Patriots-Falcons: 12 things to know

1. Sunday night, Bill Belichick will be looking for just his third 4-0 start in his 14 seasons with the Patriots. The previous two resulted in Super Bowl appearances: a 6-0 start in 2004 led to a win in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, and the 16-0 start in 2007 led to a loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

2. Tom Brady has thrown a touchdown pass in 51 consecutive games, which is the second-longest streak in NFL history -- 3 behind Drew Brees, who had 54 straight games from 2009 to 2012. Brees had his streak stopped in a Week 13 game on "Sunday Night Football" in the Georgia Dome against the Falcons. That’s the exact day, time, venue and opponent Brady will face this week.

3. Brady’s accuracy with the deep ball has been declining in recent years, which has limited the number of big plays the Patriots have been able to put on the board. His completion percentage on throws of 20 yards or more downfield was 35.6 in 2010, 28.3 in 2011, 32.9 in 2012 and 15.4 so far this season.

4. Atlanta’s Mike Smith enters this game with a 1-2 record this season and 83 games coached in his career. He has never been 2 games below .500, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau he is tied with John Harbaugh for the fifth-longest streak of games coached in his career before falling 2 games under .500. Mike Tomlin has the third-longest streak in history, but that was brought to an end in Week 2 this season. If Brady throws touchdown passes in each of his next two games, he’ll be able to tie Brees’ record on Oct. 13, when the Patriots face Brees and the Saints.

5. Only 24 percent of the Patriots' plays this season have utilized multiple tight ends despite never dipping below 52 percent in any of the previous three seasons. The Patriots have run more plays (25) without a tight end this season than in the previous three (8).

6. For a second straight season, Brady’s Total QBR has seen a significant decline from the previous season’s first 3 games.

7. The Patriots have lost 3 of their past 5 games versus NFC opponents dating to last season.

8. Brady hasn’t been as quick to release the ball this season, with 37 percent of his attempts coming three seconds or later after the snap (29 percent the previous two seasons). Brady has completed only 42.6 percent of his passes this season when holding onto the ball for at least three seconds.

9. Brady has slowly started to develop chemistry with his rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Brady was 10-of-18 targeting the three in Week 3 after going a combined 9-of-33 in Weeks 1 and 2.

10. Falcons receiver Julio Jones ranks first in the NFL in receiving yards (373) and yards after the catch (194), is tied for first (with Julian Edelman) in receptions with 27, and is sixth in targets (33). Jones leads all wide receivers with nine receptions at or behind the line of scrimmage this season. He finished last season with 17 such receptions, and didn’t get his ninth until Week 11.

11. Smith said to the media after the Week 3 loss to the Dolphins that the Falcons needed to improve on their efficiency in situational football. The defense ranks outside the top 20 in the types of categories he cited.

12. The Falcons, who lost to Miami last week to fall to 1-2, have not lost consecutive games since Weeks 13-14 of the 2009 season.