Feb. 27, 2017
Super Bowl LI
This is it. The final football game of the season. New England Patriots. Atlanta Falcons. NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas. Game time: 6:30 PM EST on Fox.
New England: they got to Houston by defeating the Texans in the AFC Divisional Round and defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. They are predicated on defense, defense, and defense. They led the NFL in scoring defense, allowing the fewest total points, and finishing 8th in fewest yards per game. Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia's unit is the epitome of the phrase, "the sum is greater than its individual parts." They were impressive in locking down an explosive Steelers offense. On offense, the Patriots made several big plays by keeping Tom Brady upright. He was sacked a couple of times early but adjustments were made. They are no slouches on offense, either. They ranked 4th in YPG offensively. Brady had a stellar season yet again upon his return.
Atlanta: they got to Houston by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round and by defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game. They are predicated on a well-balanced and explosive offense, finishing second to New Orleans in average yards per game. Kyle Shanahan's unit has so many weapons that Matt Ryan can choose from, including Ryan himself. He is a vastly underrated runner who picks his spots to run wisely. Pick your poison. On an underlying tone, this may be Shanahan's last game as Atlanta's Offensive Coordinator, as he is rumored to be the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Defense is where the Falcons are a little suspect. They ranked 27th in PPG. They are prone to giving up points. Not a good thing when you're facing a QB like Tom Brady, who can put up points in bunches.
How I see it: both teams will start out a bit slow, feeling each other out: the Patriots being thrown off by Atlanta's speed on defense and the Falcons being caught up in the excitement of the Super Bowl game itself. The Patriots get the first score of the game late in the first quarter, on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The teams go back and forth until late in the first half when the Patriots go on a scoring blitz that extends into early in the third period. Atlanta strikes back late in the period with a TD pass from Ryan to Julio Jones. The Patriots strike quickly early in the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 34-20. Atlanta scores another TD later in the period to cut the deficit to 34-27, but get no closer. The Patriots get a couple of first downs before being held. Atlanta gets the ball deep in its own territory with less than a minute left. Ryan drives the Falcons to midfield but one of their rookie receivers makes a colossal mistake by staying in bounds trying to get more yardage and the clock runs out before the Falcons can run another play. Patriots 34, Falcons 27. The Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl Championship. Tom Brady gets his fifth ring, as does Bill Belichick. Their legacies are forever cemented in NFL lore.