1. Rob Gronkowski — Hey, maybe I was a bit tough on the rookie tight end last week, calling him a third tackle. Of course, all his work last night (4 catches, 38 yards) did come against bottom of the Atlanta barrel defenders, but it's a start.
2. Kevin Faulk — Love his effort and production. Even in a non-counting exhibition, he set the tone early with a couple first-down conversions.
3. Devin McCourty — Second straight solid week from the rookie corner.
1. Brandon Tate — What happened to the next big thing at receiver? Somebody dial up the Victor Cruz highlights from New York and explain to Tate that preseason games are your time to shine when you're attempting to make a name for yourself in this league.
2. Randy Moss — OK, sometimes talent is a curse. And when Moss moves, he oozes athleticism like few others. When he coasts a little too much, it means a lot. Sure, the lack of effort on the incomplete bomb means nothing in the grand scheme, but his body language tells you that things haven't changed.
3. Brandon Spikes — A major step back for the rookie whose lack of speed shows too often on the wide runs. Three tackles in three quarters on gains of 7, 14 and 5 yards.
What we learned
1. Wes Welker is back — Call it a medical miracle. Maybe he's got special recuperative powers. But Welker started, had two catches for 20 yards, took a smack on a tear screen and hit the showers.
2. Fred Taylor is your No. 1 — As long as his body can push it, Taylor is your No. 1, every day back. Laurence Maroney is a shadow of the elder soon-to-be Hall of Famer Taylor. So is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If Taylor is healthy, he adds a dimension this team did not have.
3. This defense is still riddled with questions — If you were looking for a stopper on defense, you are still doing it this morning. There was little pass rush and less coverage. However, the tackling is solid.
Two steps forward
Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez had a pair of first-half catches, including a nice TD grab in the back of the end zone from Tom Brady. He came back in the second half and had a sweet 21-yard grab from Brian Hoyer. He showed nice elusiveness and belonged.
Two steps back
We heard nothing from the defensive line tandem of Myron Pryor and Ron Brace, which leaves you with serious questions on the defensive line. Pryor's one shining moment came because he was inept in the pass rush to the point where he was standing in the right place accidently on a shuffle pass. Brace looked better as the night wore on and as Atlanta subbed deep into the roster. Don't these guys realize how much this team needs him?
A growing dilemma
Who is going to play outside opposite Randy Moss on this team? I realize that Wes Welker will dominate from the slot. So can Julian Edelman. But who is going to play that No. 3 spot, outside to help keep defenses honest. Torry Holt failed in the Galloway experiment of 2010.
Brandon Tate has gone pretty much unnoticed.
And we saw that when Welker is out there, Edelman (0 catches) tends to be ignored. This is now officially an issue here.
The Chris Canty moment
Jonathan Wilhite might be in a roster fight in the defensive back jumble.
So a 4th-and-15 for the Falcons is thrown right at him by John Parker Wilson in the final two minutes of the first half.
Knock it down, right?
Nope, Wilhite catches it 17 yards down field and costs his team 10 yards. He then celebrates the gift pick with an atrocious dance.
Big fella, you just hurt your team. Why the two-step?
You know, the coach got to me in the pregame show when he told The Sports Hub's Gino Cappelletti that this team had played most of the last two years without Ty Warren, intimating that he wouldn't be missed.
It was the second time in a week he voiced a similar sentiment that if you read between the lines was a clear shot at Warren.
But the coach outdid himself a while later, starting Derrick Burgess at outside linebacker.
Things were supposed to be different down in Foxboro. Times had changed.
And then the coach goes out and starts a guy who bagged out of two-a-days because he wasn't sure he wanted to be there.
A Farnham sighting
After being cut and resigned within a week, Andover's Buddy Farnham saw fourth quarter action for the Pats. Fielding the kickoff after Atlanta's lone touchdown five yards deep in the end zone, Farnham took a knee for a touchback. He played on the next possession with the third-string offense, getting no touches.
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