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Third-quarter analysis: Falcons running circles around Patriots

Speed kills.

The New England Patriots are learning that the hard way Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

The Falcons' superior speed was on display in the third quarter at Houston's NRG Stadium, particularly on running back Tevin Coleman's 6-yard touchdown catch. Coleman got open in the flat and easily outran Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich for the score that put the Falcons up, 28-3, after a successful extra point.

Another example came in embarrassing fashion for the Patriots when cornerback Malcolm Butler was in coverage against Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel. The third-year Atlanta pro sent Butler to the ground with a head fake that immediately made the rounds on Twitter.


Tough stretch: Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski had a forgettable few minutes. Gostkowski hit the right upright to miss an extra point after the Patriots' first touchdown, then took a penalty for illegally touching the ball on an onside-kick attempt that followed the score.

Momentum swing? The final play of the third quarter was a sack by Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. That came on a third-down play and set up an Atlanta punt, giving New England the ball back, trailing 28-9. The Patriots' defense came up with a stop despite the Falcons taking over on the New England 41-yard line after the failed onside kick.

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