With the fog rolling in at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night, the Patriots were clearly in control in a 23-7 triumph.
The Pats authored the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever in February, when they rallied from 28-3 down in the third quarter to beat the Falcons 34-28. No such heroics were required as they cruised to a 23-0 lead before the Falcons finally found the end zone in the final five minutes of the game.
“It was a great win for our team,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “Everyone put it together. Our defence played so well and we made enough plays on offence. So it’s a great win against a really good team.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Brady connected with Brandin Cooks on an 11-yard scoring pass.
Stephen Gostkowski followed with the first of his three field goals before Brady capped the first half with a two-yard touchdown pass to James White that put New England up 17-0 at the break.
It was White’s first touchdown since he scored the game-winning overtime TD in the Super Bowl.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, perhaps feeling the pressure to atone for the team’s championship choke, connected on 22 of 33 passes for 233 yards, his best efforts coming after the game was out of reach.
He piloted a strong drive to open the second half but kicker Matt Bryant missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.
After another Patriots field goal, Ryan marched the Falcons 70 yards in eight plays to reach third down and goal. But they came up empty when the Patriots stopped them on the third and fourth down attempts to take over the ball on downs.
“We knew this team was going to come in here fired up after two straight losses,” said Patriots defensive tackle Malcolm Butler. “We just had to match their intensity.”
Ryan finally put Atlanta on the scoreboard with 4:09 to play, with a one-yard scoring toss to Julio Jones.
That ended a Falcons scoring drought of more than 91 minutes, stretching back to the second quarter of their loss to the Dolphins last week.
But the Falcons dropped their third straight game to fall to 3-3 while the Patriots improved to 5-2 and maintained their lead in the AFC East division.
Elsewhere, the Green Bay Packers got a taste of how hard life can be without quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Drew Brees threw his 500th career touchdown to lead New Orleans to a fourth straight victory.
With 331 passing yards Brees has surpassed 300 passing yards in all seven of his career games against the Packers.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley completed 12 of 25 passes for 87 yards in his first start in place of Rodgers, who could miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken right collarbone last week.
London’s Twickenham Stadium saw the Los Angeles Rams deliver a 33-0 beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals, who lost star quarterback Carson Palmer through injury. Palmer exited the game in the second quarter with a broken left arm and will be out at least eight weeks and possibly the rest of the season.
The Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars also posted shut-out wins. The Chargers beat Denver 21-0 — the first time since 1992 that the Broncos have been held scoreless. The Jaguars dominated the Colts 27-0 in Indianapolis.
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler departed early with a chest injury later reported to be cracked ribs. With backup Matt Moore at the helm, the Dolphins rallied to beat the New York Jets 31-28.
Chicago’s rookie safety Eddie Jackson became the first player in NFL history to score two defensive touchdowns of at least 75 yards in one game in the Bears’ 17-3 upset of the Carolina Panthers. In San Francisco, Ezekiel Elliott celebrated another court stay of his suspension by running for two touchdowns and Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott passed for three more as the Cowboys beat the 49ers 40-10.