Pats O-Line vs. Falcons D-Line by Daniel Rubalcava
This week proves to be a big one as the Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 this Sunday, Feb. 3, at 3:30 p.m. in Houston, Texas. A primetime matchup that often gets overlooked is set to happen in the trenches themselves, primarily revolving around the Falcons defensive line vs. the Patriots offensive line.
Although not much credit is given regarding their offensive line, the Patriots have been much improved this season after an atrocious 2015-16 season. Much of this credit should be given to offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who has really turned this group around. Left tackle Nate Solder holds the fort down for QB Tom Brady, while Marcus Cannon solidifies the run game on the right side. Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason shore up the middle of the 10th best O-Line in the NFL via Profootballfocus.com.
Although the Pats rank seventh among postseason teams in rushing with a modest 2.9 yards per rush, they rank second in passing with an average of 326.5 yards per game. These averages are the outcome of a sturdy offensive line that is healthy. For any quarterback, being provided time in the pocket is key, but it becomes even more advantageous for a quarterback such as Brady, who they protected well with the fifth best ranking in sacks allowed at 24.
Opposite the line of scrimmage is the Atlanta Falcons, who are an elusive and strong front. This is despite the fact that they rank sixth and seventh in rush and pass defense, respectively, during the playoffs; the Falcons are giving up 5.3 yards per rush to opposing teams, but only 6.8 yards per pass.
This has resulted in an average of 20.5 points allowed per game; however, Vic Beasley Jr., Jonathan Babineaux, Tyson Jackson, Dwight Freeney and Co. are going to try and limit Brady and the Patriots. They have achieved their average the past two games, but the Patriots’ offense is explosive, and this D-Line may have to battle in a game that could possibly lead to a shootout.
But don’t count the Falcons out just yet. All eyes will be on Beasley Jr. after he ended the season with a league-leading 15.5 sacks.
Super Bowl 51 is set to be a great one, with anticipation of a high scoring, offensively charged game that could get out of hand on the scoreboard. The matchup seems sized up to be a battle in the trenches, and it could be a result of which line is willing to push a little harder to obtain the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
Pats Defense vs. Falcons Defense by Liam Bailey
An old mantra of the NFL has been that “defense wins championships.” That hypothesis can both be supported in this year’s Super Bowl by the Patriots, who concluded the regular season with 5,223 yards allowed, the eighth fewest in the league.
Yet it can be somewhat rejected, as the team graded out as subpar, finishing 16th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, known as Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, is a stat that measures the overall efficiency of the defense compared to league average.
Atlanta is no greater on defense either, finishing the regular season ranked 27th in defensive DVOA, with the 25th defense according to total yards allowed (5,939). The unit has been playing well of late though, giving up 21 and 20 points in their first two playoff games against the Seahawks and Packers, respectively, both of which are teams with high offensive ceilings.
Vic Beasley Jr. was a monster for the team all year, leading the league with 15.5 sacks. Although he’s yet to notch one in the playoffs thus far, the Falcons have sacked the quarterback five times in the past two games, suggesting Tom Brady will be under pressure all evening.
In Brady’s two Super Bowl losses, a vicious opposing pass rush has been a common element and figures to be an essential factor in determining Sunday’s outcome.
Atlanta has shown a penchant for creating chaos this postseason, amassing three interceptions, a forced fumble and a safety. New England has created five turnovers itself during the 2017 playoffs and will need to turn Matt Ryan over once or twice to have a shot at stopping this high-powered Falcons offense.
The main playmakers in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, wide receiver Julio Jones, quarterback Matt Ryan and the backfield duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should be eager for a Patriots matchup that could work to their advantage.
While New England allowed more than 20 points in only three games this regular season, it ranks 20th in defensive DVOA versus both number one receivers and running backs.
But New England has put together a cohesive group on the defensive side of the ball, though the Patriots are bereft of the defensive superstars that have been a key component in each of Bill Belichick’s Super Bowl winning runs.
