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Home » New England PatriotsOctober 2005 » Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths....

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths....

Week 5: October 9, 2005
Patriots (3-2), 31
Falcons (3-2), 28

The Patriots did not know Michael Vick was not going to be in this game until just a few hours before the coin toss. In anticipation of playing the multi-faceted Falcons quarterback, New England scrimmaged with backup quarterback Doug Flutie playing the role of Vick. Despite preparing for the incorrect situation, New England won to pull ahead of the division rival Dolphins. Miami came off their bye week with a loss to Buffalo, a team that wisely aborted the J.P. Losman experiment to snap a 3-game losing streak with Kelly Holcomb’s first start for the Bills.

New England scored first in the game on its second drive. Tom Brady handed off to Corey Dillon four times for 21 yards and passed to Deion Branch twice for 55 yards to set up a Patrick Pass 6-yard run to the left for a touchdown. With his 81st yard, Dillon became the 18th player to reach 10,000 yards.

With the score 14-10 and 1:03 left in the half, the Falcons nearly had possession at the Patriots’ 23-yard line thanks to Allen Rossum’s 50-yard punt return. Atlanta was penalized for an illegal block above the waist on the return and began at their own 35-yard line instead with 45 seconds remaining. Two incomplete pass plays seemed to stifle the Falcons’ chances for a last second score until backup quarterback Matt Schaub completed a 17-yard pass to Brian Finneran, a play that stopped the clock and brought Atlanta into field goal range. Instead of using their usual placekicker for the 58-yard attempt, the Falcons wheeled out punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen, who missed his attempt. New England had called a timeout just before the snap to nullify the attempt to give their opponents a second chance. Koenen successfully scored this time, placing his name in the history books with his franchise’s second-longest field goal.

As so often happens, however, it would be the Patriots’ placekicker with the final word. Opposing coaches, particularly Bill Cowher, take note: Brady devised the 18th drive in his career to tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter or overtime. It was already the second time this season he did this.

The final score was close, but in the main it was one of the better played games. The score and the metrics show how equally matched these teams were; here’s the breakdown on my selected statistics:

  • The Vick-free offense earned 225 yards in the first half and 173 the second for a 23% decrease. Meanwhile, New England notched a steady 206/267 split. Advantage: New England.
  • Atlanta scored a touchdown in early in the 4th quarter after Demorrio Williams intercepted Brady near midfield. Yet again the Patriots forced no turnovers either on the ground nor in the air, which is proving to be an area where they show substantial and sustained weakness. Advantage: Atlanta.
  • The Falcons converted 2 red zone attempts out of 3 for a 67% efficency percentage. In contrast, the Patriots were only 1 of 2 for 50%. However, New England scored three touchdowns on pass plays of 45, 33, and 55 yards to tight ends Daniel Graham and Ben Watson and wide receiver Bethel Johnson, respectively. Against a weak Atlanta secondary, the Patriots were able to score without having to sniff the end zone. Advantage (however slight): Atlanta.
  • Atlanta was penalized 8 times for 84 yards and New England 11 times for 83 yards. This was the third lowest penalty yardage for the Patriots this season, but the number of penalites continues to plague them. Three Patriot defensive penalties on the Falcons’ final drive of 1st quarter assisted them in getting into field goal range. The Falcons enabled their own demise with a 30-yard defensive pass inteference call on Rossum on a first down and 20 pass play at New England’s 26 yard line. This alone swings the pendulum in favor of the Patriots. Advantage: New England.
  • The Patriots converted 3 of 10 third downs (30%) versus the Falcons’ 5 of 13 (38%). Once again the home team came out on top, but this again seemed more a function of the visitors’ success in getting first downs before reaching the third down. Interestingly, both Atlanta and New England had 19 first downs by their own effort, but the home team gained three additional sets of downs due to Patriots’ penalties while the Patriots only had one first down because of the Falcons’ miscues. Advantage: Atlanta.

Tomorrow, the Patriots face the 4-1 Broncos at Denver. Rarely will fans of football see two head coaches of such renown pitted against each other. In 2003, when the teams last met, Bill Belichick called for a safety with 2:49 left in the game to widen the Denver lead from one point to three. This canny tactic granted the Patriots the field position they needed while circumventing their weakness at punter in the form of the feckless Ken Walter. Brady showed his nascent ability to lead game-winning drives and New England won with the final score of 30-26. This next Patriots-Broncos match-up might be another defining moment in the history of these illustrious teams.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 22/27, 350 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Matt Schaub: 18/34, 298 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 106 yards, 0 TD, 12 yard longest gain
Warrick Dunn: 19 carries, 83 yards, 0 TD, 13 yard longest gain
Daniel Graham: 5 receptions, 119 yards, 1 TD, 45 yard longest gain
Brian Finneran: 5 receptions, 103 yards, 0 TD, 53 yard longest gain
Ty Warren: 6 tackles
Willie McGinest: 5 tackles, 1 sack
DeAngelo Hall: 10 tackles
Brady Smith: 3 tackles, 1 sack
Demorrio Williams: 3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 INT

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