3 key matchups: Falcons at Patriots

Atlanta Falcons 97 Grady Jarrett sacks New England Patriots Tom Brady in the 4th quarter on Sunday, Feb. 5 , 2017 during the NFL Super Bowl LI football game at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Caption
Atlanta Falcons 97 Grady Jarrett sacks New England Patriots Tom Brady in the 4th quarter on Sunday, Feb. 5 , 2017 during the NFL Super Bowl LI football game at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell

Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell

Here are three key matches to watch when the Falcons play the Patriots:

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman vs. Patriots LBs: Freeman, who failed to pick up a blitz on a key play in the Super Bowl, has been chipping and blocking well this season. He'll be ready to atone for his Super Bowl mistake against the Patriots, who like to send their linebackers, especially Dont'a Hightower, off the edge.

Falcons SS Keanu Neal vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski: Neal was beaten badly by Charles Clay of the Bills on Oct. 1. He won't have Gronkowski all of the time, but when he does he must be a force. Gronkowski has caught 26 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Neal has a big challenge going against Gronkowski, who didn't face the Falcons in the Super Bowl. Neal ranks second on the team in tackles with 32 and has one pass breakup.

Falcons DT Grady Jarrett vs. Patriots RG Shaq Mason: Jarrett had an unnecessary-roughness call that helped the Dolphins rally last week. He won the matchup in the Super Bowl as he had three sacks and dominated Mason at times. Mason, who played at Georgia Tech, is a mauler in the run game.

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