New England 24, Atlanta 10

Nov. 4, 2001 at 8:06 PM
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ATLANTA, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns Sunday to continue his unexpected success by carrying the New England Patriots to a 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

In his sixth start since replacing the injured Drew Bledsoe, Brady threw touchdown passes of four, 15 and 44 yards. He went 21 of 31 for 250 yards, completing passes to eight different receivers.

"This was such a good team performance," Brady said. "This is Patriot football. This is the way we expect to play."

Brady, who was intercepted four times in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss at Denver, improved to 4-2 as the club's starter. Bledsoe lost his two starts before suffering a chest injury against the New York Jets on Sept. 23.

Antowain Smith rushed for 117 yards and Adam Vinatieri added a 48-yard field goal for the Patriots (4-4), who had lost their last three meetings against Atlanta by a combined score of 105-27.

It was a rough afternoon for Falcons oft-injured quarterback Chris Chandler, who left the contest late in the third quarter with a rib injury. He went eight of 20 for 95 yards with one touchdown and an interception before being replaced by Michael Vick.

Vick, the the top pick in April's draft, also struggled while going two of nine for 56 yards.

"They blitzed us all day. But this is something we have to be able to handle in order to be a successful football team," Vick said. "We weren't able to do that today."

Maurice Smith rushed for 84 yards for Atlanta (3-4), which lost for the third time in its last four games.

"All I can say is that I'm disappointed," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "I thought our football team was ready. Apparently, we did a poor job of preparing because you can't play that poorly without a lot of help. They beat us in every phase."

Smith was held in check for most of the game, but gained 58 of his rushing yards on one play in the first quarter, when Atlanta moved 80 yards in seven plays.

Chandler kept the march alive with a 16-yard completion to Shawn Jefferson on third and nine. Chandler capped the march by finding Jefferson, a former Pariot, with a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:35 left in the period.

But the Patriots got even in the second quarter, going 75 yards in 16 plays. Brady was five of five for 42 yards before capping the march with a four-yard pass to running back Kevin Faulk.

On the Falcons' next possession, cornerback Otis Smith intercepted Chandler, giving New England the ball at the Atlanta 26.

The Patriots went three-and-out after the miscue and had to settle for Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal.

Brady continued to dissect the Atlanta secondary, working the two-minute offense to perfection as the Patriots went 89 yards in 10 plays before halftime. He capped the march with a 15-yard pass to fullback Marc Edwards with 15 seconds left in the half, extending the lead to 17-7.

"I thought we had a couple of big drives in the first half and were able to answer their touchdown," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "Then just before the half when we went the lenghth of field, about 90 yards. I thought they were big points."

In the first half, Brady completed passes to eight different receivers and went 19 of 26 for 202 yards.

Smith set up the Patriots' first score of the second half, breaking off runs of 22 and 11 yards. But Brady culminated the march, finding Troy Brown with a 44-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left in the quarter. Brown, who had five catches for 99 yards, was able to haul in the pass after the ball caromed off cornerback Ashley Ambrose.

"We drew it up that way. Sometimes it bounces your way," Brady said. "Last week, we has some interceptions that were just bad luck. It kind of evens out. It's luck, good luck."

Brady was able to generate the passing game thanks to Smith, who became the first Patriot to rush for at least 100 yards in a game since Terry Allen gained 126 on Dec. 26, 1999 against Buffalo.

Meanwhile, Chandler was pressured on a consisent basis and appeared to injure himself when he was sacked by linebacker Roman Phifer with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

Vick entered the contest with 26 sacks left in the period, and found some success on his initial drive. The lefthander found Brian Finneran over the middle for a 50-yard completion, leading to rookie Jay Feely's 20-yard field goal with 11:32 left in the fourth quarter that brought the Falcons within 24-10.

But on his final two possessions, Vick struggled and was unable to lead the Falcons to a first down.

"It was tough getting in that late," Vick said. "I tried coming in and doing as much as I could. But they already had us down so that meant they were going to bring more pressure. It's tough and frustrating, but as a backup you have to go in and try and make some things happen."

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