In the midst of preparations for the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Patriots and the Falcons, New England's head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady took some time to speak to the Atlanta media about the challenges they expect to face from the Falcons, who are off to a 1-2 start.
The Patriots are 3-0 start, and Belichick credits their abilities to make plays when games come down to the wire and their execution in red zone situations. He added that the team is confident in whomever goes in to play, but that as a total team they can keep improving in every area.
He specifically stressed the importance of red zone situations, an area where the Falcons have struggled. Belichick focuses mostly on red zone statistics, along with turnovers, as he said those are the two things that correlate the most to winning.
"A lot of other things can play into it, that's not to minimize any other aspect of the game," Belichick said. "But most games in the NFL come down to the fourth quarter and the last couple possessions. Whichever team is able to make the critical plays at that time — the players that can make plays in the fourth – that's what's going to correlate to winning."
The Patriots, who come with the always-challenging Brady as their quarterback, have also rapidly improved their running game the last few years. The Patriots run one of the most effective running back commitees, featuring the elusive Stevan Ridley, along with LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. This means the Falcons now have to be able to not only stop Brady, but their playmakers on the ground as well.
The Falcons are off to a good start with that this season, as they have allowed just 79 yards per game, putting them fifth in the league in run stopping.
Belichick praised all facets of the Falcons' defense, including defensive tackles Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end Osi Umenyiora and the young corners – Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.
"They have real good team speed, they're well coached and they're athletic," Belichick said. "We can't let them be disruptive up front, we have to be careful because there's a lot of experienced guys back there. Those players will take the ball away from you if you're not careful or if you're sloppy in your passing game."
Brady expressed the same sentiment as his coach, saying that Sunday night's game is going to be challenging but that the team is continually working hard to get to the playing level they want to be at.
"Hopefully this is a week where we can be at our best because we're going to need it," Brady said. "[The Falcons] challenge you in every area. They challenge you in the run game, they challenge you in the pass game, they got a lot of scheme games. They've got talented players at every position and they play well at home.
"It's going to be everything we got, we're going to have to be ready for 60 minutes of football and possibly beyond that," he continued. "It's going to be a great game to see where we're at and measure up against one of the best teams in the NFL."