8:30 PM ET, September 29, 2013
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Both teams are dealing with significant injuries on offense and red-zone issues, but one is still finding a way to win as they get set to meet Sunday night in Atlanta.
The 3-0 Patriots, a season after averaging a league-high 34.8 points per game, are one of 11 NFL teams averaging under 20 at 19.7. The other 10 have a combined record of 7-23, and the 2-1 Jets are the only other team in the group with a winning record.
"I feel good. 3-0. You can't ask for anything better," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "We know our offense, sooner or later, they're going to start clicking."
It's going to be hard for it to get any worse inside the opponent's 20-yard line, where the Patriots are last in red-zone performance.
"Just poor execution," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I've been one of the main culprits."
So far this year, the receiving duties have been filled by Julian Edelman's league high-tying 27 catches and rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Despite a pair of touchdown catches from Thompkins and seven receptions from Dobson in last Sunday's 23-3 win over Tampa Bay, cohesiveness with Brady has been lacking at times.
Brady has completed 57.5 percent of his passes, his worst three-game mark to open a season since 2006 (53.3), and he's hanging it all on himself.
"I think throwing an interception right to a strong safety last week doesn't help, especially (when) two plays before I had a wide-open guy," Brady said. "I think plays like that are more the problem. I have to do a good job finding the open guys, guys that are running free and then hit them. That will help our red-zone offense more than anything."
The Patriots have managed to overcome the shaky offense by allowing 34 points. The 11.3 points-against average is tied for second with Kansas City and behind only Seattle's 9.0.
They are one of 10 teams to hold their first three opponents under 1,000 yards and have allowed an average of 188.3 yards in the air. New England is second in the AFC in takeaways while cornerback Aqib Talib leads the NFL with three interceptions.
Atlanta's 23.7 points per game isn't a huge departure from last year's 26.2, but coach Mike Smith wasn't at all happy about the way things went down in his team's 27-23 loss to Miami last Sunday.
"We did not play very good situational football. We're talking about red zone, two minute and third downs," Smith said. "We gave up 10 points in two-minute situations -- a field goal at the end of the half, and seven points at the end of the game.
"We weren't as efficient as we needed to be on third down; they were 7 of 12. We were 0 for 3 (defensively) in the red zone. We were only 2 for 5 in (offensive) red-zone efficiency so you can just do the math."
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones leads the NFL with 373 receiving yards and is tied with Edelman for the league high in receptions, but he's questionable with a knee injury.
So is fellow receiver Roddy White, who has just seven catches for 56 yards and has been dealing with an ankle injury.
"We've got to do a lot more on offense," White said. "In the red zone, score touchdowns not kick field goals, and we'll be fine. We've got to find a way to find the end zone."
Falcons running back Steven Jackson will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are expected to again carry the load after combining for 139 rushing yards last week.
Atlanta cornerback Asante Samuel is questionable with a sore thigh.
Brady is 3-0 against the Falcons, including a 26-10 home win over Ryan in the last meeting in 2009.
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|Avg Points Allowed||14.3||26.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NE|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NE|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New England leads 4-0|
|Sep 27, 2009||NE 26, ATL 10|
|Oct 9, 2005||NE 31, @ATL 28|
|Nov 4, 2001||NE 24, @ATL 10|
Only 24 percent of the Patriots plays this season have utilized multiple tight ends despite never dipping below 52 percent in any of the previous three seasons. The Patriots have run more plays (25) without a tight end this season than in the previous three (8).[+]
Patriots' Offense Last 4 Seasons - Pct of Plays with 2+ Tight Ends
ESPN Stats & Information