(TSX / STATS) — FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The rematch turned out to be a dud.
Just as they had done in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, the New England Patriots manhandled the Atlanta Falcons, cruising to a 23-7 fog-shrouded victory on Sunday night.
Fog began rolling into Gillette Stadium during the second quarter and was thick and covering the entire field by the third. Local observers recalled a playoff game in 1997, where the Patriots downed the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-3 at Foxboro Stadium next door.
That score — 28-3 — was the lead the Falcons had back in February before the Patriots scored the last 31 points to steal the game. Sunday night, New England (5-2) made it 54 straight points against Atlanta before Julio Jones caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan with 4:09 left in the game.
Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant had already had one field goal blocked and another hit the left upright before finally scoring early in the fourth quarter.
While the Patriots maintained their half-game lead in the AFC East, the Falcons lost their third straight game — all to AFC East teams — to drop to 3-3.
Tom Brady threw two touchdowns passes, one a short flip forward that Brandin Cooks ran in 11 yards for a TD and Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals for New England. Running back James White, who scored the overtime touchdown in the Super Bowl, caught a two-yard touchdown pass.
The Falcons got down to the New England earlier 1 in the fourth quarter, but cornerback Malcolm Butler broke up a pass in the end zone and linebacker Kyle Van Noy tackled wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 5-yard loss on an end-around on fourth down.
Brady was 21 of 29 for 249 yards.
Chris Hogan caught four passes for 71 yards, but left the game in the third quarter. NBC reported he was in the concussion tent being checked.
Ryan, hoping to make up for what happened in the Super Bowl, had a poor game, going 22 of 33 for 233 yards, with much of his success coming with the game out of reach. He has seven touchdowns and six interceptions this season.
Jones caught nine passes for 99 yards, while Mohamed Sanu had six catches for 65 yards.
The Patriots, the first team ever to surrender at least 300 yards passing in each of the first six games of a season, held Ryan under 300 for the second straight time.
New England running back Rex Burkhead, who had missed the last four games with an injury to his ribs, returned with three 9-yard runs on a first-half drive that led to a field goal.
White led the Patriots with 76 yards on 13 carries.
The Falcons, losing their sixth straight game to the Patriots, avoided their first shutout since Dec. 13, 2015 against Carolina.
NOTES: Atlanta LB Duke Riley suffered a knee injury in the first half and did not return. … Cancer survivors were on the field for a pre-game ceremony in conjunction with the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” campaign. Included in the honorees was Tom Brady’s mother Galynn. … Atlanta QB Matt Ryan visited with former Boston College schoolmate Pete Frates, of the Ice Bucket Challenge, on the field before the game. … There was a heavy military presence on the field as the Patriots donated hundreds of tickets to military and their families. … NBC reported Patriots T Nate Solder’s son Hudson has had a recurrence of his cancer. … Former Patriots John Hannah, Mike Haynes and Andre Tippett were presented with their new NFL Hall of Fame Rings of Excellence in a halftime ceremony.