New England Patriots

Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots: Full Roster Grades for the Patriots

James ChristensenContributor ISeptember 30, 2013

Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots: Full Roster Grades for the Patriots

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    The New England Patriots haven't taken it easy on their fans this year.

    After close wins against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets to start the season, the Patriots had somewhat of an easy win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFC South.

    They had no such luck against fellow NFC South foe the Atlanta Falcons—escaping with a 30-23 victory. 

    Check out the grades for each Patriots player. 

Quarterbacks

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    Tom Brady: B

    Brady literally dropped the ball against the Atlanta Falcons.

    In a rare instance of Brady not converting in short-yardage situations, Brady fumbled the snap on 4th-and-1 with a chance to effectively put the game away. 

    However, the Patriots aren't in the position to win that game without Brady's performance finding Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman down the field over and over again in the second half of Sunday night's game.

    Brady didn't look like Peyton Manning in this game, but 4-0 speaks for itself.

     

Running Backs

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    LeGarrette Blount: A-

    Blount's 47-yard touchdown was the eventual game-clinching score for New England. It is shocking to see a man that big beat cornerbacks down the field and drag them into the end zone. 

    Blount looked to have the first down secured on 3rd-and-1 late in the game, but replay wasn't able to give the officials indisputable evidence. His ability to turn potential losses into small gains has saved the Patriots on more that one occasion.

     

    Stevan Ridley: B+

    Ridley was challenged early and often by the Falcons, with linebackers clawing at the ball on every carry. Ridley was able to hang on to the ball and was decisive in his cuts. 

     

    Brandon Bolden: B

    Bolden nearly had the first touchdown of the night, but ultimately came up an inch short. His ability in the red zone is proven—expect to see him get plenty of carries there in the future.

     

    James Develin: B

    Develin had a big catch in the passing game and was instrumental creating holes in the run game. This was Develin's best game in a New England uniform.

Wide Receivers

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    Julian Edelman: A

    Edelman's whip route with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty. The Atlanta corner bit inside, Edelman flipped his momentum, caught the ball cleanly and was off to the races for 44 yards. 

    At this point, you could put an No. 83 jersey on Edelman, and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between him and Wes Welker.

     

    Kenbrell Thompkins: A-

    Thompkins is that guy. Patriots fans have wanted that receiver who can go up and get the jump ball down the field since Randy Moss was shuttled out of town.  

    Thompkins catching the fade on the left sideline was sublime.

     

    Josh Boyce: B-

    Boyce saw the most playing time of his young career and took advantage. Boyce only caught two balls—one didn't count due to an accepted defensive penalty—but was able to get open down the field on multiple occasions. 

    Boyce has obvious speed, and the Patriots are starting to take advantage of it.

     

    Aaron Dobson: C+

    Unfortunately for Dobson, he took a big hit to his head and neck during the third quarter and did not return. He had one third-down conversion earlier in the same drive as his injury and was having a decent, but quiet, night.

Tight Ends

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    Michael Hoomanawanui: A-

    Hoomanawanui was impressive angle-blocking the stout Falcons defensive line. He helped open up some huge holes for Ridley and Blount which led to the success of the Patriots play-action passing game.

     

    Matthew Mulligan: A-

    Mulligan blocked well and caught a touchdown pass—not bad for a player cut earlier this year by the Patriots. Mulligan was also open underneath on a few other plays, but Brady had options open further down the field.

     

    Zach Sudfeld: D

    Sudfeld must have walked under a ladder or crossed a black cat's path at some point in between the preseason and regular season. A tough bounce on an onside kick breathed life into the Falcons comeback attempt as Sudfeld couldn't hold on to the ball.

    Held without a catch again, Sudfeld did draw one holding penalty.

Offensive Line

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    Sebastian Vollmer: B+

    Nate Solder: B+

    Logan Mankins: B-

    The statistics—70 total rushing yards—don't tell the real story of how well the Patriots were able to run the ball. They ripped off strong runs in the first half, forcing the Falcons to watch the box more closely. 

    Once they made that change, the play-action passing game was as crisp as ever. Vollmer, Solder and Mankins—certainly on the blown-up screen pass to Bolden—all made some minor mistakes, but their good far outweighed their bad.

     

    Ryan Wendell: C+

    Only two people really know, but you have to wonder whether Wendell was at fault for the fumble on fourth down late in the game. Otherwise, Wendell was effective moving defenders and creating creases for Ridley and Blount.

     

    Dan Connolly: C-

    My opinion might change after watching the All-22 video, but it looked like Connolly missed a couple of assignments that nearly led to big losses. 

Defensive Line

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    Vince Wilfork: B-

    According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, Wilfork's season could be over with a torn Achilles.

