Super Bowl Preview
By Brent Foshee
New England Patriots Vs Atlanta Falcons
New England is looking to make history (again) and possibly cement the legacies of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the best ever to do their jobs. Atlanta, meanwhile, is a surprise entrant looking to win their first Super Bowl, in only their second appearance.
When New England Has The Ball: The Patriots had the #4 offense in the league during the regular season, despite not having Brady for 4 games. Even without his primary target of Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady has continued to be productive. Brady’s ability to distribute the ball to a rotating cast of characters is enviable. LeGarrette Blount offers the team a power running back in the mold of Corey Dillon, Dion Lewis and James White offer receiving options out of the back field, and Julian Edelman leads a veteran receiving corps that will be able to create mismatches throughout the game. Defensively Vic Beasley will need to continue his monster season for Atlanta and generate some pressure on Brady in order to disrupt the rhythm of the Patriots offense. Otherwise the Falcon’s defensive backs look to be in for a long day.
When Atlanta Has The Ball: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have each had an amazing season and Ryan, in particular, looks like he is one step away from joining the game’s elite quarterbacks. Offensive Coordinator, and soon to be 49ers Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan does an amazing job putting his players in positions to make plays. With the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman the Falcons have been able to keep their opponents off guard by using the backs in the passing game consistently. The Falcons offensive line does give up more sacks than they should, and Ryan will occasionally hold onto the ball too long. New England’s defense is stocked with veterans throughout. With Pro Bowl players at every level the Pats are able to adjust their focus quickly and change tactics from week to week, and sometimes quarter to quarter. It seems unlikely that New England will not be prepared for whatever Atlanta throws at them.
Analysis: Both offenses rank in the top 5, with Atlanta having a slight edge. New England’s defense was 8th best on the year while Atlanta’s was 25th, giving the Patriots a much more sizeable edge. In past Super Bowls New England has beaten quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, and Russell Wilson. They have lost twice to Eli Manning. Given Ryan’s rise to near elite status this season, it seems like this game will largely come down to how well he plays. Elite quarterbacks play at elite levels in Super Bowls (see Montana, Joe) and Ryan will need to do that in order to join the ranks of Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Manning, and Roethlisberger. I’m not sure he’ll be able to.
New England 34 - Atlanta 30