FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The rematch was a mismatch.

The New England Patriots’ much maligned defense, missing two of its top three cornerbacks, came up with its best effort of the season to throttle the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 Sunday night at foggy Gillette Stadium in a rematch of Super Bowl LI.

The Patriots, who entered the game allowing nearly 27 points and 325 passing yards a game, completely shut down Matt Ryan and the Falcons to improve to 5-2 on the season. Ryan was held to 233 passing yards – the first time this season a quarterback has failed to throw for 300 against the Patriots this season.

Last February, the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Much of the hype leading into this game centered on that game. But the Patriots defensive effort took all the drama out of this one.

Much of the second half was played in a heavy fog that enshrouded the field, making it difficult to see anything.

Tom Brady threw for 249 yards and touchdowns to Brandin Cooks (11 yards) and James White (2 yards) in the second quarter. Dion Lewis rushed for 76 yards. Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals.

And the defense came up huge.

Cassius Marsh blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt by Matt Bryant with 1:05 left in the first quarter to keep the game scoreless.

And linebacker Kyle Van Noy made a huge stop on a fourth-and-goal for the Falcons from the New England 1 early in the fourth, with New England leading 20-0. After Trey Flowers busted up the play, Van Noy tackled Taylor Gabriel for a 5-yard loss.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots got their offense untracked in the second.

They got the scoring started with 12:26 left in the second quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Cooks. It was actually a very short shovel-pass in the backfield, and Cooks followed tight end Rob Gronkowski around left end to the end zone.

Rex Burkhead came in on the next drive, his first appearance since a rib injury in the second game, and sparked the Pats to a 29-yard field goal by Gostkowski with 4:42 left to make it 10-0.

The Patriots defense then stood up, forcing a Ryan incompletion on a fourth-and-6 from the New England 47 with 1:55 left in the half.

Brady then completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to White with 21 seconds remaining in the half.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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