When the Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on Sunday, Feb. 5 (Fox TV Channel 29) at 6:30 p.m., it could be a high scoring affair. If that’s the case, the Falcons should have the edge in the biggest football game of the year.
Atlanta has the ability to really light up the scoreboard behind quarterback Matt Ryan who has played at an MVP level all season long. Ryan, a product of Penn Charter, has completed 373 of 534 passes for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns. He has the ability to connect on the medium range, as well as the long range, passes.
Ryan’s favorite target has been wide receiver Julio Jones who has outstanding speed and runs terrific pass routes. Jones has 83 receptions for 1,409 yards and six TDs. He’s a threat to score at any time. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones is a big receiver. He can run down the sidelines, but can also go across the middle.
The passing attack of Ryan and Jones will be key for the Falcons. But the running game may be even bigger. Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman runs with power and speed. Freeman has rushed for 1,079 yards on 227 carries while scoring 11 touchdowns. The ability to run the football will help the Falcons put their offense in scoring position.
More than anything, it will assist them in controlling the pace of the game. A strong ground attack will limit the opportunities for the New England Patriots’ offense, which is led by quarterback Tom Brady who has played in six Super Bowls with a 4-2 record. Brady has been sensational completing 291 of 432 passes for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He’s been even better in the postseason.
Although the Falcons can score, the Patriots have the weapons to get the ball in the end zone. That’s where the Falcons’ defense comes into play. Atlanta needs to find a way to get pressure on Brady. They can’t allow him to be too comfortable in the pocket. If they give Brady too much time, he will pick them a part.
The players to watch are linebackers Vic Beasley (32 solo tackles, 15.5 sacks and six forced fumbles) and Deion Jones (108 total tackles and three interceptions). Beasley and Jones are playmaking linebackers. They can play the run as well as the pass. The Falcons will try to send Beasley from his linebacking position to get to Brady. If Atlanta can successfully get some pressure on him, that could spell trouble for the Patriots. The Denver Broncos were able to do that in the AFC championship last year.
At any rate, it really looks like both team will be able to move the ball up and down the field. Ryan has been the most explosive signal caller in the playoffs passing for 730 yards and seven TDs. If he stays hot, Ryan could bring a Super Bowl victory to Atlanta.