FOXBORO – On the one hand, the Patriots know that a conflicting coaching staff can only plan so much over a three-day span.
When they start in Atlanta, it’s highly likely that the Falcons will perform their core game, maybe a wrinkle or two and hope for the best as a home underdog; the consequence of time constraints.
On the other hand, it’s Thursday night football; wild, sloppy, unpredictable Thursday night football against a 4-5 team tipping on the edge of the NFC playoff picture with seasonal hopes at stake.
So Pats, as best they can, prepare for everything.
“We just have to see what they do and watch a movie. Hopefully they stick to their bread-and-butter game, but we need to be ready for anything and everything,” Patriots linebacker Matt Judon said Tuesday. “We’re the only game on TV, so everyone’s pulling off that kind of thing like the trick. We want to be ready and prepared. ”
Just as quickly as the Pats rose to the position after their 38-point annihilation of the Browns last Sunday, so quickly did the Falcons fall. Half a continent away, the Cowboys beat Atlanta 40-3, adding injury to insult as running back Cordarrelle Patterson sprained her ankle. According to the NFL Network, Patterson is unlikely to play Thursday, which would leave the Falcons with a bona fide playmaker in rookie-tight-end Kyle Pitts.
This lack of talent can drive Atlanta staff to the type of desperation that inspires flea flicker, double passes or onside kicks. First-year head coach Arthur Smith previously served as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, where he called several touchdown passes to offensive linemen and halfback passes. During his tenure, the Titans scored touchdowns on false points.
Although at least early in the week, the Patriots do not yet overlook the regular staff and play-calls at his disposal.
“Every week we are prepared for everyone’s best shots. Everyone comes in, knows what type of team we are and how we are very aware of the film and stuff like that. We try to be as clear as you can be, but you never know , ”Said Pat’s linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
“They’re missing some good players, but they have some guys on their roster that I’m sure are ready to go up.”
Incidentally, to emphasize his own point about film studios, Hightower estimates that Pitts has made up to 10 one-handed catches specifically on bootleg or play-actions this season. The Falcons will present their rookie star in all situations, a major reason why past opponents have covered him with their best cornerbacks, including Pro Bowlers Stephon Gilmore, Xavien Howard and Marshon Lattimore. It is possible that the Patriots will give the Pitts the same treatment through JC Jackson, although front-seven defenders like Judon, Hightower and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux will first worry about the offensive line.
“The O-line is pretty fast,” Godchaux said. “They get to the second level pretty quickly, so we have to make sure we play with great technique and good discipline.”
The Patriots short-circuited the Browns’ run-heavy offensive last week by bringing the game to their offensive linemen. After allowing a touchdown drive that opened the game, Hightower and inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley smashed pulling guards and eventually put the game on Baker Mayfield’s shoulders. Mayfield failed quickly.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan might not want to, despite coming after a season-worst performance against Dallas. During the season, Ryan completed 67.7% of his passes in 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight picks.
“The guy makes all the right checks, and still throws a great ball. It is not really talked about, but… I still see him as one of the best quarterbacks,” said Hightower.
The key to limiting Ryan will be to limit his help, namely Pitts. Then, according to the players, it will be to follow the same physical formula that most often wins on Thursday night: to stay healthy.
“Just get your legs back under you,” Judon said. “Make sure, no matter what preparation you do for a long week, continue it, but still get all the good things: massage, lift, make sure your legs are well.”
“You get a win and you get the weekend off,” Godchaux said. “It’s hard … but I think we’re all up for it.”