Belichick: Vereen running into Pats' plans

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Belichick: Vereen running into Pats' plans

FOXBORO -- Running back Shane Vereen got his most reps of the season out of the backfield on Sunday against the New York Jets.

In a conference call on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Vereen for being prepared for the opportunity that came his way over the weekend. He called for all of his players to be ready for that opportunity, like Vereen was.

But on Tuesday, Belichick opened up even more about Vereen's value to the Patriots, saying that the second-year running back is capable of making his own opportunity, and that he hopes Vereen does just that.

"Shane's a smart kid," said Belichick. "I think he has a good understanding of the game, the running game, the passing game, pass protection, space plays. Where to be, how to get open and find space, that kind of thing. He's an elusive guy, he's got good balance. He's got good playing strength for his size. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got good playing strength.

"So he gives us some versatility there, and I think he's able to run inside, run in some traffic, but he's a good space player on the edge and in the passing game, that kind of thing. He's really got good value for us."

Vereen had eight carries for 49 total yards on Sunday. Prior to that, he had only two carries for one total yard all season. The absence of Brandon Bolden (knee) on Sunday was one reason that Vereen saw more reps against the Jets. But as Belichick pointed out on Tuesday, Vereen's health has played into that more than anything.

Belichick believes that Vereen has plenty of value to this year's Patriots team. And at the end of the day, his reps will increase as he stays healthy, not as others get injured.

"I don't hope anything happens to anybody else, but hopefully he'll get more opportunities, because I think he can contribute for us," said Belichick. "More of it is, Shane being healthy and Shane being ready to go, than waiting for something to happen to somebody else. It's more a case of him really being able to go out there and being the player that he is.

"He had a good training camp, and then he kind of got set back there at the end of camp, beginning of the season . . . I do think he can be productive, regardless of who else is out there. He's a good player in his own right, without waiting for somebody else to get injured or whatever."

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.