by Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
September 26, 2009

With the week 2 Super Bowl over and the Patriots suffering a rare defeat against the obnoxious Jets, it’s time to stop the mourning and look forward to the Falcons, this week’s opponent. Despite the apocalyptic meltdown on 98.5 and WEEI, the season in fact is not over. A very competent Atlanta team is in town and the Patriots need to bring their A game in order to thwart this valiant opponent. Here are the top 5 matchups that the Patriots need to focus on in order to be successful.

1) Tom Brady vs. the Pass Rush

Teams have been gunning for Tom Brady to see if he still has the “Tom Terrific” glow to him, and so far he hasn’t been able to make opposing defenses pay. Despite all the clamoring heard on the airwaves this week, this isn’t something to freak out about as Brady is still getting acclimated to his new knee and the Jets and Bills are formidable conference opponents with great pass rushes. However, the Patriots can’t spend too much of the season hindered by growing pains. This week against the Falcons, it’s time to show the league that Tom Brady can’t be bullied around and that he can still make opponents pay for constantly and blatantly blitzing.

2) Patriots Wide Receiver vs. Falcons Corners

The Pats receivers have not distinguished themselves this year. There has yet to be a long ball caught to force the defenses to be honest with their coverage. If the Patriots wideouts are able to break for a few large gains, it will stifle the Falcons pass rush. Also, Wes Welker was out for week 2 and his absence was clearly felt.  Hopefully, he can return at a 100%.

3) Patriots Offensive line vs. Falcons D-line

So far the Pats O-line has been pushed around, forcing Brady to get rid of the ball much sooner then he would like. Last week, the Jets were able to generate significant pressure with just a four man rush. This is completely unacceptable for a top notch offense and the Offensive line needs to step up and do their job. Within this matchup, the spotlight will be put on the lackluster Matt Light versus the explosive John Abraham.

4) Tony Gonzalez vs. Patriots Linebackers

The Patriots linebackers have their hands full with arguably the greatest tight end of all time. If they are able to contain him or at least prevent him from converting key third downs, it will bode well for the Patriots team as a whole.

5) Patriots Pass rush vs. Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan’s sophomore campaign as Atlanta’s quarterback has started out with quite a bang; he has 5 TD’s to 1 INT and a QB rating of 108.5. So our pass rush needs to finally step up its game and force him to throw the ball before he is able to go through his progressions. This quarterback is too smart and too good to be given time in the backfield to pick the Patriots’ defense apart. If the Pats force him to make some rash decisions, it could spell a long day for the Falcons offense.