AP Photo: John Bazemore
The Patriots defense faced its biggest test so far this season in the Atlanta Falcons last night. While they gave up a lot of yardage, particularly during the Falcons late comeback attempt, the defense's stellar performance in two key areas fueled the 30-23 win.
Atlanta was 6-14 (42%) on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. Most importantly, they scored a touchdown on only one of their six trips to the red zone.
In what ended up being a one-possession game, it's impossible to overstate the importance of those red zone stops. A good defense steps up and makes plays when it absolutely has to. The Patriots did just that on Sunday night, with no play more important than Aqib Talib's game clinching pass deflection on the Falcons final fourth down play.
Of course, getting off the field on third down is the best way for a defense to limit points. The Patriots defensive performance on third down was even more impressive when you consider that three of the Falcons ...