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Final Thoughts on Patriots-Falcons

09.29.13 at 4:00 pm ET

1. Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Falcons will feature two offenses that rely heavily on their wide receivers — and one receiver in general — to help move the chains and pick up yardage. Over the first three games, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 81 passes to this point in the season, and 43 of them have gone to his wide receivers, a rate of 53 percent. Julio Jones is far-and-away his favorite target — Jones has 27 catches, or 33 percent of Ryan’s completed passes. On the other side, 56 of Tom Brady’s 73 completed passes have gone to his wide receivers, a whopping 77 percent. The leader after three games for New England is Julian Edelman, who is tied with Jones for the league lead in catches with 27. (The only New England receiver to match his three-game total to start the season under Brady is Wes Welker, who had 31 catches after three games in 2011.)

2. Here’s a look at how the rest of the New England passing game has broken down over the first three games of the season:

Wide receivers: 56 catches, 541 yards, five touchdowns
Running backs: 13 catches, 115 yards
Fullbacks: 1 catch, 4 yards
Tight ends: 3 catches, 36 yards.

On the other side of the ball, here’s a look at who has done what against the Patriots pass defense:

Wide receivers: 27 catches, 325 yards, 1 touchdown
Running backs: 14 catches, 114 yards
Tight ends: 7 catches, 63 yards
Fullbacks: 2 catches, -2 yards

3. We touched on this briefly last week, but the dip in playing time for linebacker Brandon Spikes over the first two weeks of the season was one of the more curious aspects of the New England defensive scheme. It’s worth mentioning that, at least from a percentage standpoint, Spikes saw more time last week against the Jets than he did to this point in the season, playing 37 of a possible 71 defensive snaps against the Bucs, a rate of 52 percent (according to Pro Football Focus). Even without Steven Jackson in the lineup, the Falcons have done pretty good job running the ball (look for Jacquizz Rodgers to serve as the lead back Sunday against the Patriots). It will be interesting to see how New England utilizes Spikes against the Falcons — if the Patriots go with nickel as their primary scheme (as they’ve done for the bulk of the first three games) against a high-powered Falcons’ passing game, Spikes could be in for another dip in playing time.

4. Brady appeared to break some news this week when he let it drop during his Wednesday afternoon press conference that it looked like Matt Cassel would be starting for the Vikings. It capped a pretty good week for Brady’s backups — in addition to the news about Cassel, ex-Patriots backup Brian Hoyer won his first game as the Cleveland starter, and it appears he’s moved seamlessly into the role of full-time starter for the Browns. Brady, who texted Hoyer with congratulations after the game, spoke glowingly of Hoyer this week. “Brian was a great player who worked hard to develop himself into a starting caliber NFL quarterback,” Brady told in an email exchange. “Nobody worked harder or committed himself more than Brian. He’s a great friend and I’m not surprised that he’s succeeded once he got an opportunity.”



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