Curran's things to watch during Patriots-Falcons

Curran's things to watch during Patriots-Falcons
September 29, 2013, 8:15 pm
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* No Asante Samuel means a break for the Patriots, at least in terms of what the Falcons may try to employ defensively. The Falcons were already employing one rookie corner in Desmond Trufant. The next man up behind Samuel is Robert Alford, also a rookie. While the rookie-on-rookie dynamic between the Patriots wideouts and Atlanta corners could be a wash, Tom Brady will have a distinct advantage against the neophytes.
* The Falcons are a team that can light it up fast. New England’s been outstanding at preventing big plays this year, a season after being exceptionally permissive. My buddy Mary Paoletti wrote about this the other day but it’s again worth mentioning. A season after allowing 74 plays of 20 or more yards -- with the lion’s share of those coming in the first 10 games -- the Pats have allowed only eight of those plays so far. They haven’t allowed a 40-yard play. Last year, they allowed eight of them. Big night for communication at the back end of the defense.
* This is the first game in a controlled environment the Patriots will play this year. They actually haven’t been in a dome since Thanksgiving 2010 (other than the thing they did in Indianapolis at the end of the 2011 season). Falcons left tackle Sam Baker, who’s been fighting some injuries, will be matched up with Chandler Jones. Set the sack total at 1.5 for CJ and take the over.
* The Patriots’ linebacker speed and coverage is not a strong suit. The group hasn’t been challenged much this season, but the Falcons may look to get slot receiver Harry Douglas Jr. in that group on some crosses. Good mismatch area. And he’s the healthiest Falcon wideout.