QB Tom Brady: Looked very, very sharp in his three offensive possessions, and it wasn’t just the numbers (10-12, 85 yards, TD). It was his command, and also the way that he seems to be developing timing with the younger receivers, particularly on the back shoulder throw to Aaron Hernandez in the back of the end zone.
RB Fred Taylor: I guess we can scratch him from the “Potential Surprise Cut” list. He looked explosive, decisive and powerful. Taylor bounced off Atlanta’s Thomas DeCoud — who was also cleared out by teammate Curtis Lofton — and showed great explosion in separating from the defense thereafter. His ability to stay healthy is always a question, even moreso now at his age, but he showed last night, with his 54 yards, that he can still get away from defenders and also churn out the tough yards.
CB Devin McCourty: The highlight of McCourty’s night overall had to be the third-down stop of Falcon star Roddy White, who couldn’t get off the rookie’s jam and was off balance when Matt Ryan threw him the slant. Overall, McCourty looks like he belongs, and these have been two pretty good passing offenses he’s shown up against.
OT Sebastian Vollmer: He was, again, outstanding in the running game — Seems like the team will be going off right tackle plenty this fall — but struggled with active Atlanta end Kroy Biermann in the passing game. Biermann registered a strip sack on Brady after putting an inside move on Vollmer, and finished with three tackles in limited action.
ILB Jerod Mayo: The Patriots got smoked early on checkdowns, and you have to start to wonder about their ability to defend the pass on early downs with their big personnel out there. The Parcells/Belichick style of 3-4 defenses traditionally struggle some against teams that can hurt you in that way in the passing game, and Atlanta could and did. It starts with Mayo and also rookie Brandon Spikes, who mitigated damage by closing and tackling well, but weren’t close to balls thrown in the area until it was too late.
S Brandon McGowan: McGowan can be reckless at times, and there was one such example last night in the fourth quarter. The safety came up too hard on receiver Troy Bergeron, and wound up running into Terrence Wheatley and knocking him out of the picture. That cleared the way for a 19-yard touchdown. Had he been more under control, either he or Wheatley could’ve easily made the play.