ATLANTA — When the game was on the line, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib came through in the clutch.
Faced with a fourth down on defense and the Atlanta Falcons seven yards away from a game-tying touchdown, Talib drew Roddy White in coverage. As has been the case in this young season, the Patriots’ top cornerback did not disappoint. He draped the crafty veteran receiver on a crossing route over the back of the end zone before breaking up the would-be game-tying touchdown pass. It sealed the Patriots’ 30-23 victory in the Georgia Dome, propelling them to 4-0 on the season.
“Man, Roddy [White] just ran like a straight over route, crossing route, and Matt Ryan just put it up and I just had to get to it,” Talib said of the final play.
The win will certainly bolster the team’s confidence while it continues a tough stretch of the season.
“Definitely,” Talib said. “Being up, what, 17? And let them come back and then have to stop them on fourth down to win the game, you always can go on that.”
He finished with four passes defensed, including an interception while covering Julio Jones, the previous league leader in receptions and receiving yards.
“Physical game man, refs let us play,” Talib said. “They did some pushing, we did some pulling. Came out with the victory.”
The sixth year cornerback’s play overshadowed the talented Atlanta quarterback, who lit up the stat sheet: 34 of 54 passing for 421 yards and two touchdowns. While Ryan was prolific in the Falcons’ territory, he found trouble when his team got in the red zone. They finished the game 1 for 6 on the night within the Patritos’ 20-yard line.
“Not our best effort in the red zone tonight,” Ryan said. “We had chances, we really did. We just didn’t make the plays.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has seen Talib become a solid player in his system. He’s made countless plays over the course of the year and all the way back to the spring.
“Aqib played well for us all the way back to the spring and training camp,” Belichick said. “He played well. He played the ball well against good receivers. He tackled well. He covered well. He’s done a good job for us since he has been here.”
For Talib, Sunday’s win over the Falcons can be seen as a statement game.
“You got the whole league watching us, I mean the whole world watching,” he said. “Everybody picked us to lose. Ya’ll guys, everybody picked us to lose.
“Hey, it don’t get no better than that.”