You remember the Super Bowl against the Rams, when the Patriots were introduced as a team. That was how they won back in 2001, 2003, and 2004, as a team. That's also how they won Sunday night and that's also how they've managed to go 4-0 despite injury after injury.
This is no longer just Tom Brady carrying the roster on his back. Win or lose, this will be a group effort in 2013. From Brady to Thompkins to Talib to Blount to rookie defensive linemen nobody has ever heard of to Pro Bowl offensive linemen protecting Brady and opening holes for the running backs. Team, team, team.
Aqib Talib's Sunday Night performance was a masterpiece. Ryan threw at him 8 times, and only completed one of those passes. Talib hauled in his 4th interception of the season, and he defended 4 passes, including the game-clinching 4th down pass in the end zone. His presence on the field is a necessary condition of the Patriots winning against good teams. Without him, the Pats are screwed.
The offensive line also stepped up. They protected Brady on 3rd and 19 so he could hook up with Kenbrell Thompkins. On the next play Dan Connolly pulled and opened up a large gap for LeGarrette Blount to barrel through and then sprint to a 47-yard TD.
Speaking of Thompkins, he and Brady seem to have finally reached a level of trust and comfort. The TD pass Brady threw to Thompkins was all about trust. Brady threw to a spot he figured Thompkins would reach, and Thompkins got there.
It wasn't a completely clean victory for the Pats. Zach Sudfeld bobbled an onside kick and gave Atlanta some life. Brady had his second fumbled snap of the season, which is 2 more than I can ever remember him having. That was on a huge 4th and 1 play. And Dont'a Hightower still struggles in coverage.
The Falcons contributed by committing several unforced errors which made the Patriots' path to victory much clearer: Going for it on 4th and 2 so early in the game, an obviously excited Matt Ryan overthrowing on that same 4th and 2 play, a few key penalties, some drops. The Falcons are just too tightly wound to win in big games. There's no composure, only a hurried over-eagerness to make a big play.
The Patriots passed a test and are 4-0. And that means what? The combined record of their opponents is 5-11. So we shouldn't be crowing the Patriots just yet. It's barely autumn.
However, the goal for the first half of the season was to tread water until Gronkowski returned. The Patriots are 4-0 without him. And have won 3 without Amendola. And just won without Wilfork for most of the game. I'll take 4-0 with all these injuries, regardless of the caliber of opponent. The Pats have achieved their quarterly goals.
They remain on the road against a decent Bengals team that's 2-2, but also 2-0 at home.
Daniel Shirey - USA Today