The Patriots defense turned in their best performance of the season against the Falcons, a total team effort where they were fundamentally sound from top to bottom. Things got a little too foggy to breakdown the entire game, but from a half-plus of review I got a pretty good sense of how well they played and how they were able to shutdown a Falcons offense that had shredded them for much of the Super Bowl.
Here’s what stood out…
— Van Noy continues to make really good progress and his development is a big reason why the defense is playing so much better, especially against the run. The 3rd-and-4 on the Falcons’ second possession was a perfect example as Van Noy splits a double team in space to make a solo tackle for a three yard loss on a toss sweep. It was an excellent play, a great example of the kind of things that weren’t happening earlier in the season.
— After converting the following fourth down via a Matt Ryan scramble the Falcons put together a nice little drive that ended with a Cassius Marsh blocked field goal. On the last third-and-10 the coverage was excellent. Ryan had nowhere to go and the pass rush flushed him out of the pocket. He thought about scrambling again, but McCourty peeled off his middle field help coverage to prevent it. Just an overall really solid team defense play in a key spot, the kind of stuff we haven’t really seen enough of.
— On Marsh’s block he again demonstrated a strength — getting skinny and getting through gaps to make plays. It’s shown up a few times on defensive plays and now it set up what might’ve been a season-changing special teams play. After this the Patriots just played with even more confidence.