Super Bowl 51 will be a match-up of the under-rated talent, speed, and youth of the Atlanta Falcons, versus the experienced, seasoned, and consistent New England Patriots.
On the surface, it may not be the glamorous match of America’s teams, but both teams have dominated on the field of play in the post season to earn their trip to the Super Bowl.
This game should be a closely fought contest. Contrary to the popular belief, if there is a lopsided victory, it will be the Atlanta Falcons who take a big lead.
Atlanta has the best and most explosive offense in the league with speed and versatility. The defense has been criticized for its inconsistency but has played its best in the post season.
They’re not big, but play very hard and give tremendous effort with a passion that is undeniable. They have clean run fits and have played more aggressive coverage as the year has worn on. They will play man-on-man and get body-on-body making for tight windows for opposing QBs. They are built much like Seattle, as you would expect. Atlanta’s defense is not as big, but explosive up front. They come off the ball with quickness and power and will disrupt the opponents with penetration.
New England’s offense behind the game plans of Josh McDaniel and the QB play of Tom Brady has found a way to exploit the weaknesses of their opponents. It all starts with the offensive line and their ability to keep Brady confident in the pocket. They are capable of running the ball with Blount. He will power ahead for short runs and wear down smaller opponents and get the long run as the game wears on. They alternate White and Lewis for quickness, speed and route running.
Offense vs. Defense
The best view of the Patriots’ offense versus Atlanta’s defense is the regular season game between the Patriots and Seahawks. Both teams will dissect that game in preparing for the Super Bowl.
If that game is any indication, Atlanta will make Brady uncomfortable. He will make his share of plays, but they will not come easy and it will be difficult to sustain drives.
The running game must be effective to give Brady an opportunity for play action passes and downfield throws. Atlanta can play with a one-dimensional offense in the game, but I don’t think New England can.
In order to keep up with the Falcons’ offense, Josh McDaniel will need his best game plan of the year and Tom Brady will have to secure his place as the best QB to ever play the game.
The New England defense is the best in NFL. They are #1 is scoring defense which is the real measure of success. Keeping points off the board gives your team the best opportunity to win games and the Patriots are all about Team and winning. This philosophy is clearly spelled out by Head Coach Bill Belichick.
There are a number of reasons I give an edge to the Atlanta Falcons’ #1 scoring offense over the #1 scoring defense.
- New England has shown a willingness to play a single high safety to stop the run this year versus previous years. Their run defense is solid inside but can be exposed outside the tackles.
- The Falcons and their zone running scheme will make the Patriots defend the width of the field rather than punch a hole straight ahead, versus the Patriots’ two big defensive tackles.
- The exceptional speed of the Falcons at all positions (especially the RBs and offensive line) is going to be a challenge for the Patriots’ Defense.
Much of the talk regarding the Falcons’ offense has been centered around Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the passing game. I believe Atlanta’s running game will be the difference. The Patriots will not be able to consistently cover both Freeman and Coleman. With an effective run game, the play action passes will take chunks of big yards from the Patriot’s Defense.
Kyle Shanahan will not allow Matt Patricia to zero in on the run or pass which will give the Falcon’s the full arsenal of offense. Shanahan uses the run game in spurts and you’re never sure when that will be.
Let’s assume the Patriot’s brain trust moves the front and commits the extra man in the box and controls the run game. A one-dimensional Falcons’ offense will still pose many issues for the Patriots. The Patriots’ base 4-man rush to takes time to develop. They are not explosive on the edges to apply quick pressure. They are most effective running line stunts which take time.
If the Patriots feature zone coverage, Matt Ryan will have time to pick it apart. The Patriots’ underneath zone coverage plays very short. They will be exposed behind the linebackers for big gains.
The solution is man coverage giving the rush more time to develop.The downside of man coverage is the match up versus the speed of the RBs who are excellent route runners and receivers.
All things considered, man-to-man with a sprinkle of their 3-man rush zone schemes will give them the best chance.
The Patriots have also shown a vulnerability in man coverage to 3-man bunches and 2-man stack formations. They consistently fail to sort it out or lose leverage for easy inside completions. Atlanta can win with explosive plays in those formations. Atlanta’s WR quick screens are an easy answer to any pressure from New England.
The Falcons have one other option if they want to take advantage of their speed and New England’s lack of a dominant rush, and that is their empty set package. The empty package will again force the Patriots to defend the width of the field where the Falcons will find the best match up and win that battle in the open spaces.
Overall, the Atlanta Falcons’ Offense Has a Substantial Edge Over the New England Patriots’ Defense
The one way the Patriots have to disrupt Atlanta’s high-powered offense is to continue to play terrific Red Zone defense and force field goals.
If the Patriots win this Super Bowl it will be because Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia did their best-ever coaching job. Belichick is the best NFL Head Coach in history and with a win in this Super Bowl it would solidify that opinion.