Only an Atlanta sports fan would wear a conference championship replica ring on his head. In other news, the Falcons haven't won the NFC since the late 1990s. Credit: Getty Images
How the Patriots' 30-23 victory over Atlanta went down in real time Sunday night:
8:32-Thirty-two-yard catch by Tony Gonzalez who was covered tightly by Jerod Mayo, not sure how you can stop that. I guess that’s why he’s a surefire Hall of Famer.
8:37-Falcons are tearing up the Patriots defense on the opening drive so big Vince Wilfork needs a breather or he’s hurt ... hopefully it’s the former as the Georgia Dome crowd weakly boos.
8:39-Crap, looks like Wilfork hurt his foot. No worries, undrafted free agent Joe Vellano to the rescue!
8:41-The Pats' patented bend-but-don’t-break-defense holds Atlanta to a 23-yard field goal after two throws out of the back of the end zone by Matt Ryan. They’ll take it.
8:44-Not a good sight with Wilfork getting taken to the locker room on a golf cart with his cleat and sock off. Yikes, hope his foot isn’t broken or something.
8:44-First catch by a Patriot is a 15-yard grab by James Develin, haha of course!
8:58-Falcons gunner Drew Davis was blocked into Julian Edelman by Devin McCourty when the Pats wide receiver tried to catch a punt but he definitely led with his shoulder and crushed Edelman. At least Edelman seems alright, that’s the last thing the Pats need (an injury to their only experienced receiver).
9:05-Fifty-nine total yards (35 rushing, 24 receiving) for Stevan Ridley in the first quarter. Nice to see him show up this season. It only took four games. P.S. Falcons lead 3-0 after one quarter but Patriots have it at 2nd and 6 at Atlanta’s 10 when they return.
9:07-Has Falcons owner Arthur Blank ever worn anything but a suit? I say no.
9:11-Bolden’s 3-yard touchdown run is wiped out on review (his knee was down inches before the goal line).
9:13-Secret weapon: Matthew Mulligan? He caught a 1-yard TD from Brady on third and goal. 7-3 Patriots.
9:18-Cris Collinsworth claims that Tony Gonzalez returned because his kid(s) had the final say. Haha yeah right.A pro athlete leaves his retirement plans up to a child. That makes sense.
9:27-With all their weapons, Ryan throws to fullback Jason Snelling on third and 10 foreight yards. Even better than that, Ryan airmailed it to Roddy White on fourth down. Awful throw and they miss out on three easy points in what should be a low scoring contest. Well played Mike Smith.
9:30-Haha making that play by Atlanta even worse, Bill Belichick was trying to call timeout right before the snap but couldn’t get it in time.
9:31-Collinsworth anoints LeGarrette Blount “The Closer” all because of last week’s effort vs. Tampa Bay. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
9:32-Unbelievable 49-yard catch by Kenbrell Thompkins on what should have been an interception. That was crazy athleticism to take it away from a Falcons cornerback.
9:35-Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal fades directly over the right goal post but that still counts. 10-3 Patriots with 3:22 left in second quarter.
9:39- Gonzalez already has six catches for 69 yards. The Patriots don’t seem to have anyone that can cover him, not that many teams can ... even in 2013.
9:47-Julio Jones (two catches, six yards) is being completely shut down by Aqib Talib but they have no answers for Gonzalez who just caught a 21-yard touchdown to tie it at 10 with 38 seconds left in first half.
9:50-Tied at 10 going into halftime seems about right. Very even first half between two solid teams.
10:13-Collinsworth rightfully raves about Talib who’s having a whale of a game. Next play, Jones hears footsteps and drops what would have been a first down catch.
10:17-Most impressive contribution by an Atlanta sports fan in history: someone held up a sign that said “Where’s Welker?,” making him look like Waldo.
10:20-Collinsworth professes his love for Thompkins after an 18-yard catch and I think many Patriots fans across the country echo the same sentiment (drunk on a Sunday night or not).
10:22-Beautiful 34-yard pass from Brady to Edelman.
