FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – 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.
“There were plays out there, we didn’t make them,” center Alex Mack said. “If it’s third down, if it’s red zone — all those little things add up. And to play a good team, like the Patriots are, you’ve gotta make them.”
While Atlanta looked tentative, if not intimidated, Brady and his offense surgically tore apart the Falcons, mixing runs and passes. And that defense . . .
“This was a reminder that when we play the game the right way, we can do good things on defense,” DB Duron Harmon said.
Steelers 29, Bengals 14
In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, Le’Veon Bell added 192 total yards, and the Steelers’ defense dominated Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh (5-2) relied on its stars to take the lead, then leaned on its reinvigorated defense to blunt the Bengals and give itself a significant cushion over the rest of the underwhelming AFC North.
Cowboys 40, 49ers 10
In Santa Clara, California, Ezekiel Elliott gained 219 yards from scrimmage and tied a career high with three touchdowns just days after a legal reprieve put his suspension on hold.
Elliott was granted his second temporary restraining order on Tuesday, putting his six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations on hold, and then gave Dallas (3-3) a big boost on the field, matching his season total of rushing touchdowns with two in the first quarter.
Chargers 21, Broncos 0
In Carson, California, Travis Benjamin returned a first-quarter punt 65 yards for a touchdown and caught a 42-yard TD pass in the fourth, and Los Angeles played a dominant defensive game in the first home victory of its relocation season.
Joey Bosa had two of the Chargers’ five sacks while they sent Denver (3-3) to the franchise’s first shutout defeat since a 24-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders on Nov. 22, 1992.
Seahawks 24, Giants 7
In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Russell Wilson threw three second-half touchdown passes and Seattle limited New York’s receiver-depleted offense to 177 yards.
Wilson hit Doug Baldwin with a go-ahead 22-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. He put the game away with a 38-yard TD throw to Paul Richardson on a play that had to be reviewed because of simultaneous possession. He closed out the scoring with a 1-yard toss to Jimmy Graham with 2:14 to go.
Titans 12, Browns 9 (OT)
In Cleveland, Ryan Succop’s fourth field goal, a 47-yarder with 1:55 left in overtime, extended his NFL record for makes inside 50 yards to 55 straight and sent Tennessee to an ugly win over the winless Browns.
Cleveland (0-7) also lost durable Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas with an injury. A 10-time Pro Bowler, he missed his first play in 11 seasons. Thomas went out with a triceps injury that snapped his streak of 10,363 consecutive offensive plays. The No. 3 pick in 2007 has been the lone bright spot over the past decade for the franchise.
Rams 33, Cardinals 0
In London, Jared Goff ran for a touchdown and threw for another and Greg Zuerlein made four field goals as Los Angeles won for the first time in three appearances in Britain.
Arizona (3-4) heads home with significant questions after quarterback Carson Palmer injured his left arm in the second quarter and did not return.
Saints 26, Packers 17
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Drew Brees threw for a touchdown and ran for another and Mark Ingram rushed for a score.
Will Lutz kicked two second-half field goals, including a 44-yarder to put New Orleans up for good at 19-17 with 10:26 left in the game. Brees’ 1-yard sneak gave the Saints a two-score lead
Bills 30, Buccaneers 27
In Orchard Park, New York, rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White forced and recovered a fumble to set up Stephen Hauschka’s 30-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining.
LeSean McCoy had 91 yards rushing and scored twice, including a 7-yard run to tie the score with 2:28 remaining. Tyrod Taylor went 20 of 33 for 268 yards and a touchdown, while the Bills’ defense forced three turnovers.
Dolphins 31, Jets 28
In Miami Gardens, Florida, Matt Moore replaced an injured Jay Cutler and threw two touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes, and the Dolphins pulled off another comeback win by erasing a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Josh McCown threw three touchdown passes and ran for another for the Jets, but his interception in the final minute set up the winning field goal.
Bears 17, Panthers 3
In Chicago, rookie safety Eddie Jackson became the first NFL player to score multiple defensive touchdowns of 75 yards or more in a game. Jackson ran back a fumble recovery 75 yards on the game’s opening possession and returned an interception of Cam Newton 76 yards for a score early in the second quarter to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.
He became the franchise’s first player since Fred Evans in 1948 — and the first NFL player since Tennessee’s Zach Brown in 2012 — with two defensive TDs in a game.
Vikings 24, Ravens 16
In Minneapolis, Latavius Murray rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and Kai Forbath kicked six field goals.
Forbath made kicks of 52, 51, 43, 43, 34 and 32 yards to back another suffocating effort from the defense for the Vikings (5-2). Minnesota sacked Joe Flacco five times and allowed just 208 yards. Everson Griffen had two sacks and has nine for the season.
Jaguars 27, Colts 0
In Indianapolis, Blake Bortles threw for a season-high 330 yards and one touchdown, and T.J. Yeldon scored on a 58-yard run. By ending a four-game losing streak at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jacksonville (4-3) remained atop the AFC South.
Indy (2-5) lost its second straight, both to division foes.