Neal was hit with a holding call that negated a big run from Taylor. Meanwhile, rookie Ted Larsen was whistled for a pair of false starts, and was absolutely crushed on a third-quarter run attempt by Atlanta’€™s Trey Lewis that ended up destroying any hope the Patriots had for a positive result. And a series of miscommunications in the red zone in the second quarter led to a forgettable sequence where New England had negative yardage on three running plays in four attempts.

The day after, coach Bill Belichick wasn’€™t shy about venting his frustration regarding seven plays where the Patriots had negative rushing yards.

‘€œThere were some positives. There were some other things that we need to do better. We lost yardage on seven of our running plays, so that’€™s not very good,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI think if we had seven sacks, everyone would be up in arms and it would be the big story of the day, but seven running plays that lost yardage nobody seems to care about.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon McGowan, Devin McCourty, Falcons
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