1. Joe Vellano — His sack, beating the center cleanly with a high-school swim move late in the third, ended the Falcons’ attempted answer after the Pats had taken a 13-10 lead. It also turned a comfortable Matt Ryan into a melting mess, like the first girl to show up in a room full of boys at a middle school party. Ryan was never the same.
2. Aqib Talib — Give Bill Belichick credit, he put safeties over the top on all three big targets and let Talib do his thing. Talib spent his night hanging all over whoever was in front of him -- Roddy White or Julio Jones. He was so physical, both Falcons quit for much of the night. Added his fourth pick and was on the breakup on the final play.
3. Kenbrell Thompkins — Look, Atlanta followed the same defensive game plan that Tampa did, rushing nobody and allowing the Pats to wait all night to get open. Still, it was a legit effort by a rookie free agent like Thompkins. Finished with 6 catches for 127 yards and 1 TD.
1. Jamie Collins/Dont’a Hightower — Matt Patricia continues to put these guys in coverage with depressing results. Couldn’t handle Tony Gonzalez or Jacquizz Rodgers.
2. Tom Brady — How do you fumble again in the final minutes on 4th-and-an-inch? I blame you not Ryan Wendell.
3. Zach Sudfeld — Catch the onside kick and salt the game away, kid.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (A) ... Tom Brady had all night to throw it, and the running backs averaged 5.2 yards a carry. On the road, that’s stupendous.
Running Backs (A) ... LeGarrette Blount’s TD was an absolute back-breaker. The trio all ran hard and ran downhill. Combined for 26 carries and 134 yards.
Wide Receivers (A) ... Julian Edelman continued to his run as a legit AFC Offensive Salutatorian, playing second fiddle to Peyton Manning’s Valedictorian. Edelman caught seven passes for 118 yards, and he was the second-best Pats receiver on the field. Kenbrell Thompkins enjoyed a dream night on a national stage.