ATLANTA — Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola did not make the trip here with their Patriots teammates, and Saturday night they were declared out for New England’s game Sunday against the Falcons.
On the positive side, tackle Sebastian Vollmer (foot) did make the trip, meaning he could play. Vollmer injured his foot in the second half of last week’s game against Tampa Bay, and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, though he did practice Friday.
It’s not often a Patriots player who does not practice Thursday plays Sunday, but Vollmer could be one of the exceptions.
Both Gronkowski (back/forearm) and Amendola (groin) were listed as questionable by New England.
This is the third straight game Amendola will miss because of his injury; he initially strained groin muscles during the preseason and missed the third and fourth exhibition games. In the season opener in Buffalo, he left the field late in the first half after aggravating the problem, but returned in the third quarter and ended the game with 10 catches for 104 yards.
Amendola said Wednesday there was no way of knowing if he made his injury worse by playing in the second half.
Gronkowski has not played yet this season, as he recovers from June back surgery and a left forearm that has undergone four surgeries since last November.
The Falcons have outscored their opponents, 31-0, in the first quarter this season, though with a 1-2 record heading into Sunday night’s game, they haven’t been able to sustain their fast starts.
New England, on the other hand, has pitched a fourth-quarter shutout over its first three games, allowing the offense to come from behind against Buffalo, hold on against the Jets, and keep the Buccaneers from mounting a late-game comeback.
“Obviously at that point in the game [fourth quarter] is when every play becomes more critical than the previous play, and that’s when you have to focus and play your best and really get everybody on the same page of what we are trying to accomplish,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “Certainly that is a point of emphasis for us.
“You want to execute to your fullest ability and do your job exactly how we need it to get done, along with the communication factor we are trying to stress and emphasize.”
Coach Bill Belichick noted how experienced Atlanta’s offense is, which is in contrast to the Buffalo and New York games, when the Patriots’ defense faced rookie quarterbacks.
“It’s been good so far but we’ll see. As we know, you’re only as good as your last game,” Belichick said. “It’s starting all over again this week against a very good offense, a very explosive offense and a very experienced group. These guys have been doing this for a long time with a lot of the same players, a lot of the same coaches and system and so forth.
“It’ll be a big challenge for us, but it’s been good that we’ve been able to finish games where we’ve made stops at the end to either get the ball back or keep the Jets or Tampa from scoring at the end to close the gap. It’s something that we’ve preached and worked hard at. It’s certainly been a positive that this group has played well for 60 minutes.”
The Patriots promoted practice squad defensive back Kanorris Davis to the 53-man roster Saturday.
Davis, an undrafted rookie out of Troy, is listed at 5 feet 10 inches, 207 pounds. He fills the roster spot that opened when the team released Marquice Cole Friday.
A linebacker in college, Davis likely will fill Cole’s spots on special teams.
Moving on up
Belichick enters the game with 208 career wins, sixth place in NFL history. With the Patriots’ next win, Belichick will tie Chuck Noll, who won all of his games as coach of the Steelers, for fifth place . . . The Patriots and Falcons have met 12 times, with each team winning six, though New England has won the last three meetings, in 2001, ’05, and ’09 . . . The Patriots are 18-16 all time on “Sunday Night Football.” They’ve dropped their last two SNF games, in Baltimore and against the 49ers last season . . . New England’s defense has forced a turnover in 30 straight games. The last time it did not was Oct. 9, 2011 against the Jets.