The Patriots celebrate a Fred Taylor (21) TD in the first half. (Elsa / Getty Images)
We had all of your in-game updates as the Patriots tangled with the Falcons at Gillette Stadium. As usual, the important news is highlighted in the quick links below:
FINAL: Patriots 26, Falcons 10
Even after an ankle injury sidelined defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the already depleted Patriots’ defense pitched a shutout over the final 38:43 of the game, grounding the high-flying Falcons’ offense in the second half en route to a 26-10 triumph at Gillette Stadium.
On the other side of the ball, New England’s offense put together its most complete outing of the season as Fred Taylor rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown, while Randy Moss hauled in 10 catches for 116 yards. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 25 of 42 passes for 277 yards with a touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker.
Much more to come after the game.
Randy Moss and Fred Taylor have both eclipsed 100 yards for the day. At the 2-minute warning, Moss had 9 catches for 108 yards, while Taylor had rushed 20 times for 107 yards.
Patriots TE Chris Baker hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from QB Tom Brady to cap a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive that spanned 3:08.
Brady got plenty of time to throw and lobbed a perfect pass down the Falcons sideline to Baker who had a step on the defender covering.
For Brady, it was the 200th TD pass of his career. He is the 27th player in NFL history to reach that milestone and fourth fastest to the mark.
WRIGHT SHAKEN UP, APPEARS OK
Patriots DL Mike Wright was shaken up on a Michael Turner carry early in the fourth quarter. Wright was seen shaking out his right arm on the Patriots’ sideline, then lined up for a quick 1-on-1 drill against Sebastian Vollmer before rejoining his linemates on the bench as they came off after making a third-down stop in his absence.
GONZALEZ’S FIRST CATCH
Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez made his first catch of the game on a 16-yard reception on the Falcons’ first offensive play of the fourth quarter.
PATRIOTS 19, FALCONS 10 (14:55, 4th)
Stephen Gostkowski split the uprights with a 33-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. The boot capped a 70-yard, 16-play scoring drive over 6:59.
END OF 3rd QUARTER: Patriots 16, Falcons 10
The Patriots tacked on a field goal in the third quarter and appear poised to add another when play resumes in the fourth frame. Their current drive has already covered 70 yards on 15 plays over 6:54, but the Patriots will face 4th and 9 from their own 15 to start the final quarter.
The Patriots already converted two fourth downs on the drive. The first was a brazen, 4th-and-1 situation from their own 24 in which Sammy Morris moved the chains with a second-effort lunge. Later, Moss hauled in a 21-yard lob from Brady on 4th and 3 from the Falcons 37 (this after Moss made a nice third-down grab falling out of bounds near the sticks for yet another first down).
Benjamin Watson dropped a pass in front of the end zone late in the quarter, forcing the Patriots, in part, to settle for the upcoming boot.
INJURY UPDATE #2
Laurence Maroney (thigh) is riding the exercise bike, while Vince Wilfork (ankle) is not spotted on the Patriots’ sideline here in the third quarter. Maroney, wearing his helmet, then joined the cluster of offensive players near the edge of the sideline, which seems to indicate he may return.
PENALTY NULLIFIES FALCONS TD
The Falcons erased a potential touchdown when wide receiver Michael Jenkins was called for offensive pass interference (pushing off against Leigh Bodden) on what would have been a 36-yard touchdown reception.
PATRIOTS 16, FALCONS 10 (9:01, 3rd)
The Patriots’ offense again sputtered in the red zone and New England settled for a 22-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The drive covered 79 yards on 13 players over 5:59.
Fred Taylor (11 carries, 75 yards, TD) continues to run hard, while Joey Galloway made his first catch of the game on the drive bringing out some mock cheers from a crowd that booed him for a costly drop late in the first half.
FAULK ON KICKOFF RETURN
With Laurence Maroney (thigh) sidelined, Kevin Faulk handled the opening kickoff of the second half. Faulk produced a 21-yard return.
HALFTIME: Patriots 13, Falcons 10
A quick look at Patriots’ key stats at halftime: Tom Brady – 10 of 18 passing, 87 yards; Fred Taylor – 7 carries, 54 yards, TD; Randy Moss – 3 catches, 27 yards; Julian Edelman – 3 catches, 20 yards.
Team stats are very similar at the break. Total offense exactly the same at 179 yards for both sides (Patriots a better balance with 87 passing, 92 rushing; Falcons with 135 passing).
PATRIOTS 13, FALCONS 10 (0:20, 2nd)
Stephen Gostkowski booted a 33-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 58-yard scoring drive that covered 3:36. James Sanders’ fumble recovery set up the trek.
Joey Galloway dropped a catcahble ball inside the red area and heard some boos from the crowd despite taking a solid hit after the ball ricocheted off his shoulder pads.
Injury updates from the Patriots’ sideline: Laurence Maroney has a thigh injury and Vince Wilfork has an ankle injury, both returns are listed as questionable.
