Getting to know the Patriots' next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, with 10 quick-hit thoughts:
1. They've opened the season with wins over Miami (19-7) and Carolina (28-20). Both games were at home, making their trip to Gillette Stadium their first road contest this season.
2. Head coach Mike Smith was hired in 2008 after serving as Jaguars defensive coordinator (2003-2007) and Ravens assistant coach (1999-2002). His brother-in-law is former Ravens coach Brian Billick.
3. Second-year general manager Thomas Dimitroff spent six seasons with the Patriots personnel department before being hired in Atlanta. He is the primary architect behind the Falcons' unexpected reemergence, with his key decision selecting Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan No. 3 in the 2008 draft.
4. In the first two games, Ryan is completing an impressive 68.3 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and one interception.
5. In terms of pass-run ratio, they have been balanced through two games -- 64 rushes and 63 pass attempts.
6. Leading rusher Michael Turner has generally been held in check, with 170 yards on 50 carries (3.4 avg.), and one touchdown. Turner averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season, to go with 17 rushing touchdowns.
7. Tight end Tony Gonzalez, acquired from the Chiefs for a second-round draft choice, has been a key addition. He leads the team with 12 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
8. They've surrendered 240 rushing yards on 47 carries (5.1 avg.), showing some vulnerability against the run. Miami and Carolina are two of the NFL's better run teams, which adds context to the stats.
9. Defensive lineman Peria Jerry, their first-round draft choice, has been lost for the season with a knee injury. Veteran end John Abraham is a top pass rusher, a key player on a defense that has six takeaways over the first two games.
10. Concerns at cornerback led them to sign former Jaguar Brian Williams at the end of the preseason, and he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. They also traded for former Rams first-round draft choice Tye Hill, who has been inactive the first two games but could factor into the cornerback mix.
Mike Reiss first started covering the Patriots in 1997 with the team's official newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly, before moving on to the MetroWest Daily News in his hometown of Framingham. From 2005 to 2009, he covered the Patriots for The Boston Globe, while also writing on the NFL. He started his popular Patriots blog in 2004. Send any questions or comments for Mike to his mailbag. Follow him on Twitter here.
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