Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots: To-Do Super Bowl Checklist
What do the Atlanta Falcons have to do to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl and take down the 21st century’s dynasty in the New England Patriots?
No, this is not a dream. The Atlanta Falcons are one win away from a Super Bowl championship. After an 11-5 record, multiple injuries to key starters/role players, a season full of doubt, and a playoff setting featuring two NFC giants, the Falcons find themselves here.
For Atlanta, this is just their second appearance on the NFL’s biggest stage, their first in the new century. In their only other Super Bowl trip, the Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos after the 1998 season in Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami.
The only barrier in the way of this Falcons squad is the standard bearer of the NFL. The New England Patriots, led by All-World QB Tom Brady, are making their seventh Super Bowl appearance in the last 16 seasons.
In that time span, they have taken home four Lombardi trophies. So for the Falcons to accomplish this amazing task, they must take out the king of the mountain.
What exactly must the Falcons do to take home a championship? Here is Atlanta’s Super Bowl LI checklist.
4. Slash and Dash
Yes, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind. A wizard of schematics. However, Belichick won’t be on the field on Sunday.
This may also be a spot where the absence of former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins will show it’s presence. Why? Simply because the Falcons have two running backs that can easily line up in the slot or the boundary and create unfavorable mismatches with the current linebacker corps.
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In backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons have a one-two punch that is arguably the best running back tandem in the league. The two have combined for 85 catches and five touchdowns in the regular season.
In the Falcons two postseason games, the two have combined for 14 catches, 179 yards and two touchdowns. Simply put, productive.
Earlier this season, New England allowed seven catches for 87 yards to Seattle running back C.J. Procise. They allowed eight catches and a touchdown to Baltimore’s Kenneth Dixon. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell racked up 10 catches against them in the regular season also.
Since the Patriots play a considerable amount of man defense, the Falcons offense will have opportunities for Coleman and Freeman lined up one-on-one.
I’ll take my chances and safely bet on the duo in one-on-one matchups with Patriots linebackers Donta’ Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, and Shea McClellan.
3. Third Down Defense
Facing the likes of Tom Brady in Super Bowl 51 will be the biggest challenge for this Falcons defense this season.
One constant for the Patriots offense this season is their success on third down. New England has accumulated the second most third down conversions (104) during the the regular season. They also had the fourth best third down conversion (45.8 percent) during that time span as well.
In the AFC title game almost two weeks ago, Pittsburgh had trouble getting the Patriots off the field by allowing 11-of-17 third-down attempts. Against a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Brady, you can cue the fat lady to sing if that occurs.
The improving Falcons defense has risen to the occasion on third down so far this postseason. A combined 9-of-21 third down conversions have been allowed against Green Bay and Seattle. This trend can not be bucked against New England.
2. Throw Everything At Brady
“He must go down and he must go down hard” – late, great Al Davis
There has been talk that the Falcons will not blitz Brady as often with hopes of getting pressure with their front four.
Regardless how Brady is attacked, it’s a MUST that Brady is flustered, pressured, agitated, aggravated, pestered, irritated, bothered, annoyed, and so on.
One thing in the favor of the Falcons this postseason is that they have generated consistent pressure against Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Two quarterbacks who have the ability to gash defenses with their mobility. Something Tom Brady is not actually known for.
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On top of that, Brady had a 49.9 completion percentage during the regular season when pressured.
Having a veteran like Dwight Freeney in the locker room can pay benefits for games such as this. Someone who has played Brady more than enough and have gotten the better of Brady at times. Also, having the league leading sack artist in Vic Beasley Jr. can pay dividends.
I’m sure we all remember how Von Miller dictated Super Bowl 50 last season.
The Falcons incorporated several corner blitzes as well as the occasional linebacker blitz against Green Bay. While they did not result in sacks, the point was driven home. The pressure on Rodgers made him uncomfortable and essentially, out of his game.
Atlanta must get to Brady, early and often.
1. Turn Up The Dial On Offense
You should already be aware by now. The Falcons averaged 33.8 points per game, 415.8 yards per game in the regular season and 457.5 yards per game in the postseason. The Falcons offense can move and score at will.
However, this is the Super Bowl. Across the field is one of the greatest dynasties in the NFL history. So even though the Falcons have been productive all season on offense, they may have to amp it up a little more on that side of the ball.
The Patriots will likely double receiver Julio Jones at times. With this offense, that’s fine actually. They have shown against New Orleans, Green Bay, Denver, and Arizona that they can win without Julio having an amazing outing.
All hands on deck will be needed on this one. From the personnel on the field to the play calling. Without giving the Patriots a ton of familiar looks, it will be wise for Atlanta to be consistent with pre-snap movement. This will allow quarterback Matt Ryan to see the play before it happens.
A steady and balanced tempo will be required also. As will a few formations they we have not even seen often this season.
They say defense wins championships. But the Falcons have one of the most dangerous offenses in recent history. That level of excellence will be needed to take even another step. A step that can lead Atlanta to its first Super Bowl title.