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PATS on the Back: Patriots vs. Falcons, Week 3

Fred Taylor

It was damp. It was dreary. But, when the Pats took down the Falcons 26-10 at Gillette Stadium Sunday, the rain drops Mother Nature was throwing at us didn’t seem to matter all that much. Sure, there were still some very frustrating elements to this game. The injury situation continued to get worse, now with Laurence Maroney and Vince Wilfork added to list of the walking wounded. Also frustrating was the continued struggles of veteran Joey Galloway, and of course, coming away with only one touchdown on five trips to the red zone.

But, a win is a win, and this still has to be considered a quality win over a quality opponent. 2-1 sounds a heck of a lot better than 1-2 would, right? I’m sure the fans from Pittsburgh (1-2), Miami (0-3), and Tennessee (0-3), among others, are jealous.

Here’s a quick look at three players, two future Hall of Famers and a guy most have never heard of, who helped deliver New England’s wet Week 3 win:

Fred Taylor

He sure didn’t look like the “washed up 33-year-old has-been with nothing left in the tank” that some thought we were getting when the Pats signed Fred Taylor this offseason. Instead, Taylor was the clear leader of the offense against Atlanta, rushing for 105 yards on 21 carries, and getting much of the ground workload after Laurence Maroney went down with a thigh injury late in the first half. With Maroney’s health always in question, and Sammy Morris lacking consistency on his production as of late, Taylor seems to have separated himself from the rest of the back field crew, as a clear cut go-to guy for the New England offense. Next week, we’ll see how Taylor does against a much tougher front seven when the Baltimore Ravens come to town.

Randy Moss

Moss is still one of the three best wide receivers in the NFL, no doubt about it. He was the only reliable receiving option all day for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ air attack, as he hauled in 10 catches for 116 yards. With Wes Welker sidelined for a second week in a row with a sore knee, Moss battled back issues of his own to lead the way for the Pats, while other receivers like Galloway and Julian Edelman couldn’t get into the rhythm. His second half production, highlighted by two fourth-down catches, helped the Patriots extend their lead and run away with the game.

Brandon McGowan

Brandon McWHO? McGowan, a free agent pickup from Chicago in the offseason, made what was arguably the biggest play of the game, forcing Atlanta running back Michael Turner to fumble on the New England 31-yard line in the second quarter, ending what looked to be a scoring drive that would have given Atlanta a lead heading into the half. Instead, New England recovered the fumble, drove down the field in the first half’s waning moments, and took a 13-10 lead into halftime.

McGowan, who started for the second straight game, was also a huge reason why Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was kept quiet all game long. Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer in his own right, has quickly become a favorite target of QB Matt Ryan in just his first season with Atlanta. With McGowan’s help in the middle, the Pats’ D clamped down on Gonzalez, holding him to just one fourth quarter catch for 16 yards.

The New England defense has been strong thus far, not nearly the headache we thought they’d be heading into the year. The unit has gelled quickly, thanks to contributions like that of McGowan’s on Sunday.

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