Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick watches from the sidelines as the Falcons
take on the New England Patriots at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Sunday, Oct.
9, 2005. Vick did not dress against the Patriots after injuring his knee against
the Vikings. (AP Photo/Ric Feld))
Vick Watches as Patriots Offense
By Michael Reardon
Most of the question marks that surround the New England offense were replaced with periods in the Patriots' 31 - 28 victory of the Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons. While the absence of Vick certainly made the game much more winnable, it does not diminish the significance of what Tom Brady and his offense were able to achieve against a very tough defense playing at home.
Brady, quite simply, was magnificent. He threw just 5 incomplete passes in 27 attempts, and the one interception counted against him occurred when his pass was tipped into the air at the line of scrimmage. The vast majority of the passes Brady threw that incredibly accurate included some long passes; an element of the passing game that some say is not Brady's long suit. Brady found Ben Watson and Bethel Johnson for scores of 33 and 55 yards respectively on beautifully thrown balls in the third quarter. He completed a pass to an amazing 9 different receivers on his way to posting a gaudy 350 passing yards against a very respectable secondary.
Over 110 of those passing yards went to tight end Daniel Graham. Graham was the leading receiver for the Patriots on Sunday, and was responsible for a 45-yard touchdown reception early in the first quarter on a tight end screen. The call was a fairly rare one for Graham, and he exhibited the athleticism and speed that the coaching staff knows him to have, bowling over defensive players who didn't look too anxious to tackle him. Graham's counterpart Ben Watson also contributed to the effort, displaying some of his wide receiver-quality skills when he nabbed a 33-yard scoring strike from Tom Brady early in the third quarter. Many have been anxiously awaiting the breakout game for this tandem of young tight ends, and they had it on Sunday against the Falcons.
The offensive line and Corey Dillon also had their first very solid game, and for the first time this season, the Patriot running attack was alive and well. Dillon finished the game with a season-high 106 yards on 23 carries. Any questions about his age or physical ability were most definitely put to rest as he ran like a man possessed to a 4.6 yards per carry average; also a season high. The offensive line did extremely well opening up holes for Dillon, and was very active in pulling and setting up blocks downfield. Patrick Pass, filling the role of the injured Kevin Faulk, also chipped in 34 yards on 6 carries. Tom Brady completing 82% of his passes and the Patriots' offense having a greater time of possession were no accident; the offense line protected Brady (Brady was sacked only once), gave him time to throw the ball effectively, and made the defense respect a potent running attack.
The offense had to play this well in order to carry this team to a victory. As should be expected, the New England secondary continues to experience problems. Whether it is a result of a lack of cohesion among the new players who have to step in and start or just general poor execution, the Patriots will need to fix the obvious problems on defense if they expect to consistently have success this season. Matt Shaub's final completion figures weren't great (he completed just 53% of his passes) he carved up the New England secondary for 298 yards, 3 touchdowns, and didn't throw an interception. This is the second consecutive game that the New England secondary has not came up with an interception, and this time it was against a backup quarterback.
The Falcons are a team that relies on a three-pronged running attack with Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett, and Michael Vick to keep the chains moving. Shaub started the game and basically converted the Falcon's offense to a pass heavy team without a lot of trouble. It was the first time all year the Falcons called more pass plays than rushing, and despite the fact that this offense was playing out of its comfort zone with a backup quarterback, they sill managed to score 28 points and pile up almost 300 passing yards against this weak New England secondary. This was despite the fact that the defensive line, short Richard Seymour, was still able to exert reasonable pressure on the backup quarterback. The Patriots continue to be vulnerable to the pig play, and this week the Falcons exploited this weakness with a 53 yard completion to Brian Finneran.
The running defense was adequate considering their opponent. The Falcons came into this game averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground, but this statistic, again, is connected to the inactive Michael Vick. Still, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett make a formidable attack in themselves, and holding them to 115 yards is an accomplishment despite the absence of Vick.
In their next two games, the Patriots face two talented passing attacks managed by Jake Plummer and Peyton Manning. These concerns in the secondary will have to be addressed and improved upon for each of these games, or the offense is going to have to put up even more than 31 points to win these two contests.
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You can find more stories about the players in the HOT NEWS section or in their player profiles. Michael Reardon is a longtime contributor to Patriots Insider. Comments or suggestions send us an email
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