No longer are the Pats depending on impact players such as Chandler Jones and Darrelle Revis from two years ago, who have been replaced by Chris Long and Logan Ryan, and it’s yet to be seen if this group can match up with a team as talented as the Atlanta Falcons.
I’ll take Brady, though, who has only thrown two interceptions on the year and seems pretty intent on sticking it to Roger Goodell and co.
Pats Defense vs. Falcons Backfield by Quinn Moslander
Although it will be only the Falcons’ second ever Super Bowl appearance compared to the Patriots’ record-high 10th, Sunday’s matchup could be thrilling, especially when looking at the Falcons backfield going against the Patriots defense.
Ranked No. 3 in the NFL when defending against the run, opposing teams only complete 88.6 rushing yards per game on average, making evident the cohesiveness and ability of the Pats’ defensive line. New England has only allowed five rushing touchdowns in 18 games this season, including playoffs, while not allowing a single running back to rush for over 100 yards in a single game.
On the other side of the field, the Atlanta Falcons backfield is No. 4 in the league, averaging 4.6 yards per run. They have managed to score 20 touchdowns off running plays during the regular season but will be challenged by the Patriots’ strong rushing defense.
Propelling the Falcons’ offense are two particularly strong running backs in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. Twenty-three-year-old Coleman totaled 520 rushing yards in the regular season, scoring eight rushing touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per run and has not slowed his roll since season has ended. Coleman is also a huge threat out of the backfield as receiver where he totaled 421 yards on 31 receptions and added three more touchdowns.
On 28 total touches this postseason, the Indiana alum has registered 143 total yards (86 yards rushing, 57 receiving) and two touchdowns.
Teammate Freeman made it past the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season rushing for a career-high 1,079 yards this year while, adding 11 rushing touchdowns. Like Coleman, Freeman also does a great job as a receiver as he totaled 54 receptions in the regular season for 462 yards and two touchdowns. In two games this season, Freeman rushed for over 100 yards and in both, the Falcons won by an average margin of 20.5 points. In his two postseason games, Freeman has totaled 207 total yards and two touchdowns on 36 touches.
With experience as well as energy on their side, the Patriots present a strong front that could help lead the team to victory if their defensive ends can cover the outside.
Pats Offense vs. Falcons Offense by Ryan Burns
Super Bowl LI has potential to be an offensive clash for the ages, as the Falcons and Patriots, arguably the two best offenses in the NFL, flex their muscles on the biggest stage. Beyond the most notable matchup between perennial champion Tom Brady and veteran Matt Ryan — who has taken his game to a whole new level this season — throwing for a career high 38 TDs, both teams boast a countless number of threats that could make for a memorable game.
If the defenses show up on their top game as expected, though, the running game will be key in deciding which team controls the tempo. Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount has been having a Super Bowl-worthy season, with 18 regular season TDs, adding one more in his team’s AFC Championship victory over the Steelers.
His counterpart is no slouch either, as Falcons RB Devonta Freeman enters the title bout with 11 rushing TDs in the regular season while eclipsing 1,000 yards for the second straight season.
Atlanta heads into the big game with a slight edge in nearly every offensive category, with 295.3 yards in the air per game compared to New England’s 269.3 and 38 passing scores to 32.
On the ground, the Falcons keep their advantage from their three-pronged running game with 120.5 yards per game and 20 TDs to the Patriots’ 117.0 YPG and 19 TDs.
The Patriots’ biggest strength lies in their two main receiving targets for Brady, Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett, who have combined for 1,800 receiving yards and 10 TDs this year, while the former was targeted 158 times, more than twice any other teammate. Matt Ryan’s number one target, Julio Jones, has had years to develop a relationship with his quarterback and the benefits this season were remarkable; Jones gathered over 1,400 receiving yards and seven TDs, averaging just over 100 YPG.
Both teams have playmakers at every key offensive position and both offensive lines give the quarterbacks enough time to control the game, so the spotlight will obviously be on the two star QBs; that being said, it’ll be up to one of the skill players to come up with a game-winning play in the end.