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Despite Patriots struggles, Falcons see same formidable opponent

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  September 25, 2013 03:45 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- The Atlanta Falcons don't seem to see the same problems with the Patriots offense that the Patriots do.

As one of only seven undefeated teams in the NFL, and with Tom Brady under center, the Patriots deserve the respect of any great team, said Falcons coach Mike Smith.

"Obviously they are doing a great job, they are 3-0," Smith said. "I don’t think you have to dissect it more than that.

"I think it is the same offense that they have run for years there. I think it is a game-plan offense and it changes each and every week. They do a great job with the tempo; they do a great job with changing personnel. I don’t see anything different."

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, a former Boston College Eagle, took it a bit further, praising the team's defense as a core to its success.

"I think they play extremely physical," Ryan said. "I think that’s one of the things when you turn on the film and you watch them, their front seven has been extremely physical. Their linebackers specifically have been really good in terms of their blitz scheme.

"They use a lot of single-man blitzes with their backers, but they’re so strong and so physical that they do a great job of creating pressure with that, as well as in the run game, shedding blocks and being able to make tackles one-on-one. I’ve been really impressed with their front seven and the way that they play."

Atlanta (1-2) is coming off a 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Ryan, despite playing at a high level and having prolific targets in Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, has run into some of the same problems the Patriots have in the red zone. The Falcons are tied for 17th inside the 20, scoring touchdowns on 50 percent of their chances.

"I think it’s been a lack of execution," said Ryan, who has a 100.4 quarterback rating and sports a 68.1 completion percentage. "We’ve had opportunities across the board to make plays, and collectively as a unit we haven’t gotten it done. I think we need to execute a little bit better and take advantage of those targets like you mentioned.

"But in order to do that, all 11 guys have to be on the same page, and we haven’t done a good enough job of that yet."

This will be the 13th time the Patriots have played the Falcons and the first time since 2009, a 26-10 win at Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick is 3-1 against the Falcons but the team is 2-2 at the Georgia Dome.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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