The New England Patriots host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football, giving fans what we’ve waited for since February: a rematch of Super Bowl LI, a rematch of Brady versus Ryan, a rematch of 28-3.
“That comeback is still unbelievable in my mind,” Boston Globe Patriots Reporter Jim McBride said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think about that night all the time, writing two stories, basically having two stories going at the same time – because you just didn’t know what was going to happen once the Patriots kind of turned that tide in the fourth quarter.”
A lot has changed since then. The Patriots (4-2) rank fifth in the league in scoring offense (28.7 points per game) but are 30th in scoring defense (26.5 points allowed per game).
“They still have a lot of problems on defense,” McBride said, “but you’ve seen the last couple weeks, with Dont’a Hightower (knee) returning, I think that settled a lot of things down for them. He was the guy that all those guys on the defense looked to last year to kind of settle things, to get everyone in the right spot. His first week back from the injury, they had him playing on the edge a lot, and I think that kind of threw guys off. Stephon Gilmore had trouble adjusting to zone defenses and you saw him play much better when they gave him a man assignment.
“So I think they’re still a work in progress,” McBride continued. “I don’t think you have to worry about that offense too much. They’re going to score their points. The Edelman injury hurts obviously, but with Tom there, they’re always going to find a way to get in the end zone. I think that defense, they’re still a work in progress and they’re still the first thing everyone’s going to point to when they say, ‘What’s wrong with the Patriots?’ But this team, as always, is going to be a lot better at the end of November and early December than they are right now.”
The Falcons (3-2), meanwhile, have lost two straight games after a 3-0 start. They’re also coming off a game in which they squandered a 17-0 halftime lead against Miami, ultimately losing 20-17 in Atlanta.
“The Falcons really haven’t learned anything, it doesn’t seem like,” McBride said. “I know (Steve) Sarkisian is the offensive coordinator and (Kyle) Shanahan is out in San Francisco, but they kind of look like the same team to me with the same kind of really questionable play-calling. They’ve blown two leads already this year, and they really should have lost that Detroit Lions game, that Golden Tate game where they had the 10-second runoff. It’ll be funny to see if they learn their lesson when they come up to Foxboro.”
Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. ET.