Brady throws 2 TDs, Pats hold off Falcons 30-23
ATLANTA (AP) — That's more like it, Tom Brady.
After struggling for three weeks to get in sync with his new receivers,
Brady threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his best outing of the
season for the unbeaten New England Patriots, who held off a furious
Atlanta comeback to beat the Falcons 30-23 on Sunday night.
New England improved to 4-0 for the first time since its near-perfect
season in 2007.
"We slugged it out," Brady said. "We came to Atlanta, which is a tough
place to play and they've got a very good team. It's nice to win and be
The Patriots built a 30-13 lead before the Falcons rallied. Atlanta had
a chance to tie it up in the final minute, but Aqib Talib knocked away
Matt Ryan's fourth-down pass for Roddy White in the end zone with 36
"We've got to do a better job of finishing out the game," New England
coach Bill Belichick said, "but we did a good job of putting ourselves
in that position with a 17-point lead with 6 minutes to go in the game."
The Patriots again played without star tight end Rob Gronkowski and
receiver Danny Amendola, both left at home with injuries.
But the Brady-led offense finally looked like itself after struggling a
bit the first three games. New England seemed in control when
LeGarrette Blount scored on a 47-yard run, and Brady threw an 18-yard
touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins.
Thompkins, an undrafted free agent, finished with six catches for 127
yards — nearly as much as the first three games of his career.
"He's an impressive young player," Brady said. "It's really rare to see
that with a young player, to step in with confidence like that he has."
Julian Edelman chipped in with 118 yards on seven receptions.
"We're missing quite a few guys," Brady said, "so hopefully when we get
them back, we'll be more efficient."
Atlanta (1-3) dropped two games below .500 for the first time since
2007 despite a career night from Tony Gonzalez. He had 12 catches for
149 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"You get what you earn in the NFL," coach Mike Smith said. "We've
earned a 1-3 record through the first quarter of the season. That's
what we are."
New England led just 13-10 before a wild final period. Blount stunned
the Georgia Dome crowd with his burst through a gaping hole, cutting
outside and dragging defenders into the end zone.
After Matt Bryant's 45-yard field goal brought the Falcons to 20-13,
Brady guided the Patriots on an 80-yard drive that took only five plays
and barely 2 minutes.
Edelman hauled in a 16-yard pass, followed by 44-yard reception that
set up the touchdown throw to Thompkins in the left corner of the end
zone, sending many of the Atlanta fans heading to the exits with nearly
10 minutes left.
They nearly missed an epic comeback after Stephen Gostkowski's third
field goal pushed the Patriots to their 17-point lead.
Gonzalez hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass, the Falcons recovered an
onside kick, then drove for another field goal by Bryant.
New England recovered a second onside kick, only to fumble a snap
trying to convert on fourth down, turning it back over to the Falcons.
Ryan completed a 49-yard pass to Julio Jones to put Atlanta in position
to force overtime before a mostly empty stadium.
The drive fell short, the Falcons bitten again by their season-long
struggles in the red zone.
Atlanta scored only one touchdown on six trips inside the 20. That
included settling for a field goal on their first possession, when they
had first-and-goal at the 6, and Smith's decision to go for it on
fourth-and-2 from the 7. That failed when Ryan threw it behind White in
"We're just not executing how we need to in the red zone," Smith said.
"We're moving the ball well between the 20s. But we're not ending with
touchdowns. You've got to score touchdowns in this league. It's an
New England got good production from its running game, especially on
its first touchdown drive. Brady threw only twice on the 12-play,
75-yard possession, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to third-string
tight end Matthew Mulligan.
NOTES: Ryan completed 34 of 54 for 421 yards. ... The Falcons had won
14 in a row after losses. This is their first two-game losing streak
since 2009. ... Atlanta, which faces the New York Jets in Week 5, has
never lost three in a row under Smith. ... The Patriots rushed for 132
yards. Blount led with 64 yards on nine carries, while Ridley chipped
in with 53 yards on 11 carries. ... In addition to breaking up
Atlanta's final pass, Talib also had an interception in the fourth
quarter — his fourth of the season.
Patriots Hold Off Falcons 30-23
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