4 excerpts from the Falcons Patriots’ Thursday night thrashing

Patriots

The Patriots defense makes its case to be the best unit in the league with yet another dominant performance – this lockout of Matt Ryan and the Hawks to make it five straight wins.

New England Patriots Adrian Phillips (21) celebrates with his teammates after stopping the Atlanta Falcons on a fourth down. (Matthew J Lee / Globe staff)

  • Patriots choke Falcons 25-0 for a 5th straight win

  • What NFL media has said about the Patriots ’recent turnaround

Winning football games in the NFL is hard work, especially for short weeks. So why have the Patriots been making it look so easy lately, push their winning streak to five games and win a sterling 5-0 road record to start the season?

Well, having the best defense in football probably helps.

New England threw a shutout in a stifling performance against Matt Ryan and the Hawks, while Nick Folk made the most of the heavy lifting point-wise in the team’s 25-0 shutout win over Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Mac Jones (22-of-26, 207 yards, TD, INT) has now completed nearly 84 percent of his passes over the past two weeks, only adding to his legend as the tallest dog in this year’s rookie quarterback class.

But he was not the story in this one. This game was about a defensive unit that ran five straight teams through a buzzer at the height of its powers against a superior opponent.

The Patriots’ defense is on another level.

Let’s keep it simple: Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense simply had no chance against New England’s defense. The numbers in this game almost make you feel bad for the Hawks.

Their offensive line could not protect Ryan from a robbery Patriots pass drive, which hit the veteran quarterback 12 times and sacked him four times. Even Davon Godchaux – he of the four career sacks coming into the game – brought Ryan down, for goodness sake.

Except for a decent pair of runs Qadree Ollison, the Falcons ’running backs did nothing on the ground to help the passing offense as well, adding just 40 rushing yards.

The Patriots held Atlanta to just 2-of-11 on third down and turned its offense away empty-handed in the red zone twice.

Christian Barmore simply could not be blocked by one person and continues his rookie-season ascent.

Matthew Judon bagged yet another sack to put him at a career-high 10.5 just 10 games into the season.

To add further insult to injury, New England’s defense tied his season-high with four interceptions, including Kyle Van Noy’s pick-six and Adrian Phillips ‘swing on the Hawks’ final pass attempts of the game.

There may not be a team in the NFL playing a more dominant defense than the Patriots right now.

Kyle Van Noy seizing an opportunity with both hands.

The veteran Patriots ’edge defender has gone a long way from dropping interceptions in spring practice and having to do pushups as punishment.

When he got his chance in a game, he didn’t miss out, taking back a missed throw from backup Falcons quarterback Josh Rosen for his first career touchdown.

But even if he didn’t, he could probably still be the best defensive player in the Patriots Thursday night.

Van Noy led the team with eight tackles, including two sacks from Ryan. One of them was a beautiful on a 3-and-1 in the red zone on which the two-line defender jumped to take a quick throw and recovered to lower the sustained receiver for a 14-yard loss. That game, along with a penalty from Atlanta’s field goal team, kept points off the board for the Hawks.

While Judon’s excess earns him more headlines defensively, Van Noy has given New England everything it had hoped for when the team brought him back on a two-year deal this offseason.

He now has sacks in consecutive weeks after not recording one since Week 1 and has provided a valuable game against the run in addition to his pass-speed skills.

Opposing teams cannot devote so much attention to Judon and Barmore that they allow Van Noy to clean up. But if they do, the veteran two-line defender has proven he will happily obey.

Kyle Dugger turns it on.

“King Dugg” grows before our eyes.

The dynamic sophomore safety first made himself known by locking star-tight end Kyle Pitts at an early third down, earning a pass break in a man-cover on the big receiving threat.

Then, the young Patriots enforcer unleashed pain on a pair of short passes, hitting receivers before they could turn the field.

Later, he helped force Matt Ryan’s first interception of the game by blocking Pitts hard at the line of scrimmage and striking the Falcons’ tight end of his route.

The monstrous successes are nothing new for Dugger, who has developed a reputation for placing charges against opposing players of all sizes.

But his ability to go toe-to-toe with one of the rarest combinations of size, athletic ability, and ball skills at the tight end position should excite the Patriots.

The NFL is a competition-driven league, and Pitts will certainly give teams a lot of headaches in their career because of their skill.

However, while New England has certainly thrown multiple defenders at the budding star pass catcher, the defense is starting to show confidence in Dugger’s ability to handle himself, which is something he couldn’t do last season.

Just wait until he fully unlocks his cover skills.

Mac Jones shows the ups and downs of his game.

Going into the second half, you couldn’t ask for a much better performance than what you got from Jones.

His 14-of-15 pass for 136 yards and a touchdown was a textbook example of taking what the defense gives you. He didn’t push the ball down on the field because he didn’t have to: he just had to bring the ball to his playmakers and let them do the rest.

He even broke out another nice throw to Hunter Henry on a train route for his biggest completion of the day.

In the next play, however, he became greedy looking for Jonnu Smith along the seam, and AJ Terrell of the Hawks made him pay for it.

The throw was a bad read by Jones, who jumped too fast on his first read and missed N’Keal Harry running open on a side wheel route.

But he might be able to make that decision if he had a little more juice in his arm, which brings up some of the preliminary questions about him.

Although Jones ’arm strength is certainly good enough for NFL success, it’s not good enough to provide him with enough margin for error to make that throw. We saw Bears quarterback Justin Fields hit such a pitch two Mondays ago in tighter coverage than in Jones ’play because, well, Fields can do that.

The Patriots rookie was great this season for a freshman. But he still has to learn his limits.

Fast hits

  • Rhamondre Stevenson apparently has one run a week that gets you out of your seat. This week came in the fourth quarter when he shook off a treatment attempt in the back field and then wove his way for 28 yards in a play that should have been dead in the water. Holding penalty from center David Andrews denied the play. But honestly, who cares? That race was amazing. It’s time to make the nickname “Baby Beast Mode” stay, because that, perhaps even more than former Patriot LaGarrette Blount, is what Stevenson reminds us of: discount Marshawn Lynch.
  • The Patriots continued to rely on Ted Karras at left guard with Trent Brown behind at right tackle instead of putting back Michael Onwenu – a curious move that should continue to draw attention. The Patriots’ most talented offensive line group would have Onwenu at left guard with Brown back at gear. But New England seems to think that Karras ’solid play at the moment makes the offense the best version of itself. And why not? The veteran superstar played up to that standard.
  • For whatever reason, Mac Jones seemed to struggle with identifying free rushes on flashlights coming from the secondary. He had one nice first-down completion to Jakobi Meyers in one such play, but all of Atlanta’s three sacks came on some sort of blitzkrieg. On the one hand, the offensive line is to pick up on those maneuvers where Brown seems to be missing his task on a bag from Foyesade Oluokun. But Jones also needs to feel that pressure better and speed up his internal clock. That’s all part of the rookie experience, though.

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