Patriots players are off today, so the only access to the team was the weekly coaches' teleconference. Among other things, head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia discussed the team's defense, the high-powered offense they'll face this Sunday from the Atlanta Falcons, and the difficulty of playing in a loud dome.
The Falcons are 1-2, having just lost at Miami, 27-23. Still, this is a team that went to the playoffs last season, has a franchise quarterback in former Boston College star Matt Ryan, and has one of the best young receivers in the league in Julio Jones.
Belichick raved about Jones, who played his college ball at Alabama.
"I think Julio has done a great job for them, he’s an excellent football player, period," Belichick said. "As a receiver, he’s got good strength, good speed, good ball skills, he can make acrobatic catches, goes up and takes the ball away from defenders, strong after the catch, tough guy to tackle.
"He’s also very good in the running game, good blocker, a guy that will go in and get linebackers or safeties. He’s about as good as anyone in the league. It’s not just his receiving skills, although they are very good. He’s a complete football player, I know he’s a tough kid and a hard worker. I’m sure they’re very happy he’s on their team."
Through three games, Jones is tied for the league lead in receptions with Julian Edelman of the Patriots. Each has 27, but the difference is in the number of yards. Jones is much more of a vertical threat; his 27 catches have gone for 373 yards (also a league best), while Edelman has 201 yards. Each has two receiving touchdowns.
Jones figures to be a big part of the Falcons offense Sunday night, especially with running back Steven Jackson not expected to play because of a hamstring injury. If Ryan and Jones get going, it'll get loud in the Georgia Dome. Real loud. Which will make it difficult for the Patriots offense.
"I know we’ll practice with noise this week," said McDaniels. "We definitely expect it to be an exciting environment -- it always is when you play down there in Atlanta. It’s inside, and they have a really good football team, and I’m sure they’ll be excited to play.
"There’s no shortcut to that. You’ve got to do a good job of communicating during the week, you’ve got to practice well with the noise and the distraction that the noise creates. You have to eliminate all unnecessary communication as you can, so that you can just get out there, hear what you need to hear, and go execute your job.
"We’ve done it before. It was loud in Buffalo, and it’s been loud at some other places this year in the preseason for a time being. We’ll do the best we can to make sure we prepare for the noise and the atmosphere that we’re going to see on Sunday night."