Seventh Heaven: Patriots Take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots will meet in Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. The game features the Pats’ NFL leading defense versus likely NFL MVP Matt Ryan and the league’s highest scoring offense. The Patriots open as the three-point favorite.

How nice that Brady’s chance at his 5th ring falls on February 5th.

The Patriots will be playing in their ninth Super Bowl, going 4-4 in previous Super Bowls. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick head into their seventh appearance together, and their first appearance since they defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 two years ago. Only 23 of the players on that winning roster are still around, but we all know Belichick does not need those players and will rid of anyone he no longer needs (Jamie Collins knows, too). One fun fact in the Pats favor is that the top scoring defenses are 14-5 in the Super Bowl, while the top scoring offenses are only 10-13.

The Atlanta Falcons are making their second ever appearance in the Super Bowl, losing their first trip 34-19 in 1999 to John Elway’s Denver Broncos. However, head coach Dan Quinn won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, so he is not new to how it works. The city of Atlanta has not won a major sports championship since the Braves in 1995 (the year I was born), and they’re convinced this will be the year.

Enough with the history though, let’s talk about the only chance Atlanta wins this Super Bowl.

  • Atlanta needs an explosive offense from the get-go: They need a more explosive offense than any game this season to beat this defense. Whether or not Ryan wins the MVP award, he needs to play like it. Ryan finished the season with a passer rating of 117.1 and a per-game average of 309 passing yards. This makes him one of only four QBs in history to post a PR of 115+ while averaging 300+ passing yards in a single season. Assuming he can continue this play on the NFL’s biggest stage, that’s a start to winning this game.
  • Shanahan’s son: Kyle Shanahan could be Belichick’s kryptonite, since his father cannot anymore. New England’s defensive philosophy relies on limiting big plays and forcing opponents to settle for field goals in the red zone. The Falcons have to prepare for man coverage inside the 5-yard line and they need to attack this coverage by using stacked alignments with a scissors concept to lure defenders out of this area. Shanahan needs to exploit his running back match ups against this New England man-to-man defense and Shanahan will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks (and maybe his dad’s).
  • Dan Quinn needs to steal from the Seahawks defense. Brady’s only loss this season was to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. The defense needs to constantly challenge Pats receivers. They need to aggressively cover these receivers to stop guys like Julian Edelman from the slot or Chris Hogan down the seam on vertical routes. They also need to pressure Brady and force him off his spot to slow the pass rush and have any shot at stopping this offense.

If the Falcons can manage to do these things, they may have a shot at defeating the New England Patriots, but let’s be real, it will be hard to stop Tom Brady on his F*ck Roger Goodell Revenge Tour. We all know “it would be an honor” for Goodell to hand the Lombardi trophy to the all-mighty Tom Brady.