New England expects
Can Atlanta Falcons fly in face of tradition against the Patriots?
The world will be watching hing when the coin is tossed to signal gnal the start of Super Bowl LI on Sunday unday night at the NRG Stadium in Houston, ston, Texas. This year’s culmination of the he NFL season sees a clash for the ages, with h the Atlanta Falcons – victors over the Green een Bay Packers in the NFC Championonship game – taking on the New ew England Patriots – winners of the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It just wasn’t the Super Bowl anyone was expecting.
The Atlanta Falcons were unfancied going into the NFL season – to the point where they were the second least backed to win the Super Bowl just ahead off the Tennessee Titans, which means they were expected to fare worse than even perennial losers, the Cleveland Browns. This was at odds with the bookmakers’ favorites – and their opposition forr the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LI on Sunday night – the New England Patriots. triots. The Pats were the most backeded going into the season and they have maintainedaintained their status as front-runners throughout ughout the regular season, the playoffs and into the Super Bowl itself.
There are plenty more reasons asons for the franchise to be considered thehe favorites to lift that famous trophy. This is their ninth Super Bowl, a record, and theireir owner Robert Kraft has been in chargerge for eight of them, another record, since ce he took over the Pats in 1994. Those Super Bowl records keep coming: Head coach Bill Bellichik and quarterback Tom Brady head to their heir seventh Super Bowl together r – no other combo has done more than four, no other QB has startedd more than five and Bellichik will become ecome the head coach with the most t Super Bowl appearances.
Both men, though, will haveave their eyes on other records: Bellichik can establish himself as the preeminent coach with victory, ictory, a record fifth for a head coach, and his quarterback wants a record fifth ring, too, to put some distance between n him and football legends Terry Bradshaw haw and Joe Montana.
The New England Patriots s are clearly the team of tradition and it iss fair to say that their opponents embody y the exact opposite. The Falcons will be e making only their second-ever Super Bowl wl appearance. The city of Atlanta has actuallylly hosted more Super Bowls t than it has competed in.
New kids on the blockb
That the Falcons are in Houston is largely down to MattMat Ryan, the team’s starting quarterback and favorite to pip Brady to the league MVP award. While many football fans w were disappointed by the blowout scores t that became a characteristic of this seas season’s playoffs, the Falcons just carried on the same way they had all season: by ou outscoring teams.
Ryan has led an o offense that has been the highest-scoring during the 2016 NFL season and then put 80 points past their opponents in the pla playoffs – beating the Seattle Seahawks by 36-20 and then besting Green Bay by 44 44-21 – with an average winning margin of 2 20.5 points.
It’s not all Ryan, of course. His supporting cast includes widewi receiver Julio Jones, the best receiver in f football this season and a deserving win winner of the MVP award if he were to get it, a and Mohamed Sanu, another wide receive receiver, who has starred since swapping Cin Cincinatti for Atlanta prior to the season.
Pushed to the limilimit
Their high-scorin high-scoring status will be tested to the limit by the PatsP – who had the tightest defense this season, giving up the least points in the regularre season – and the defensive coachingcoachi of Bellichik. This will be the seventh S Super Bowl where the top ranked offense h has met the top ranked defence and the bad news for the Falcons is that defense is winningwin 5-1 so far.
To make matters worse for the new boys, Brady’s offens offense is a match for any team, finishing as theth third-highest scorers in the regular se season. Even with his top target Rob “Gronk”“Gron Gronkowski out injured, they put 70 past their playoff opponents – beating the Houston Texans by 34-16 and then se seeing off the Steelers by 36-17. While w wide receiver Julian Edelman has becomebecom Brady’s go-to man in Gronk’s absence, Brady can also call on Martellus BennettBenne and Chris Hogan, both of whom scoredscore touchdowns in the playoffs.
The teams didn’t meet in the 2016 season but the smar smart money is on a highscoring game when the whistle blows. Tradition won out la last year when Peyton Manning’s Denver B Broncos triumphed over Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers. Will Super Bowl LI b be any different?
Tom Brady o of the New England Patriots wor works out during a practice s session ahead of Super B Bowl LI on Wednesday in Hou Houston, Texas.