    If true, the Patriots will be limited going forward with the types of fronts they can use. Without a true nose guard on the roster or practice squad, look for a lot more "even" fronts from New England.

    Free-agent acquisition Armond Armstead—who is on the non-football injury list—is eligible to start practicing after Week 6, but is certainly not a nose tackle. He—or perhaps practice-squad lineman Marcus Forston—could give the Patriots some additional depth inside.

     

    Joe Vellano: B+

    Vellano used his patented swim move—which he abused Patriots linemen Markus Zusevics and Chris McDonald with this summer—to sack Matt Ryan. Look for Vellano's snaps to rise in Wilfork's absence.

     

    Chandler Jones: B-

    Jones didn't have a ton of impact on the game, but did his job well. He got good chucks on backs and tight ends coming out of the backfield and was able to push the pocket when playing inside.

     

    Rob Ninkovich: B-

    Ninkovich wasn't able to create his usual amount of havoc against the Falcons, but was key in containing screen plays and wheel routes from receivers coming out of the backfield. He did his job, which is all Coach Belichick asks you to do.

     

     

    Michael Buchanan: B+

    Buchanan was at it again Sunday night, taking down Matt Ryan for his second sack of the season. With Chandler Jones likely to be seeing more time inside, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of Buchanan this season.

     

    Tommy Kelly: B+

    Kelly saw, perhaps, his most extensive action of the season with Wilfork out, and he responded with a very good game inside. 

     

    Chris Jones: C+

    Jones saw spot duty in Wilfork's absence and was able to hold his own against double-teams.

Linebackers

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    Jerod Mayo: B+

    Mayo—who isn't known for being great in coverage—seemed to excel there against the Falcons, despite getting victimized by the insanely great Tony Gonzalez on occasion. His chucking of Gonzalez at the line of scrimmage on the decisive final drive by Atlanta was textbook.

     

    Dont'a Hightower: B-

    Hightower was asked to do things that no 270-pound human should be asked to do—cover Jacquizz Rodgers and Tony Gonzalez. He struggled, at times, but was efficient in the run game and did his job when asked to drop into coverage. 

     

    Brandon Spikes: C

    Spikes tallied just one tackle and—without access to participation reports—didn't seem like he was on the field too much. Hightower has certainly eclipsed in nickel situations, although I still like to see Spikes coming on that A-gap blitz.

     

     

    Jamie Collins: C-

    Like Hightower, Collins drew some tough assignments Sunday night. Despite his athleticism, there is no way he is going to excel across from Gonzalez.

Defensive Backs

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    Aqib Talib: A+

    I thought about creating a letter before "A" just to give it to Talib. Other than a questionable pass-interference penalty on Roddy White, Talib was absolutely perfect against Atlanta. 

    According to the broadcast, Talib was thrown at eight times, resulting in a catch for the Falcons and one catch for Talib. His deflection on the final defensive play of the game for the Patriots was a play that only he can make on this team.

    Enjoy Talib this year Patriots fans, because he is going to get paid this March.

     

    Alfonzo Dennard: A-

    Dennard was nearly as good as Talib, constantly harassing Julio Jones and White. With safety help, Dennard is free to annoy receivers underneath without fear of being burned deep.

     

    Devin McCourty: A-

    Even when McCourty gave up a big play to Julio Jones late in the game, you can hardly fault him He was in fantastic position and made a good play on the ball. Julio Jones, however, is Julio Jones.

    McCourty was a sure tackle against Atlanta, knifing through blockers on one play to prevent a Jones touchdown on a screen play.

     

    Steve Gregory: B+

    Gregory was all over the field again against Atlanta, totaling six tackles and cleaning up any messes that the linebackers and cornerbacks left for him.

     

    Logan Ryan: B-

    Ryan had the unenviable position of having to guard Tony Gonzalez in the fourth quarter. Despite decent corner play, Gonzalez is just too good.

    Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia eventually sent Ryan some help in the form of a linebacker to make sure Gonzalez couldn't get off the line of scrimmage.

     

    Kyle Arrington: C-

    Arrington got beat by Harry Douglas off the line on multiple occasions. He is usually a good option in the slot, but Arrington was no match for the quick Douglas in the second half.

Specialists

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    Stephen Gostkowski: A+

    On seven kickoffs, Gostkowski was able to come up with six touchbacks. Combine that with a 3-of-3 performance on field goals—including one from 49 yards and another from 48—and you have another masterful performance from a player whom many fans didn't think deserved to be on the team.

     

    Danny Aiken: A

    Did you hear Danny Aiken's name? Then he had another great night.

     

    Ryan Allen: B

    Allen punted only twice. He sent one into the end zone—which moved the ball a mere 36 yards, but ended with a solid 54-yard kick that netted the Patriots 48 yards of field position. 

     

    All stats courtesy of NFL.com and NBC.

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