The New England Patriots have a difficult test ahead of them in Week 4, and this is the first time this season that the 3-0 Patriots will truly be tested by a team. Although the Atlanta Falcons were upset by an AFC East team on Sunday in the Miami Dolphins and are dealing with some crushing injuries, the Patriots could also be hobbled on Sunday if both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski miss another week. Gronk, however, is expected to make his season debut, and Amendola also has an outside shot at returning to the field after completely tearing his adductors.
Bill Belichick certainly knows how tough of a matchup the Falcons present, because they have an incredibly high-powered passing attack led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez. While the running game isn’t as good as it was with Steven Jackson out and should be held completely in check by a terrific Patriots run defense, both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling can step up when needed.
Belichick was asked about a few players on the Atlanta Falcons offense, and I found his lengthy quotes about Gonzalez and Jones to be especially interesting. Here’s what he said about Gonzo, “He’s not an every down player for them like you know, say he was with Kansas City. He’s in there a decent amount and certainly in there situationally – third down, red area, two-minute situations, he’ll be in then and then he’ll be in there at other times. You can’t count on him being in there but he’s going to be in there too. You can’t count on him not being in there either. It’s just a question of how they decide to package their personnel groupings. He’s still very instinctive in the passing game, he knows how to get open, he has good size and he’s a tough guy to match up on because of his size, his catching skills, his athleticism. No matter who you put on him, it’s hard to find the right guy. He muscles the smaller guys and out-quicks and out-maneuvers the bigger guys. So basically it’s a tough matchup on him, as it has been for his entire career. He’s got a great catch radius. Wherever the defender is, there’s somewhere you can put the ball that he can catch it that the defender can’t get it. Ryan can do that, he’s very accurate. He’s a tough guy to cover. He does a good job for them.”
Now for his quote on Julio Jones, “Julio does, I’d say, pretty much everything well. He’s a very strong, physical receiver with good speed. In the running game, he’s a very aggressive blocker. He’ll come in and crack safeties and block well. In the passing game, he can go down the field, he can go up and take the ball away from defenders even though he’s covered. He has good vertical jump, timing, strong hands, go up and get the ball. Tough guy to press because he’s so physical coming off the line of scrimmage. He can run through most corners that are trying to press him. He’s a strong runner after the catch so they throw him a lot of short passes, under routes, tear screens, things like that. He’s strong to break tackles. He can take a two-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard run or he could run a 50-yard go route and go up and catch the ball, either way. He’s a tough guy to match up against. He’s got very good speed so he can run by the defense but he’s strong and he can run through them too. He’s tough and he’s a hard guy to tackle. He does everything well.”
I found it interesting that Belichick praised Jones’s blocking ability, and it was also nice to see him praise Gonzalez for a catch radius that is still large. I’m sure the Falcons will be looking closely at Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson for that reason, as he is also known for having a generous catch radius.