Written by: Peter Furman
Here we are just a few days before the Super Bowl after an NFL season we otherwise could easily forget. Yes, It’s the Falcons vs the Patriots. After all the smoke cleared, this is the best the NFL could provide. This game is interesting as the Falcons were the surprise team of the year. I live in Atlanta and watched this team evolve from a defenseless team, which either won on offense or not at all. The interesting part of the process is to observe which team(s) are “peaking” at the right time and how they got there after the season’s end.
The Falcons, for those of us paying attention, were a potent offense for several years. They could score points and had arguably the only quarterback in the league who wasn’t in the twilight of his career, was a talented guy who could never win the “big one” and played on a team that draft after draft never built a defense or an offensive line that could protect Ryan or a defense that could stop anyone. Coach after coach, draft after draft, the Falcons failed while teams such as Dallas took their lumps and built an offensive line. They had an incredible draft this year, and even though Romo is done or near done, the future in Dallas is now!
The Falcons come into this game with a prolific offense, excellent receivers like superstar Julio Jones, a running game they haven’t had in years and an offensive line that mostly gets the job done. In the playoffs, they have become a scoring machine doing it early, dynamically crushing their opponents, building unsurmountable leads and then coasting home. The difference is the players, of course. Many of them are new and very young. The coach, who was the former defensive coordinator in Seattle, built a new defense in only two years. While it’s not a great defense, it’s been good enough to beat almost anyone they’ve played, stout enough to keep a lead and getting the job done. The Falcons could build a lead then bend, not break in the second half, which may be enough to bring them there.
The Patriots, who might as well take up residence in the Super Bowl, are led by Billy B who, like him or hate him, is Hall Of Fame bound. Tom Brady, “Deflategate” survivor and potentially Hall bound himself, has the ability, the record, the leadership and the talent. Despite the Patriots always being caught up in scandal, they still manage to be the very best organization in the draft, which has kept them competitive for going on two decades.
This year’s Patriots team sent a message to the teams they played, as well as the league, when they won three out of four with Brady suspended and Garofolo running the show. In my opinion, this Patriots team is NOT great, is not comparable to teams of the past, but due to a very weak division in a very weak AFC in a very weak league overall, they are “in it” again. They gave up points, which in the past would have scuttled their boat, but surged in the championship game versus the Steelers, a mediocre team that almost missed the playoffs after scoring only 18 points against the Chiefs. Ben Roethlisberger had his moments, but played injured all year and recently announced this might very well be his “curtain” call to a great career.
In my opinion, the game comes down to a lot of “ifs.” The Falcons must stop the short passing game, which is now Brady’s game as he no longer can throw it as deep as he once could. The Patriots’ running game is anyone’s guess. It will be very dependent on how the Falcons play. The Patriots have a good defensive backfield, an adequate set of linebackers, an adequate defensive line and a great kicker, but the Falcons’ offense is in high gear. It is arguably, certainly the very best in the league. This game is impossible to accurately call because of what a young, dynamic team the Falcons are. Although they haven’t been around for long, they are very young and impossible to predict. If the Patriots will bring the same game, it won’t be enough if the “birds” bring a repeat performance. The Patriots will win if the Falcons, Ryan, the Atlanta defense does not bring the same game, the same level of play that got them here. Atlanta now has the players, the coaching and the organization to win. They can win this game if they are better than the Pats but anything less and New England wins.