The onset of the Falcons offensive was against the soaring defenses of the Patriots on Thursday evening. Let’s just say New England had an early Thanksgiving festival against these birds.
The one-sided nature of the Week 11 matchup peaked in the fourth quarter when the Pats (7-4) intercepted all three Falcons quarterbacks and returned one of the picks for six.
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In fact, the hawks (4-6) had four possessions in the neighborhood and all of them ended up being intercepted. Matt Ryan was picked up 12 minutes before the end and again 5 minutes before the end. After a Gimpy Ryan was pulled out of the game at the two-minute warning and Atlanta lost three points, backups Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks threw INTs on their respective properties. Rosen’s INT, to Kyle Van Noy, went 35 yards the other way to shoot New England to the final goal in a 25-0 win.
If you’re wondering, this isn’t the first time three different Falcons quarterbacks have been intercepted in the same game. It also happened during the team’s inaugural season in 1966 (Randy Johnson, Dennis Claridge, Steve Sloan versus the 49ers).
And, according to The Associated Press, the last time this happened to an NFL team was on November 12, 2000, when Ryan Leaf, Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno were picked up by the Chargers from the Dolphins.
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The first Falcons intercept was on a Ryan Pass designed for rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. The ball sailed well over Pitts ‘head and into the arms of Devin McCourty for the Patriots’ 22. The game resulted in a New England field goal that resulted in a 16-0 win.
“It was man-to-man coverage. I tried putting it up front and it felt like there was a lot of contact but we didn’t get a call there,” said Ryan. “Try to overdo it, give [Pitts] a chance to run and make a game and it didn’t work out. “
Ryan’s second pick was a high throw to the sideline, which receiver Olamide Zaccheaus tipped into the hands of JC Jackson. New England converted that turnover into another field goal and a 19-0 lead.
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“If you go through some of these games will come,” said Patriots manager Bill Belichick. “Devin’s interception was big after they got the ball in good field position and had a chance to get back into the game. That was a big game for us.”
Belichick admitted that New England came into the game and focused on containing Pitts, a strategy that became more urgent when wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (Knuckle) became a late scratch. Pitts finished with three receptions for 29 yards.
“He’s a big challenge,” said Belichick. He highlighted the work of linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower as well as defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger.
“I thought our players did a good job, they had a good level of consciousness,” he said. “They tried to throw a number of play-action passes and I thought that Bentley, Hightower, Phillips and Kyle Dugger, these guys, knew some of the over routes well.”
To the merit of the Falcons (?) The other five passes they tried in the quarter were all completed to their receivers so that the ball never touched the ground in the last third at Atlanta on the offensive.
Thursday’s four interceptions gave the Patriots the NFL lead at 18 before 15. Twelve of the picks came against Zach Wilson (four), Sam Darnold (three), Mike White (two), Tua Tagovailoa, Rosen and Franks (one each ), but the other INTs were against Ryan, Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, and Baker Mayfield.
Good quarterback, bad quarterback, intermediate quarterback, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, New England ball hawks are eating well this year.