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Patriots hand Falcons first loss of season
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith reacts after New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor scored a touchdown Sunday during the first half of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday afternoon. - photo by Stephan Savoia | The Associated Press

vs. 49ers

When: 4:05 p.m. Oct. 11

Where: Candlestick Park

TV, radio: FOX; 550-AM, 92.9 FM

Web site: www.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady found a running mate and the Patriots finally got some balance in their inconsistent offense.

Fred Taylor ran for 105 yards and one touchdown and Brady was content to hand off rather than throw the ball 50 times, his average for his first two games.

"You want to be balanced going into games, but some situations don’t allow for it," Taylor said after New England beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-10 on Sunday. "You want to establish that momentum and look over across the ball and see the frustration in the defensive guys’ eyes."

New England (2-1) hadn’t seen that much in a 25-24 comeback win over the Buffalo Bills and a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets.

On Sunday, they ran 39 times and threw 43 passes but settled for field goals on four trips into the red zone against Atlanta (2-1), although Brady threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Chris Baker midway through the fourth quarter.

The Patriots defense held Tony Gonzalez to one catch that came early in the fourth quarter.

"They did the same thing they always do to me, "bracket coverage,’" Gonzalez said. "If I get single coverage I am going to make them pay for it eventually."

New England wanted to shut out one of the top tight ends in NFL history.

"The plan was for him to not have any catches and he had one," safety Brandon McGowan joked, "so obviously the plan failed."

Not quite.

"The way they were trying to defend us, the reads took it in a different direction," Falcons coach Mike Smith said, "but we have enough weapons on the offense (to adjust) if they defend us one way."

Those weapons also lacked pop.

Michael Turner managed just 56 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and Matt Ryan completed 17 of 28 passes for 199 yards and no touchdowns on his return to the area where he starred at Boston College. But he had never been to Gillette Stadium.

"When you go somewhere, you have to produce," Ryan said. "So it doesn’t make a difference."

The Falcons totaled just 257 yards. That lowered the Patriots average yield to 262.3 yards per game. Not bad for a defense that lost six of last year’s starters through trades or retirements and played without nose tackle Vince Wilfork after he hurt his left ankle in the first half.

"They still have a lot of good football players," Atlanta wide receiver Brian Finneran said.

The Patriots offense had plenty of trouble in the red zone where they settled for four field goals by Stephen Gostkowski. Brady completed just 3 of 10 passes inside the Atlanta 20, but Gostkowski connected from 21, 33, 22 and 33 yards.

"We can’t keep kicking field goals, I know that," Brady said.

The last field goal made it 19-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter before Brady hit Baker on the right side of the end zone.

Atlanta scored on two of its first three possessions with a 26-yard field goal by Jason Elam and a 2-yard run by Turner, who averaged 106 yards rushing last year and 85 in two games this year.

Brady completed 25 of 42 passes for 277 yards and no interceptions and faced much less pressure than he did in his first two games.

The Patriots took advantage of a shanked 29-yard punt by Michael Koenen that gave them the ball at their 49 and led to a 10-3 lead. The drive ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Taylor, who carried the ball for 41 yards on the last four plays.

The Falcons tied it 10-10 on Turner’s 2-yard run on the next series midway through the second quarter. Atlanta kept the ball after an on-field ruling that the Patriots had recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown was overturned. Replays showed clearly that Ryan’s arm was going forward and the play was ruled an incomplete pass.

The Falcons did lose a fumble on their next possession. James Sanders picked up the loose ball after a 4-yard run by Turner, giving New England the ball at the Atlanta 27. But after Brady threw three straight incompletions, the Patriots managed just a go-ahead 33-yard field goal by Gostkowski 20 seconds before halftime.

"There are a lot of new faces in the locker room," Baker said. "We’re still developing and we still have a pretty explosive offense."

Each team gained 179 yards in the first half, but the Patriots held a 266-78 advantage after that.

"We were making plays in the second half we weren’t making in the previous weeks," New England running back Sammy Morris said. "It was directly related to making the third-and-shorts and fourth-and-shorts. The offense is able to stay on the field and you’re able to get more things accomplished."

Notes: Randy Moss caught 10 passes for 116 yards. His 61 games with at least 100 yards receiving are second most in NFL history to Jerry Rice’s 76. ... The Falcons converted just 2 of 9 third-down plays. The Patriots went 8-for-18 on third downs and 3-for-3 on fourth downs. ... Michael Jenkins led Atlanta with 8 catches for 78 yards.

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