Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Tom Brady threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns as the New England Patriots held off a furious Atlanta comeback Sunday night, beating the Falcons 30-23 to improve to 4-0 for the first time since their near-perfect season in 2007.
New England built a 30-13 lead before the Falcons rallied.
They had a chance to tie it up in the final minute, but Matt Ryan's fourth-down pass went off the hands of Roddy White in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining.
The Patriots 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 finished with six catches for 127 yards — nearly as much as the first three games of his career. Julian Edelman chipped in with 118 yards on seven receptions.
Atlanta (1-3) is two games below .500 for the first time since 2007.
New England Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (85) vies for a thrown ball against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) during the second half of Sunday's game.
The Associated Press
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) works against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of Sunday's game in Atlanta.
The Associated Press
WHO: Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday
Blount broke off a 47-yard touchdown run to give the New England Patriots a 20-10 lead over the Atlanta Falcons in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Blount ran through the middle of the line of scrimmage and outraced safety William Moore and cornerback Desmond Trufant down the left sideline for the score.
The Patriots had gone ahead 13-10 with 5:29 left in the third on Stephen Gostkowski's 22-yard field goal.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 9 of 14 passing for 83 yards in the third, but he lost another receiving target on the snap that preceded Gostkowski's score.
Receiver Aaron Dobson was injured in the end zone while attempting to catch a touchdown pass.
Falcons cornerback Robert Alford appeared to hold Dobson on the route, and Brady threw the ball into the artificial turf in front of both players.
Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud knocked his knee against the front of Dobson's helmet as Dobson fell to the turf. Dobson was on his back for a couple of minutes before New England's medical staff attended to him.
Dobson walked off the field under his own power, but was questionable to return.
Tony Gonzalez caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to help the Falcons tie it at 10-all tie late in the second quarter.
Brady's 1-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Mulligan and Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal gave New England a 10-3 lead earlier in the second quarter.
Gonzalez was open on the right sideline after linebacker Dont'a Hightower bumped him in coverage and let the 13-time Pro Bowl tight end catch the pass easily and beat safety Steve Gregory to the right goal line marker.
Matt Bryant kicked a 23-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead on the opening drive.
The 13-play, 75-yard drive stalled at the 6 when Ryan overthrew Gonzalez and Julio Jones in the end zone.
New England's first drive ended when Kenbrell Thompkins dropped a pass that would've been a first down, and the Patriots had to punt.
Stevan Ridley energized New England's offense late in the first, catching a 24-yard pass and running three times for 26 yards to help set up Mulligan's TD catch that gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead early in the second.
The Falcons went three-and-out on their second possession due in part to a holding penalty on left tackle Sam Baker that wiped out an 18-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers.
Atlanta, which began the game with a 1-2 record, failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from the New England 7 midway through the second when Ryan threw behind Roddy White near the left sideline.
New England, off to its best start in six years, was trying to improve to 4-0 and tie Denver and Kansas City for the AFC's best record.
The Patriots had yet to face a quarterback this season as successful as Ryan. Others were rookies EJ Manuel of Buffalo and Geno Smith of the New York Jets and Josh Freeman of winless Tampa Bay.
New England's defense had allowed just three touchdowns this year, but the Patriots' offense has only four touchdowns in 13 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line for an NFL-worst 69.2 percent through three games.
Atlanta entered the game with a 34-7 record under coach Mike Smith at the Georgia Dome, but his defense looked confused on a 49-yard pass from Brady to Thompkins that set up Gostkowski's field goal.
Brady faked to Julian Edelman on a reverse and connected with Thompkins, who jumped to beat strong safety William Moore for the big gain.
Brady attempted just nine passes in the first half, completing five for 96 yards, but he has thrown a TD pass in 52 consecutive games, the NFL's second-longest career — and active — streak behind Drew Brees' 54 straight for New Orleans.