The New England Patriots will be playing the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. What are the three greatest strengths of the Patriots?
It has been an outstanding 2016 season for the New England Patriots. Despite Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season, they were able to finish 2016 with a 14-2 record.
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As the best team in the AFC, the Patriots were able to advance to the Super Bowl with relative ease. Neither the Houston Texans or the Pittsburgh Steelers ever really gave the Patriots a scare that elimination was close.
In the Super Bowl, the Patriots will be facing a red-hot Atlanta Falcons team. Like the Patriots in the AFC, the Falcons were able to destroy their two opponents in the NFC. Led by the best offense in the league, the Falcons will be attempting to pull off a small upset over the Patriots.
With the Patriots being such a good team this season, there are a few obvious strengths. Being 14-2 and advancing to the Super Bowl doesn’t come easy. For New England, they have a few strengths on their team that has helped separate them from the rest of the NFL.
Here are the three greatest strengths for New England heading into Super Bowl 51.
Jan 30, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during Super Bowl LI Opening Night at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
3.) Experienced Coaching Staff
Maybe one of the most underrated things in all sports is what a good coach can do. This season, we have really seen the Patriots grow, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of credit has to go to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for a job well done this season. Even though they traded Jamie Collins during the season, this is a defense that just keeps getting better and better.
In addition to the defense improving drastically since the start of the season, so has the offensive line. The return of Dante Scarnecchia as the offensive line coach has been a blessing for the Patriots. This has become a strength once again for the Patriots, and that is great for Tom Brady.
Also on the offensive side of the ball is offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In the absence of Brady this season, the Patriots were able to win games with two different starting quarterbacks. If not for a great coaching staff, the Patriots would not have gone 3-1 during that stretch.
While it is a very talented coaching staff overall, Bill Belichick at the top of it is certainly the icing on the cake. Belichick is no stranger to being a head coach in the Super Bowl, and he knows what it takes to get the job done. As arguably the best game-planner in the NFL, you know the Patriots will be prepared for the Falcons.
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch (97) and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (90) and outside linebacker Shea McClellin (58) in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
2.) Rushing Defense
To the surprise of many, the Patriots have one of the best run defenses in the NFL this season. In 2016, they ranked third in the NFL in total rushing yards allowed. Only the Dallas Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans allowed fewer rushing yards this season. However, the Patriots did only allow six rushing touchdowns, which was the best in the NFL.
While total rushing stats can be skewed, the Patriots also only allowed 3.9 yards per carry. That was eighth-best in the NFL and shows that this rushing defense is good.
With a great rushing defense comes some great players for the Patriots. The key player for the rushing defense up front is defensive tackle Alan Branch. Despite being 32-years-old, Branch is having the best season of his career. He has been on the field a majority of the time this season, and he has also been producing as the anchor of the rushing defense.
Behind Branch is linebacker Dont’a Hightower. In the Super Bowl, Hightower will certainly have a busy night shadowing both of the Falcons’ talented running backs. Even behind the front seven, the Patriots’ secondary helps out in stopping the run. The total team effort is one of the primary reasons for their success.
Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after a play against the Houston Texans in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
1.) Passing Offense
Without a doubt, the greatest strength for the Patriots is still their passing offense. Even without tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots have been able to have a lot of success through the air this season.
After his suspension, Brady has returned with a vengeance this season. Even without his favorite target for most of the season, Brady was able to set the single-season record for the best touchdown to interception ratio.
With Gronkowski injured, Julian Edelman really stepped into the role as the primary target for Brady. Edelman has frequently been targeted more than 10 times a game from Brady. His excellent route running and quickness makes him almost impossible to guard going across the middle.
One of the players that really stepped up when Gronkowski went down was wide receiver, Chris Hogan. In the playoffs especially, Hogan has been the No.2 option behind Edelman in the passing offense. Hogan’s ability to stretch the field really compliments Edelman’s ability to hurt a defense underneath. Add in players like Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, and James White, the Patriots’ passing offense is still elite.