New Eng­land ex­pects

Can At­lanta Fal­cons fly in face of tra­di­tion against the Patriots?

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan White

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.

Records

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.

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