Patriots-Falcons: Preview

The 2-0 Atlanta Falcons travel to Foxborough to take on the 1-1 New England Patriots Sunday at 1pm. Game preview and scouting reports.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at New England Patriots (1-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/27/09
SURFACE:
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)

SERIES: 12th regular-season meeting. Falcons lead series, 6-5. The Patriots have won the last two meetings. This will be the first meeting between the teams at Gillette Stadium. This is their first meeting since the 2005 season when the Patriots prevailed 31-28 at the Georgia Dome. The last time the Falcons traveled to Foxborough was during their 1998 Super Bowl run when they beat the Patriots 41-10 on November 8, 1998.

PREDICTION: Patriots 31-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots need to find more offensive balance after QB Tom Brady attempted 100 passes through the first two games. They're averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, but the Falcons are vulnerable between the tackles and an effective ground game would set Brady up to test the Falcons' mediocre secondary. As impressive as former college QB Julian Edelman was last week, Brady needs WR Wes Welker back working the slot to help divert attention from Randy Moss. The Patriots' slow start can't be blamed on the defense, which is allowing just 265 yards per game. However, the secondary faces its biggest challenge of the young season as the Falcons are doing an excellent job of utilizing TE Tony Gonzalez in the seam to help draw attention away from WR Roddy White. The game could hinge on whether Atlanta's ground game is able to provide good balance against the Patriots' stout 3-4 front. RB Michael Turner was held to 65 rushing yards in Week 1 by Miami.

FAST FACTS: The Falcons are 9-1 at home under coach Mike Smith. ... Brady is 2-0 with a 134.3 passer rating in two career games against Atlanta.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Falcons:
--WR Harry Douglas had surgery last week to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. DT Peria Jerry's surgery for his left knee injury has not been scheduled yet.
--FS Thomas DeCoud in two games has 16 tackles (seven solos), one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. He led the Falcons in tackles against Carolina.
--MLB Curtis Lofton leads the Falcons in tackles with 23 while added a forced fumble.
--DE John Abraham is very familiar with New England from six seasons with the New York Jets days. He has 10 career sacks against the Patriots, his highest total against any team.
--RB Michael Turner rushed for over 100 yards for the ninth time in 19 games with the Falcons last week against Carolina.

Patriots:
--WR Wes Welker took a step in the right direction Thursday by participating in a limited amount of practice, though his knee injury remains a concern heading into Sunday's game against Atlanta.
--TE Chris Baker has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury and his status remains in doubt for Sunday's game. He'll likely be a game-time decision.
--S Brandon Meriweather has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury, but should be available this weekend against the Falcons.
--WR Julian Edelman has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury and might be forced to sit out this weekend. Edelman's absence would be big if Welker also cannot play.
--LB Jerod Mayo did not practice this week due to his knee injury and will not play Sunday against Atlanta. Mayo will likely miss the next four weeks.


SCOUTING REPORTS

Falcons:
When the Falcons made their original cut down to the 53-man roster, defensive Vance Walker came close to making the team. The seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech was added to the practice squad.

With the season-ending injury to Peria Jerry, Walker was added to the 53-man roster.

"Vance has the skill set that we are looking for at defensive tackle," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "He's going to get an opportunity to compete this week with Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis."

Walker is the smallest of the three, but plays at a high energy level and has mastered some techniques. He's almost a rarity in that he's an interior lineman who likes to use the old Reggie White hump move.

Defensive end Chauncey Davis will also see time at defensive tackle with Jerry out for the season. Davis is a steady plugger inside, who's shown some explosiveness while rushing the passer inside.

Jerry's surgery for his left knee injury has not been scheduled yet.

"He's been in the training room the last (few) days," Smith said. "It will be a little bit before he has his surgery. ... We don't have a time frame for when (Jerry's surgery) will be done."

Patriots:

Newly-acquired wide receiver Joey Galloway has been the subject of media and fan scrutiny this week due to his struggles in each of the first two games this season.

At times, Galloway has looked lost on the field -- perhaps a byproduct of still learning the playbook -- and has even dropped some easy passes, forcing outsiders to question whether his problems are mental.

Galloway's new quarterback, Tom Brady, stood up in support for the veteran receiver this week and said the two have a "great" relationship, which has made it easier for Galloway to go about his business.

"It's always comforting," Galloway said. "It's been a learning curve. It's taken time. We've got a lot of work to do. We've worked extremely hard. We do every single day. And we communicate a lot. So as time goes on we'll get better."

Not only is having Brady's confidence a plus for Galloway, so is having an All-Pro quarterback with three Super Bowl rings who also has the experience, accuracy and talent most players at his position lack.

"I've been with a lot of quarterbacks. It's been fun. It's been interesting. He is a great coach," Galloway said. "He's very decisive in what he wants. And he'll explain that to you and you've just got to try and get on the same page with him."

Galloway admits it'll "take some time" for that to happen, but reassured everyone he and Brady have been working tirelessly to build the same kind of relationship Brady has had with other receivers such as Troy Brown and Deion Branch.

"I think we keep putting an emphasis on this system," Galloway said. "I think all NFL systems are different and unique and they all take a lot of work to learn. So it just takes time. It takes a lot of studying."

Sooner or later, it'll happen, Galloway says. After all, he's got Brady in his corner.

"You guys are spoiled up here, because Tom is different than probably 99 percent of the guys I was playing with," Galloway said. "No, that communication's not always the same. There's been a couple guys that I've played with that are unique like he is. But yeah, it's different."


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