Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) signals a first down against Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Jake Ryan (47) during the third quarter in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a magical season for the Atlanta Falcons. Now, they try to bring their first Lombardi Trophy back home after Super Bowl 51.
Fans across the world are in for a treat this Sunday, as Super Bowl 51 has the potential to be the best of all-time. Not only are both the Falcons and Patriots winners of their respective conferences, but they hold elite offenses. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan combined for 66 touchdowns and nine interceptions throughout the regular season. Along with their high-powered offenses, they have exceptional defenses; both of which were electric after their bye weeks.
But, it’s a first trip to the Super Bowl for everyone but four players on the Falcons. Dwight Freeney, Philip Wheeler, Dashon Goldson, and Courtney Upshaw have five years of Super Bowl experience (Freeney has been in two). Wheeler, Goldson, and Upshaw have seen little-to-no action throughout the season. According to NFL.com, the last seven winners in the past 10 years have been teams with the lesser amount of experience.
Is it the Falcons’ year? Perhaps. Let’s see the top five reasons as to why they can win this game, and possibly with ease.
Next: 5. Controlling the tempo
Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) prepares for the snap from center Alex Mack (51) during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
5. Controlling the tempo
Atlanta held possession for an average of 23 seconds more than opponents in the regular season. In the postseason, though, they’ve had the ball for almost seven minutes more than opponents (6:58). This has helped them tremendously. How? Because Atlanta has been able to keep two of the most explosive quarterback’s the NFL has to offer, off the field.
In the Divisional round, Seattle held the ball for six and a half minutes less than Atlanta (only 26:41), which led to limited chances to score. After an opening drive that lasted 8:34 and ended with a touchdown, Seattle was held to just 13 points throughout the rest of the game. When they scored their final touchdown in the third quarter, it was too late. Seattle was facing a 36-20 deficit after the score, which would prove to be the last scoring action of the game.
Against Green Bay, the Falcons were able to almost duplicate the same game. The Packers had possession for 20 seconds less than Seattle was given. Aaron Rodgers didn’t have much time at all to create scoring opportunities, and when he did, the Packers were already busy being embarrassed 31-0.
If Atlanta can do this against another elite quarterback in Tom Brady, they will most definitely win this game. The Falcons’ offense is on a different level.
Next: 4. The trio of receivers
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) reacts with wide receiver Julio Jones (11) and quarterback Matt Ryan (2) after catching a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
4. The trio of receivers
With the addition of Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons had a great player that can complement Julio Jones. It wasn’t too long ago that Jones was Atlanta’s fourth-best receiver. Just three years back, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White were ahead of him. Since then, Jones hasn’t had much help. The decline of White and Douglas and the retirement of Gonzalez meant that he was the frontman. Now, in 2016, the Falcons have Jones, Sanu, and newly-acquired Taylor Gabriel.
The trio consumed 2,641 yards receiving; more than half of Ryan’s career-high 4,944 passing yards. With all of the attention from defenses going towards Jones, it’s allowed Gabriel and Sanu to flourish in the league’s best overall offense.
They have five of Ryan’s seven passing touchdowns in the playoffs, with Gabriel being the only one deprived of a score. Running the ball hasn’t been efficient for Atlanta in the playoffs, so they’ve had to turn to their strength both games; the air game. Now, the Falcons are facing a tough passing defense in Super Bowl 51. Only three teams have been able to prevent them from scoring 30 or more points, and with the roll that Atlanta is on in the playoffs, I just don’t see New England writing their names in.
Next: 3. Revamped secondary
Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Falcons defeated the Rams 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3. Revamped secondary
As previously stated, Atlanta holds a lot of overall inexperience on their roster, but most of it comes in the secondary. Their most experienced player is cornerback Robert Alford, who is in his fourth year. Free safety Ricardo Allen and corner Jalen Collins are both in their sophomore years, while strong safety Keanu Neal is a rookie that Atlanta took 17th overall in last year’s draft.
With all of the questions throughout media days and other interviews, the young guns of the Falcons have made it clear that inexperience means nothing.
“We might not have all the experience that they have, but we worked just as hard to get here — you can’t win a game with experience. You gotta win it on the field. – Jalen Collins, per Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com
Before their Week 11 bye, Atlanta let teams score 25+ points seven times. After their Week 11 bye, the Falcons held their final six opponents under 25+, four times. Although games against the Rams and 49ers count for half of these games, the Falcons were able to keep the Cardinals (19 pts) and Panthers (16 pts) on the ground.
Clearly, you can see what they did against the Packers and Seahawks. Holding Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers-led offenses are a tough task, but the Falcons were up for it. Can they keep up the pace? At this rate, they can (assumably) hold New England to 22 points.
Next: 2. The backfield will wake up
2. The backfield will wake up
It hasn’t been the ideal playoffs for both teams when it comes to the running game. It’s more of a shock to see the lack of impact from Atlanta’s backs, though. After becoming the league’s most dynamic backfield, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have been practically invisible thus far.
More from The Jet Press
- NY Jets should target TE Hunter Henry in free agency
- NY Jets: Why the team should target cornerback Shaquill Griffin
- NY Jets reportedly non-tendering linebacker Harvey Langi
- NY Jets: Why the team should not cut Jamison Crowder
- NY Jets should try to sign Kenny Golladay in free agency
Coleman, the No. 2 back and better pass-catcher of the duo, led both the Seahawks and Falcons in rushing during the Divisional game. He had 11 carries for 57 yards, compared to Freeman’s 14 carries for 45 yards.
Against the Packers the following week, it was Aaron Rodgers leading the game in rushing with 46 yards. Freeman had 42 on 11 carries, with Coleman having 29 on 11. With these amounts of carries, Freeman typically does a lot of damage.
He’s only had 20+ carries twice this season, but eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark regardless. Coleman has been a feature-back who strives in the passing game. With all of the passing that the Falcons have done throughout the playoffs, Coleman has only caught six passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
If Atlanta wants to win this game, they have to establish the run early. They were superior in both aspects of the game in the regular season, and to beat the Patriots, you have to utilize the run and passing game. Returning to the basics and one of their strengths will allow the Falcons to beat the Patriots down, and keep Tom Brady off the field.
Next: 1. Matt Ryan (MVP?)
1. Matt Ryan (MVP?)
Quarterback Matt Ryan absolutely dominated this season, compiling a hefty stat sheet that brings him atop discussion for league MVP.
Ryan has found his stride with what seems to be the best offense he’s ever played in. His 4,944 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, and seven interceptions landed him a First-Team All-Pro selection; the first of his career. Ryan was also elected to his third Pro Bowl but had to skip it for his first career Super Bowl appearance this Sunday.
Including the playoffs, Ryan has surpassed 300+ yards passing eight times, highlighted by a 503-yard performance against Carolina in Week 4. He dominated the Seahawks’ top notch secondary twice this season, beat the Broncos in Denver, and ran a muck of the Packers in the Championship round.
The Patriots have experience all around their secondary, as they routinely visit the Super Bowl. Ryan will have to lead his inexperienced offense into the biggest event in sports, all while taking it in for the first time.
This might sound crazy, but I’m taking Ryan over Brady any day this season. The weapons are there. He’s in his prime. I think Ryan will be Super Bowl 51 MVP and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Atlanta with an offensive showcase.