Falcons coach Arthur Smith should get the coach-of-the-year award for disguising his team’s weak offensive line for half of a season.

Smith, a first-year head coach, called quick passes, moved around Cordarrelle Patterson like a Rook in a Chess match, generally kept quarterback Matt Ryan alive and covered up the fact that Falcons can’t run the football effectively.

Without Patterson, combined with the Patriots sitting on the short routes and stifling rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, Ryan and the Falcons were stymied 25-0 on Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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“We worked him out two-and-half hours before kickoff, give or take,” Smith said of Patterson. “Didn’t think it was in his best interest (to play).”

The Falcons could only muster 165 yards of offense with Patterson watching in a red hoodie from the sidelines. They were shut out for the first time since a 38-0 loss to Carolina on Dec. 13, 2015.

“He’s a big part of this team, but it wasn’t going to be good for him,” Smith said. “He’s a special player. We tried everything that we could.”

Ryan was sacked four times and hit 12 times as his line was shredded. The Falcons could manage only 40 yards rushing on 16 carries.

The Falcons, who already had a small margin for error, didn’t help themselves much. They lined up incorrectly twice, left a receiver wide open and missed a field-goal attempt as the Patriots took a 13-0 halftime lead.

The Patriots, who were led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones and a strong rushing attack, improved to 7-4.

The Falcons dropped to 4-6 and have lost two consecutive games since upsetting New Orleans on Nov. 7.

Here are five things we learned from the loss:

1. Offense meek without Patterson: Patterson, 30, has been one of the Falcons’ top offensive weapons. He helped win the game over the Saints with a 64-yard reception in the final minute that led to the game-winning field goal.

“It’s always tough when you don’t have some of your guys out there,” Ryan said. “CP has been such a big part of what we’ve done offensively. The rest of the group, we didn’t do enough to be as productive as we needed to be.”

Patterson has 116 touches for 776 yards and seven touchdowns for the Falcons this season.

He played for New England during the 2018 season.

Through eight games with the Falcons, Patterson has a career-high in yards receiving (483), receiving touchdowns (five) and yards rushing (303).

Patterson signed a one-year, $3 million deal with a $1.7 million signing bonus with the Falcons. He wants to stay with the Falcons next season, but may be playing himself into a more lucrative deal in free agency.

“I love Atlanta,” Patterson said. “That’s out of my pay (range). If it was up to me, I’d be here for the next two years. If it was up to me. But it’s not.”

Caption
Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is forced out of bounds on a first down reception against the Patriots during the first half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is forced out of bounds on a first down reception against the Patriots during the first half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is forced out of bounds on a first down reception against the Patriots during the first half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Without Patterson, the Patriots concentrated on stopping Pitts with safety Kyle Dugger and a host of other defenders to help bracket the rookie, who had three catches for 29 yards.

The Falcons have been outscored 68-3 in the past two games.

2. Blown coverage: New England’s Nick Folk made a 32-yard field goal on the Patriots’ second possession to put them up 3-0.

After a Falcons punt, cornerback A.J. Terrell left New England wide receiver Nelson Agholor and let him run free across the defense. Everybody else appeared to be playing man-to-man defense. Terrell ran a few steps and then dropped into a zone.

Agholor scored on a 19-yard crossing route to put the Patriots up 10-0.

It appeared to be one of those mental mistakes that defensive coordinator Dean Pees discussed Tuesday.

“It was a zone,” Terrell said. “There was a little detail that we missed on that play which led to a touchdown.”

Folk added a 44-yard field goal with five seconds left in the second quarter, a 53-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 33-yarder with 1:55 left to play.

Caption
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy intercepts Falcons backup quarterback Josh Rosen and returns it for a touchdown to take a 25-0 lead during the final minutes of the 4th quarter in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. The Patriots beat the Falcons 25-0. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy intercepts Falcons backup quarterback Josh Rosen and returns it for a touchdown to take a 25-0 lead during the final minutes of the 4th quarter in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. The Patriots beat the Falcons 25-0.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy intercepts Falcons backup quarterback Josh Rosen and returns it for a touchdown to take a 25-0 lead during the final minutes of the 4th quarter in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. The Patriots beat the Falcons 25-0. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

New England linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned an interception of backup quarterback Josh Rosen for a 35-yard touchdown with 1:22 to play.

Feleipe Franks came on for the next series and threw an interception to Adrian Phillips on the first play.

The Falcons became the first team since Nov. 12, 2000, to have three quarterbacks intercepted in the same game. It last occurred when San Diego’s Jim Harbaugh, Ryan Leaf and Moses Moreno threw interceptions in a 17-7 loss to the Dolphins.

3. Wasted opportunities: The Falcons had scoring opportunities in the game, but wasted them.

The Falcons were stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the 16-yard line in the third quarter. Running back Qadree Ollison was short as he tried to plow behind left guard Jalen Mayfield.

The Patriots collapsed the middle of the Falcons line.

Caption
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hands off to running back Qadree Ollison who is stopped at the line of scrimmage by Patriots defenders during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hands off to running back Qadree Ollison who is stopped at the line of scrimmage by Patriots defenders during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hands off to running back Qadree Ollison who is stopped at the line of scrimmage by Patriots defenders during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

In the process, the Falcons wasted an interception and 34-yard return by Terrell.

Earlier in the game, the Falcons moved to the Patriots 14-yard line and came away with no points.

On third-and-1, Ryan was sacked by Van Noy for a loss of 13 yards. Younghoe Koo made a 45-yard field goal, but lineman Jason Spriggs was called for illegal formation.

Koo then missed a 50-yard attempt, wide left.

4. Pass protection was leaky: Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary whiffed on a speed rush by Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon.

McGary, who gave up a similar sack to Micah Parsons on Sunday against Dallas, continues to struggle against speed rushers.

In the Saints game, the Falcons had running back Mike Davis go over and chip on Cam Jordan.

Judon entered the game with 9.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for losses.

“It’s not all on the offensive line,” Smith said.

The Falcons did get three sacks, though. Linebacker Foye Oluokun, safety Erik Harris and Hall recorded the sacks.

Entering the game Oluokun has been sent on a team-high 35 blitzes and had five quarterback knockdowns, two hurries and a sack.

Caption
Falcons outside linebacker Dante Fowler is knocked to the turf by Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras on another unsuccessful pass rush attempt during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons outside linebacker Dante Fowler is knocked to the turf by Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras on another unsuccessful pass rush attempt during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
Falcons outside linebacker Dante Fowler is knocked to the turf by Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras on another unsuccessful pass rush attempt during the second half in a NFL football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

5. Defensive-line rotation: The Falcons’ defensive-tackle rotation was interesting. Former starter Tyeler Davison and second-round Marlon Davidson were declared inactive along with John Cominsky, who’s been buried on the depth chart.

The Falcons elected to start Grady Jarrett, Anthony Rush and Jonathan Bullard, who missed the last game with a concussion.

The backups included Mike Pennel and rookie Ta’Quon Graham, who was inactive for the past three games.

Graham had played 92 defensive snaps in five games before facing the Patriots. He had made five tackles.

Rush, who’s 6-foot-4 and 361 pounds, gives the Falcons a traditional nose tackle for their 3-4 alignment.

“A lot of them, on a short week when you got guys that are a little bit banged up,” Smith said. “Depending on where you’re at in the season, you’ve got guys that may be fresh. Maybe it comes down to the matchup. We knew it would be a pretty physical game. That’s why we made the decisions that we did up front.”

The Falcons travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars (2-7) on Sunday, Nov. 26.

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Next four games

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

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