FOXBORO -- Now thaaaat's more like it.
Thaaaat's what we like to see from the Patriots of New England: Offensive output and defensive dominance.
Speaking of which . . .
While Tom Brady and Randy Moss were carving up, and Fred Taylor was chewing up, Atlanta's defense, the Patriots' revised, revamped, re-tooled - and also suddenly shorthanded -- defense was shutting down the previously undefeated Falcons' potent offense.
"To hold a team like Atlanta, with their high powered offense, to low numbers - that's great," Pats cornerback Leigh Bodden said.
Putting the numbers under the microscope - and most of them are so small, that's what you need to do to see them - reveals that talented tight end Tony Gonzalez and big-play wide receiver Roddy White, who had 12 and 11 catches, respectively, in the Falcons' first two games (wins over defending division champions Miami and Carolina) were non-factors Sunday.
Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, had just one reception, for 16 yards. White had 4 catches, but for only 24 yards.
Equally important was the fact that running back Michael Turner, although he scored Atlanta's only touchdown, was held to 56 yards on 15 carries - figures that pale in comparison to Taylor's 105 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Turner also lost a fumble when Brandon McGowan knocked the ball loose and Brandon Meriweather recovered at the N.E. 27 late in the first half.
Most important was that the Falcons, who won five of their last six last year before losing to eventual NFC champion Arizona in the opening round of the playoffs, were held to a mere 10 points. It was their lowest total since last Sept. 28, when they lost to Carolina, 24-9.
What makes that defensive performance by the Patriots so impressive is not only that the Falcons boast an explosive and varied offensive arsenal, but also that the Pats - having already lost Super Bowl veterans Tedy Bruschi (retirement), Mike Vrabel (traded to Kansas City), and Richard Seymour (traded to Oakland), along with last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee injury) - saw nose tackle Vince Wilfork leave the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
"Losing Vince is huge," said defensive lineman Mike Wright. "He's the core of our defense."
Then, early in the fourth quarter, Wright "tweaked" his shoulder and also went to the sidelines.
By that time, however, the Patriots had opened up a 19-10 lead and, having stifled the Falcons' running game, were able to play the rest of the way using just two defensive linemen (Jarvis Green and rookie, sixth-round pick Myron Pryor), three linebackers - two of which, Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess, were primarily pass rushers, coming out of a three-point stance off the line of scrimmage -- and six defensive backs.
And, as Bodden pointed out: "Whenever somebody goes down, somebody fills the void."
The Patriots consistently plugged any holes the Falcons tried to open along the line of scrimmage.
"First of all," said McGowan, "we stopped the run. Once we did that, we made them one-dimensional."
"They've got a lot of weapons," said Wright, who, unlike Wilfork, was in the locker room afterwards and appeared to be okay. "Turner is a force. He's hard to stop. Our main focus was stopping him first."
The Pats also were focused on stopping Gonzalez and White.
"We devoted a lot of coverage to (Gonzalez)," coach Bill Belichick said. "We doubled him a lot. He's almost impossible to match up with, so we gave Brandon (Meriweather) some help."
It didn't help Matty Ryan, the former Boston College QB who was the NFL Rookie of the Year last season, that his favorite receivers were consistently covered.
"We were able to put pressure on him up the middle," Wright said. "Pressure from the edge doesn't bother him, but, like any quarterback, he gets flustered when you get good push up the middle."
"He's an accurate passer," McGowan said of Ryan. "But, because we got a lot of pressure on him, we were able to put him in awkward situations that made it difficult for him to throw accurately."
Ryan, accurately, gave credit to the New England defense.
"They did a good job," he said. "To a certain degree, we expected that from them. After the couple of games Turner has had, they had a number of guys down in the 'box.' They did a great job against the run.
"They also did a good job of making plays on third down. That's the 'money' down. Offensively, you need to stay on the field. We just didn't do enough on third down. When you don't do that, it takes away your chances of winning."
The Falcons were just 2-of-9 on third down. Brady and the Patriots, in contrast, were 8-of-18, as well as 3-for-3 on fourth down, including a gutsy, fourth-and-1 conversion at their own 24 in the third quarter. Consequently, the Pats were able to run 81 plays to Atlanta's 45, while piling up a huge edge in time of possession, controlling the ball for 39:49 to the Falcons' 20:11.
"They've got great running backs," Taylor said of the Falcons, "their quarterback is awesome, and they have receivers who get the job done. Fortunately, we were able to keep them off the field."
When the Atlanta offense managed to get on the field, the New England defense made sure they weren't out there very long.
"Everyone," Bodden said, "has been skeptical about the defensive backfield."
(Full disclosure here: Include me among the skeptics.)
"But," Bodden continued, "I think we have been consistently playing well. We had confidence anyway, but to hold an offense like (Atlanta's) to 10 points is definitely a confidence booster."