MOSS TIES SMITH
With a late first-half catch, Randy Moss recorded career reception No. 862, tying him for 12th best on the NFL’s all-time receiving list alongside former Jacksonville standout Jimmy Smith.
SANDERS RECOVERS FUMBLE; McGOWAN FORCED
James Sanders recovered an Atlanta fumble forced by fellow safety Brandon McGowan at the Patriots 27 with little less than four minutes to play in the half.
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was shaken up late in the second quarter while helping to tackle Atlanta running back Michael Turner.
Wilfork stayed on the ground for a few moments while trainers rushed out. He eventually walked off the field under his own power. On the bench, trainers checked out his left leg (high ankle area), before taking him back to the locker room.
PATRIOTS 10, FALCONS 10 (8:43, 2nd)
The Falcons tie the game on a Michael Turner 2-yard touchdown run. The scoring drive covered 59 yards on eight plays over 2:58. Atlanta converted a 4th-and-3 situation (Roddy White 7-yard reception) after the reversed call (see below) to prolong the scoring drive.
Rookie Myron Pryor is getting time at defensive tackle, allowing the Patriot to kick Mike Wright out to end in a 4-3 look (with Gary Guyton at inside linebacker with Adalius Thomas and Tully Banta-Cain outside).
REVERSAL CANCELS PATRIOTS TD
Referees totally missed an incomplete pass by Matt Ryan, instead calling it a fumble and Shawn Springs returned the ball for a touchdown. The Falcons challenged immediately and the play was, correctly, reversed to an incompletion. Brandon McGowan had pressure on Ryan after the throw, which may have made it seem like a fumble rather than the errant pass.
The Patriots snapped their five-quarter touchdown-less streak with Fred Taylor’s 8-yard run early in the second quarter. The drive covered 51 yards on six plays over 2:29.
Taylor ran hard on the drive, carrying four times for 41 yards, including a 19-yard gain in which he emerged from a pack of would-be tacklers. That run was the longest of the season for the Patriots.
On the drive, Taylor also moved past John Riggins into 15th place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.
The Patriots inherited quality field position at their own 49 after a shanked 29-yard punt (and a 5-yard penalty for illegal touching) by the Falcons. Brady nearly connected with Moss on another deep ball on the first play of the drive, but defensive back Brian Williams made a nice play to break up the play on a deep post route.
END OF 1st QUARTER: Patriots 3, Falcons 3
Fast-moving first frame with the Falcons running only one play on the game’s third drive. Both teams settle for field goals on their opening treks.
PATRIOTS 3, FALCONS 3 (0:42, 1st)
Stephen Gostkowski splits the uprights with a 21-yard field goal to cap a monster 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ate 8:39 off the clock.
Brady completed 5 of 7 passes for 44 yards on the drive, but the two passes that fell incomplete should have been touchdowns. Brady had Moss open behind the coverage on a deep ball, but overthrew him. Later, Joey Galloway couldn’t keep his feet inbounds in the back of the end zone.
The two scoring drives to start the game have eaten nearly the entire clock up for the first frame.
FIRST ACT: SPECIAL TEAMS
Seeing their first action of the regular season, TE Michael Matthews and OL Dan Connolly were part of the wedge during the Patriots’ kickoff return after the Falcons’ scoring drive.
Matthews, Connolly, and Tully Banta-Cain
FALCONS 3, PATRIOTS 0 (9:21, 1st)
The Falcons put points on the board in their first possession as Jason Elam boots a 26-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 72-yard trek over 5:39.
WILDCAT FOR FALCONS
Falcons utilized a Wildcat formation on their opening drive with running back Jason Snelling taking the direct snap. Snelling kept the ball for a 3-yard gain.
OFFENSE (2 TE, 2 RB)
QB: Tom Brady
RB: Laurence Maroney
FB: Sammy Morris
TE: Benjamin Watson
TE: Chris Baker
WR: Randy Moss
LT: Matt Light
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Dan Koppen
RG: Stephen Neal
RT: Nick Kaczur
DE: Jarvis Green
DT: Vince Wilfork
DE: Ty Warren
ILB: Adalius Thomas
ILB: Gary Guyton
OLB: Derrick Burgess
OLB: Tully Banta-Cain
CB: Shawn Springs
CB: Leigh Bodden
FS: Brandon McGowan
SS: Brandon Meriweather
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan warms up before today’s game. (Jim Davis / Globe Staff)
The Patriots will kick off to start the game and defend the south goal. Randy Moss, Vince Wilfork, and Sam Aiken served as captains at the coin toss.
Colleague Chris Gasper relays the following:
This was Atlanta’s first game in a non-climate controlled environment in 2009. Both of Atlanta’s first two regular-season games were at home inside the Georgia Dome. Their road preseason games were against dome teams Detroit and St. Louis, and their playoffs loss in January to the Arizona Cardinals was indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Going back to last season, the last time the Falcons played a game outdoors prior to yesterday was Nov. 30 at San Diego, a 22-16 victory over the Chargers.