10:26-The Pats' red zone offense still leaves something to be desired. Aaron Dobson was held then Brady threw low, which led to the rookie getting crunched between two Falcons.
10:29-In non-Breaking Bad finale news, Gostkowski’s 22-yard field goal gives New England a 13-10 lead with 5:25 left in 3rd quarter.
10:35-Thirteen-yard sack by Vellano ... seriously.
10:40-With his overly tanned skin and snow white hair, Falcons head coach Mike Smith looks better suited for driving a Cadillac in Florida.
10:42-This hasn’t featured what I assume was the non-stop action of Homeland’s season premiere earlier tonight but so far the Pats are getting the job done: up 13-10 after three quarters in Atlanta.
10:46-A star has been born tonight: 26-yard catch by Thompkins on third and 19. Now that he’s consistently catching passes, you can see his obvious talent that everyone raved about in August.
10:47- A 47-yard TD run by Blount, because why not? Haha that was New England’s first rushing TD of the season.
10:54-Killer 38-yard penalty (pass interference) by Talib on Roddy White.
10:56-Banner night for the Patriots scouting department as seventh round pick Michael Buchanan sacks Ryan on third down. Bryant’s 45-yard field goal cuts it to a one-score game (20-13 New England with 11:52 left in regulation).
10:59-Proof of why Al Michaels is the gold standard - After gamely previewing some NHL games on NBC’s family of networks this week, he talks briefly about the Kings (he’s a season-ticket holder).
11:01-Just when we were all drinking the Thompkins Kool-Aid (myself included), he drops an easy catch that would have been a first down.
11:02-Huge catch and run for Edelman, 44 yards on third and 8. He has seven catches and 118 yards all in the second half.
11:04-Unbelievable 18-yard catch by Thompkins, not really sure if he caught it inbounds but it stood. So yeah, 27-13 Patriots.
11:08-In a play straight out of the Bills/Jets/Bucs playbook, Matt Ryan comes out on the first play of the next drive and badly underthrows Jones. Talib picks it off for his NFL-leading fourth interception of the season.
11:10-A 24-yard catch by rookie Josh Boyce. The Patriots are just trolling the Falcons now as the Georgia Dome quietly empties out.
11:13-Everyone is showing up for New England tonight: booming 49-yard field goal by Gostkowski puts the Patriots up 30-13. Goodnight Atlanta.
11:22-It’s all happening. Jones fumbled and it took forever to review since the replay system broke down. Haha, to top it off: Bob Kraft is shown taking a picture with Floyd Mayweather in his luxury box. Wonder how much Floyd won on the Pats tonight?
11:28-An 11-yard TD catch by Gonzalez, who was matched up with the immortal Logan Ryan. Atlanta recovers the ensuing onside kick. They’re only down 10 with 4:21 left in fourth quarter.
11:32-Twenty-yard catch by Jones on the sideline that can best be described as unfair. Like he’s way too good.
11:35-Classic Falcons playcall, third and 1 and they throw it to some 6-foot-8 freak that hasn’t been seen all night. Bryant’s 25-yard field goal makes it 30-23 Patriots with 2:55 left.
11:37-Hooman does what Sudfeld couldn’t: he successfully corrals an onside kick.
11:41-Blount appeared to get the first down after a second push but the refs gave him a bogus spot, a few chain links short. It’s being reviewed.
11:44-Somehow it was reviewed (thought the replay system was broken?) but it’s short. Ugh.
11:46-Brady fumbles the snap on fourth down and Atlanta takes over at their own 38.
11:46-Are you kidding me? Insane 49-yard catch by Jones who was not open by any means.
11:50-Haha, had them all the way, Ryan’s fourth down pass to the end zone intended for White is knocked away by Talib. What a game by Talib. If he stays healthy he is going to have a monster pay day following this season.
Final: Patriots 30, Falcons 23. New England is 4-0 for the third time in the Brady/Belichick era. The other two times were 2004 and 2007 (made Super Bowl each year). This was the first real test of the season for the Pats and they passed it even though it got dicey at the end, some of which was out of their control. They are at Cincinnati (2-2) next week in what should be another nail-biter.
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate