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Patriots Week 11 Notebook: Two-Headed Backfield, Relentless Defense, And a True Test Incoming

Patriots

The New England Patriots keep it rolling on a short week, looking like a serious and scary AFC contender in their 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons Thursday. In a season full of inconsistency, the Patriots have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. The team is getting production from all levels of players: veterans, rookies, and everyone in between. Here’s what went down last night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

What Went Right For The Patriots?

The Defense 

Have to start with giving the defense their flowers. This unit has been straight up dominant over the past five weeks, giving up only 13 points in their last 3 games. The Patriots defense continues to be a nightmare for opposing Quarterbacks as New England picked off three of Atlanta’s QBs. 165 total yards allowed, four sacks, four interceptions, zero points allowed, not bad for a short week.

But it’s not simply about the numbers for the defense, it’s the situations. 25-0 will have fans thinking this game never had a chance for the Falcons, but Atlanta was truly in this game in the third quarter. Down 13-0, the Falcons defense picked off Mac Jones, setting the offense up at Atlanta’s 48 yard line. Atlanta then converted two first downs, driving into the red-zone, looking to make it a one possession game. The Patriots defense responded with two crucial stops on 3rd and 4th and 1 to end Atlanta’s momentum. The Falcons went on to throw four straight interceptions.

What makes the Patriots defense even more terrifying is the emergence of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Patriots fans were estactic to welcome back the two linebackers, but they struggled to make an impact early on in the season. Now, it looks as though Van Noy and Hightower have found their speed again, trusting their eyes and instincts. Hightower continues to look explosive in the running game as Van Noy has 3 sacks in two games. This defense is mean, deep, and relentless.

Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris

This is why you draft running backs in the 3rd and 4th rounds. The duo of Stevenson and Harris is going to be a problem for opposing defenses moving forward. With Trent Brown back, the running game has flourished. What make Stevenson and Harris special is their ability to create yards out of nowhere. They both pack power, patience, and the ability to break outside for large runs. The two combined for 125 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Who is going to want to tackle either of these guys running behind Trent Brown and Jakob Johnson in 30 degree weather?

What Went Wrong?

3rd-Quarter Offense

Mac Jones and the Patriots were rolling in the first half. Up 13-0, Jones completed 14-of-15 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The 3rdrd quarter, however, kept Atlanta in the game with the Patriots three possessions: punt, INT, punt. Mac Jones completed his best throw of the game with an incredible 3rd down pass to Hunter Henry. Unfortunately, Jones got a little too greedy and threw an interception deep to Jonnu Smith when he had N’Keal Harry open on a wheel route.

This was one of the few times this season where Jones seemed to have gotten ahead of himself. Maybe Jones was feeling good after the pass to Henry, saw Jonnu open for a second and wanted to get Smith involved. Other than that throw, Jones was his usual self for the night, but turnovers like that will keep any team in the game.

The Patriots are 7-4, they have won five straight games. If Buffalo loses this week, The New England Patriots run the AFC East. The team will get 10 days of rest and they certainly need it. As great as the team has looked, a big test is coming. Titans, Bills, Colts, Bills. All AFC contending teams close to New England’s record. The division will be decided among this stretch and so will the Patriots playoff chances.

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(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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