— To Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, this was simply an extension of last February’s Super Bowl.
For the Atlanta Falcons, it was another dose of football pain.
By the end of New England’s clinical 23-7 romp through the fog Sunday night, it was clear that the Patriots have straightened out what ailed them earlier this season. And that the Falcons are a shadow of the team that built a 25-point third-quarter lead in that championship game, only to fall apart and lose the first overtime contest in Super Bowl history.
Brady led that historic comeback, and he guided an offense that dominated the clock when the score was relatively close. Plus, unlike in the last meeting, he had a strong defense complementing him. A unit that ranked dead last in the NFL through six weeks nearly pitched a shutout against the league’s No. 5 offense.
“They had some big stops in the red area, the fourth-down plays were huge,” Brady said about the defense. “It was great complementary football and everyone did a great job contributing.”
Brady threw two touchdown passes as the Patriots toyed with the Falcons — sound familiar? — in the foggy Super Bowl rematch that wasn’t particularly super.
New England scored the final 31 points to win the NFL championship in February. Placards and shirts reading 28-3 were ever-present in and around Gillette Stadium as the Patriots (5-2) scored the first 23 points in this prime-time mismatch. The Falcons (3-3) were outplayed throughout this one.
Bears 17, Panthers 3: Rookie safety Eddie Jackson became the first player in NFL history to score two defensive touchdowns of at least 75 yards in the same game, and Chicago defeated visiting Carolina.
Jackson scored on a 75-yard fumble return and a 76-yard interception return during the first half. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky played it safe on the other side of the ball as he completed four of seven passes for 107 yards.
Chicago (3-4) won its second game in a row and improved to 2-1 since naming Trubisky as the starter.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (21 of 34, 211 yards) was intercepted twice in the loss. Turnovers crippled Carolina (4-3).
Saints 26, Packers 17: Drew Brees continued his mastery of Green Bay in leading the New Orleans to victory at Lambeau Field.
Cowboys 40, 49ers 10: Ezekiel Elliott ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 72-yd touchdown pass, leading Dallas over winless San Francisco.
Steelers 29, Bengals 14: Le’Veon Bell carried 35 times for 134 yards against the NFL’s second-ranked defense to Pittsburgh (5-2) to a win over the Cincinnati (2-4).
Seahawks 24, Giants 7: Quarterback Russell Wilson threw three second-half touchdown passes to give Seattle (4-2) the victory over New York (1-6).
Chargers 21, Broncos 0: Los Angeles blanked Denver to win their third straight game.
Vikings 24, Ravens 16: On a day that belonged to the kickers, Minnesota’s offense did just enough to spur the Vikings (5-2) to their third consecutive win.
Rams 33, Cardinals 0: Jared Goff threw for 235 yards and a touchdown, Todd Gurley II had his fourth game of 100 or more rushing yards and the defense provided two interceptions that led to points as Los Angeles crushed Arizona at Twickenham Stadium in London.
Dolphins 31, Jets 28: Backup quarterback Matt Moore, a two-touchdown deficit, rallied Miami to victory.
Bills 30, Buccaneers 27: LeSean McCoy rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns and Tyrod Taylor passed for 268 yards and a touchdown as Buffalo (4-2) came from behind to defeat Tampa Bay (2-4).
Jaguars 27, Colts 0: Blake Bortles completed 18 of 26 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown as Jacksonville (4-3) downed Indianapolis (2-5).