Four Ups, Four Downs From Patriots’ Shutout Victory Over Falcons – CBS…

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Atlanta Falcons did not score  a single point on Thursday night. That’s a hard way to live, and the Patriots’ defense made sure that life was as hard as possible for the duration of the 25-0 victory in Atlanta.

A 60-minute game clearly turns several times, but the plays of the game might have been consecutive snaps late in the third quarter. The Falcons faced a third-and-1 at the New England 16-yard line while trailing 13-0 with 1:29 left in the third quarter. An inside handoff to Keith Smith was stuffed at the line. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith decided to go for it on fourth down, and a another inside handoff — this one to Qadree Ollison — was once again stuffed, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Adrian Phillips was in on both tackles, with Dont’a Hightower assisting on the first and Carl Davis assisting on the second. But those plays are stopped by whole defenses. And stands like that are the moments that make these short weeks feel a whole lot better for the winning team.

With that, here are the individual Ups and Downs from the Patriots’ win. For the second straight week, generating four Downs might be a tall task. Limiting the Ups for just four also isn’t possible.


Nick Folk

Nick Folk (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The veteran kicker is as steady as they come. And on a night when the offense had trouble finishing drives, Folk was there to make sure the team remained productive on the scoreboard.

His highlight was a 53-yarder following a 12-yard sack to stretch the rule to 16-0 in the fourth quarter, but he was 4-for-4 on field goals for the night, improving to 26-for-26 on the season. His only misses were a 56-yarder in the rain vs. Tampa Bay and a 54-yarder in Carolina.

(Folk did miss a PAT late, his fourth missed PAT of the year.)

Devin McCourty

Devin McCourty (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

The Patriots had four interceptions, but Devin McCourty’s was the most important. After a stagnant third quarter, the Falcons were slightly threatening to score, driving over midfield after a 16-yard completion from Matt Ryan to Kyle Pitts.

But the longtime Patriots defensive captain stopped that excursion in its tracks. Ryan overthrew everybody while being pressured up the middle from Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower, and McCourty closed on the ball and made a diving interception.

That pick killed a possible scoring excursion, and kick-started a field goal excursion for New England to stretch the rule to 16-0.

The pick was the 30th of McCourty’s career, breaking a tie and moving him into only possession of third place in franchise history for most interceptions.

Kyle Dugger

The second-year safety started his night with a third-down pass breakup against Kyle Pitts, forcing a punt.

He later ripped Russell Gage to the turf …

and he cracked Ollison late in the second quarter.

Dugger’s making his presence felt a lot more regularly this year.

Kyle Van Noy

Some nights, it’s fun to play defense. Kyle Van Noy had one of those nights, as he sacked Matt Ryan twice, recorded eight total tackles, and was given a cherry on top with an ill-advised Josh Rosen pass late in the game. Van Noy picked it off and ran 35 yards for a touchdown in the game’s closing minutes.

That was the third touchdown of his Patriots career.

Mac Jones

The last time Mac Jones played in chief time — a Week 4 matchup with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers — the story was more about the quarterback on the other side of the field. This time, with the Patriots in Atlanta, and in the national spotlight on Thursday night, all eyes were on Mac.

Realistically, he only made a associate of high-difficulty throws. But that hardly matters when the quarterback completes 84.6 percent of his passes.

Jones was 22-for-26, operating with efficiency. He was 14-for-15 in the first half, with his lone incompletion coming on a miscommunication with Hunter Henry in the end zone.

It wasn’t an exceptional night; his interception to A.J. Terrell was a bad decision, and he took three sacks. But 22-for-26 on a short week for a rookie, just four days removed from his best performance as a pro — that shouldn’t get overlooked. Playing quarterback is hard, playing quarterback in the NFL is hard, playing quarterback in the NFL on the road  is hard, and playing quarterback in the NFL on the road on a short week is hard. Jones was pretty good.

(Bonus points to Mac for running two perfect QB sneaks. The Brady comparisons are clearly foolish … unless you’re talking about QB sneaks. Kid has the knack.)

Rhamondre Stevenson

Rhamondre Stevenson stiff-arms Duron Harmon.
(Photo by high von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Another rookie coming off his best game as a pro, Stevenson was once again good. He ran for 69 yards on 12 carries, but he looked his best on a run that didn’t count — a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter, which was negated by a holding penalty.

He also showed off a nasty stiff-arm on multiple occasions.

Matthew Judon

Matthew Judon sacks Matt Ryan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It’s possible that he’s been worthy of being an “Up” in all 11 games this year. His motor is just relentless. He had another sack, giving him a career-high 10.5 on the season. He was regularly in the backfield, harassing linemen, running backs, and quarterbacks alike. It might take a more dedicated look at history to say this with certainty, but he certainly feels like the second-best free-agent signing of the Bill Belichick era. (Knocking Rodney Harrison might not be possible for anybody.)


Punt Return Unit

Gunner Olszewski let a third-quarter punt land instead of trying to catch it, resulting in an additional 15 or so yards on what turned out to be a 62-yard punt. (Jones’ interception came on the excursion that followed.)

Earlier in the game, a 10-yard Olszewski return was negated by a holding penalty on Cody Davis, and a block in the back by Justin Bethel on a punt return pushed the Patriots back an additional 10 yards. (Matthew Slater was flagged on punt coverage but successfully talked his way out of it, because he’s Matthew Slater.)

Kendrick Bourne?

The question mark here is because this issue did not matter one iota in this 25-0 victory. But in the “Something To Watch” department, Bourne failed to pick up a first down three times when he had the ball in his hands.

He made a catch on second-and-7 midway by the first quarter, and despite what looked like a clear path to the line to gain, he was tackled a yard short of the sticks. In the fourth quarter, he caught a pass over the middle on first-and-20, and he gave himself up one yard short of the line to gain. Later in the fourth, when the Patriots needed one first down to essentially be able to ice the game away, he slid to stay in bounds but did so a yard short of the line to gain.

Only the third one hurt, so to speak, as Jones was stuffed on a sneak and the Patriots had to kick a field goal to go up 19-0. And “hurt” feels like extreme language to use after a 25-0 win.

And for that reason, the “Downs” portion of the program is now over. I was tempted to throw in some of the sacks allowed — especially the one by Trent Brown before halftime — but the reality is that the other team does pay its employees, too.

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