Humbling. I think that's the best way to sum up today's game for the Falcons.
Let's give credit where it's due. New England was playing at home and coming off its own humbling loss. That's the NFL. One week you're humbled, the next week you're the humbler. As Joe Buck said minutes ago, "You just don't figure Tom Brady was going to lose back-to-back games." I think the Patriots just extended a streak to 42 weeks since the last time they lost two games in a row. You talk about a winning franchise, that pretty much defines it. (And remember Matt Cassel quarterbacked the Patriots last season.)
Holding New England to 26 points is not a bad effort. The Falcons scored 28 points last week. If they duplicated that effort today, they would have won. And some might say that Carolina's defense might be better than New England's, which is so depleted by injuries, trades, retirements and free-agent defections over the last few years.
If you had told the Falcons' coaching staff before the game that Tony Gonzalez would only have one catch and that Michael Turner would rush for less than 100 yards, my guess is that they would not have liked their chances very much. Gonzalez and Roddy White combined for only 40 yards receiving, which makes for an unfamiliar formula.
The Patriots held the ball for 39 minutes and 49 seconds to the Falcons' 20:11. That makes it virtually impossible to win. What makes that statistic even more amazing is the Falcons turned the ball over only once. New England ran the ball 39 times. When you possess the ball that much, you're keeping it away from the other team. Turner rushed for only 56 yards on 15 carries -- which isn't a bad average at 3.7 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Falcons had no sacks today.
After totaling four in Week 1, they have only one the last two weeks. Joe Buck, highlighting that the Falcons did not had a sack, said at one point "Matt Light has handled John Abraham out on the edge." Fans are left to debate if Abraham and other Falcons were victims of holding.
And penalties hurt. The Falcons' final one of the game came on Brent Grimes' pass interference call on Randy Moss that gave New England a key third-down conversion in the fourth quarter when the Falcons still had time to rally and the score was within reason.
One last thought is that second-year safety Thomas DeCoud played a fabulous game. He also had chances at interceptions that, if converted, could have taken points off the board for New England.
After last week's win over the Panthers, Smith said in his postgame comments there were a lot of miscues. No doubt there were more today, as well. If nothing else, Smith will have the players' attention for the next two weeks as the Falcons have a bye on Oct. 4 before they head to San Francisco on Oct. 11.