Dion Lewis builds on momentum as Patriots' leading rusher again

Dion Lewis started the game and finished with 76 yards on 13 carries, with a long run of 25 yards. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Without the benefit of film review, a look at which New England Patriots are "up" and "down" after Sunday's 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:


Malcolm Butler/Johnson Bademosi/Jonathan Jones: The only three healthy cornerbacks on the roster, they competed hard and didn't seem overmatched in tough matchups against Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Bademosi has started the past two games in place of Stephon Gilmore and has positioned himself to play more in the future. "Our coaches do a great job of preparing us to play, and I owe a lot to them and to my teammates," Bademosi said.

Dion Lewis: The running back built on the momentum from last week's win over the Jets, in which he played a season-high 29 offensive snaps, by starting over Mike Gillislee and finishing with 76 yards on 13 carries, with a long run of 25 yards. "It's good to get an explosive run in there," coach Bill Belichick said. "When you can get a 20-yard run or a 15-yard run, that helps the running game a lot more than than seven 3-yarders. It's good to have a couple of those."

Cassius Marsh/special teams: His blocked field goal in the first quarter kept it a scoreless game, as the Patriots seemed to get the better of the action in the often-overlooked third phase of the game. "That was a big moment for us," Belichick noted. "Our special-teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job. ... It's good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that." There were some small but notable adjustments, such as wide receiver Chris Hogan playing on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units, which appeared to be tied to Geneo Grissom's inactive status and having linebacker David Harris up for the game.

Kyle Van Noy: The linebacker capped an impressive goal-line stand in the fourth quarter with a tackle on a jet sweep, and finished tied for the team high with seven tackles (two for a loss). Van Noy played in every defensive package, staying on the field as the lone linebacker in the dime. He had one play he might want back -- Devonta Freeman's 21-yard run in the third quarter -- but otherwise seemed an integral part of a solid overall defensive effort.


Rob Gronkowski/penalties: It was a rare three-penalty night for Gronkowski -- offensive pass interference when his left arm extended to gain separation, and two false starts -- which is why his name is attached to this category. The Patriots finished with nine penalties (including declined and offsetting), as Phillip Dorsett (block in the back), Nate Solder (holding/false start), Patrick Chung (holding on special teams), Deatrich Wise Jr. (holding), Dont'a Hightower (holding/declined), Shaq Mason (holding) also saw flags.

Cassius Marsh/rush-lane integrity: When Matt Ryan scrambled 16 yards for a first down on third-and-5 early in the third quarter, it was the result of Marsh rushing too far up the field and getting behind Ryan. That leaves the edge compromised. It is a miscue that has shown up in prior games as well, with both Marsh and the rookie Wise. The Patriots gave Ryan escape routes multiple times in the game.

Red-zone offense: Five trips and two touchdowns isn't the progress Tom Brady was hoping for when he said on Friday, "Some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully I can do a better job for this team."