The best way to beat a team that relies on the passing game and doesn’t have a power running attack is to pressure their quarterback with just a team’s front four down lineman. The New England Patriots know this all too well, as they’ve seen teams do this to them for the last decade or so.
Well, they get to turn the tables on the league this week. Their ability to rush the passer will be the key to victory against the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday night. The Falcons come into the game without any semblance of a running game, with two hobbled receivers and a future hall-of-fame tight end that has been invisible so far this season.
Matt Ryan is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. He’ll pick a team apart if they give him time to sit back in the pocket and allow his downfield passes to develop. That means the Patriots’ ability to push the pocket, get pressure in his face and hurry his throws will get the Atlanta offense off track. And that’s the only way New England is going to give themselves a chance to win this game.
With a disappointing offense so far this year, the pass rush has been one of the few bright spots for the Patriots. What has been a major weakness in the past is now something the defense is built around. Second-year man Chandler Jones has been particularly impressive for them, racking up three sacks in the first three games of the young season.
Jones and the rest of the pass rush will need to step up their games even more if the Patriots are going to escape Atlanta with their first impressive win of the year. So far, they’ve survived with an unblemished record by beating bad teams, but this week starts a brutal three-week slate that includes high-flying offenses. After they play Atlanta this Sunday night they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals and then the New Orleans Saints.
If New England wants to find themselves still in the hunt for another AFC East title after that stretch — not to mention still without a loss after Sunday night — they’re going to need the pass rush to be a dominant force.
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