Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates a touchdown pass against the Houston Texans during the third quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots come into Super Bowl 51 having won four championships in the past 17 years. They face an Atlanta Falcons team new to the environment.
It’s a tale of two teams for Super Bowl 51. The Patriots had a slew of problems throughout the regular season, but have made it to the promise land. From Tom Brady’s four-game suspension to Rob Gronkowski being lost for the season, New England has survived it all.
Even with all of this controversy, the Patriots have to be confident in their ability to execute and eventually become champions yet again. Here are five reasons as to why the Patriots will defeat the Falcons, and return to Foxboro for another championship parade.
Next: 5. Experience
Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (M) hands the Lamar Hunt AFC championship trophy to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) on the victory podium as CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz (R) looks on after the Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are approaching their seventh Super Bowl appearance since they joined forces in 2001. The duo has a combined 196-60 regular season record, and a 24-9 postseason record. They’ve finished atop the AFC East for eight straight years, and 13 of the past 15 years.
Super Bowl appearances are something that has been part of the New England culture since both men took the helm. Brady has been in the league to play with some highly-regarded receivers, like Randy Moss and Wes Welker. He’s also worked his magic with guys like undrafted Chris Hogan and an injury-plagued Danny Amendola.
Now, he’s without a true playmaker except Julian Edelman. Martellus Bennett hasn’t played well and has been injured. Malcolm Mitchell is still developing. But, even with this all said, Brady, is still the most experienced player on the field, along with one of the most decorated coaches of all time. Advantage goes to Brady and Belichick.
Next: 4. The secondary
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
4. The secondary
New England has a revamped secondary; one that has been very exceptional since 2014. You got to see how special this secondary was when cornerback Malcolm Butler sealed a Super Bowl 49 win with an interception off of Russell Wilson on the goal line. The defensive unit ranked twelfth in the league in passing yards allowed (237.9) and finished eighth in total yards allowed per game (326.4).
They’ve tallied four interceptions so far in the NFL Playoffs, with all four coming from different players. Corners Logan Ryan and Butler led the team in tackles during the regular season, and both will have extremely important roles in this matchup.
Butler was able to shut down Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins so far in the playoffs, but now he will see yet another dominant receiver in Julio Jones. Ryan will have the task of stopping Mohamed Sanu, and I’m assuming he’ll see some of Taylor Gabriel.
Career years from veterans Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty have also been pivotal in the Patriots secondary success. All of these guys have great amounts of playoff exposure and success, compared to the receiving group of Atlanta.
Next: 3. The offensive line
3. The offensive line
The highlight of the offense this year has been Brady and his 28-and-2 touchdown/interception ratio. This couldn’t have been done without the Patriots’ stellar offensive line. Brady was able to post his second-best completion percentage in his career (67.4%).
The Michigan alumni also accumulated his second-best quarterback rating (112.2) in his 17th season. New England’s offensive line only had Brady sacked 15 times; a career best (excluding the 2008 season).
Perhaps the biggest acquirement for the Patriots was getting offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia back in the mix. After taking three years off, Belichick got his coach to return. With Scarnecchia under control of the offensive line, the Patriots were in good hands. Their offensive line, according to footballoutsiders.com, ranks ninth in run blocking and sixth in pass protection. The unit was also able to produce the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in the league (19), per NFL.com.
The Falcons have only one threat that can cause trouble in Vic Beasley, the league’s sack leader. Throughout the playoffs, Beasley hasn’t been a factor at all, and the Patriots can keep it that way with their top-tier offensive line. One thing they have to be aware of, though, is the aggressiveness of the Falcons’ defense. They aren’t afraid to bring corners and safeties in to bring pressure and rush the quarterback.
Next: 2. Unpredictability
Jan 1, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs the ball during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
As stated before, Brady has become one of the greatest of all time by making those around him better. In 17 regular season games, Brady has had five receivers be the leading pass catcher in each respective game. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell had himself a 98-yard receiving game against San Francisco in Week 11, and Chris Hogan had 129 against Baltimore in Week 14.
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Rob Gronkowski led the way in two games before having season-ending back surgery. Brady has had to rely on an inconsistent Martellus Bennett, newly-created star Hogan, and the always reliable Julian Edelman.
The fact of the matter is, for all of the problems that New England has faced all season long, it actually serves as an advantage. How do you prepare for a team that has had the problems New England has throughout the season?
They went 3-1 without Brady, finished 14-2 without their best player in Gronk, and somehow finished third in the league in scoring. It’s just so classic. Only the Patriots could do this, well, because they are the New England Patriots.
One week it’ll be LeGarrette Blount leading the charge, another it’ll be Mitchell, and the next can be Dion Lewis. New England plays the ultimate bluff; they seem like such a wildcard, but come out to be an ultimate offensive force. Going against the inexperienced defense that Atlanta previews can have the Pats turn Super Bowl 51 into an offensive magic show.
Next: 1. Tom Brady
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
1. Tom Brady
Pointing out the obvious with this one. There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about Brady. Take all the memes you want, tell me that the Giants are his kryptonite, say he’s a big cheater who is illegitimate. Whatever. Nothing will stop me from believing this man is the greatest of all time, and I’m a New York Jets fan. I’ve had to deal with him for long enough. We gave the world Tom Brady (well, Mo Lewis did), and it pains me to think about that, but just look at his career.
- Fourth all-time in passing yards
- Fourth all-time in passing touchdowns
- Three-time Super Bowl MVP
- All-time leader for wins (including playoffs)
- 24-9 playoff record (best all-time)
- nine game-winning postseason drives
- 12 Pro Bowl selections
- Two First-Team All-Pro selections
- Two MVP awards
Brady is a machine. Now, he can become the first player to ever win five Super Bowls, and give Belichick the status of most-winningest coach of all-time. If this isn’t enough for you to believe that Brady still somehow will always have a chip on his shoulder despite all of his success, I don’t know what else to say. Oh, maybe that 31 other teams passed on him throughout six rounds.