The Atlanta Falcons head to Houston seeking their first ever Super Bowl victory, but must first take down the New England dynasty.
In preparation for the biggest game of the year, here are three keys on offense success for the Falcons to upset the Patriots and take home the Lombardi trophy.
1) Start Hot and Stay Hot
Here is some not-so-breaking news. The Falcons offense is really THAT good.
Atlanta amassed 540 points over the course of the regular season, which is an average of 33.8 points per game, the most in the NFL this year and the seventh-most in league history. They also led the league in touchdowns, yards per play, points per drive, and too many other categories to list.
Most, if not all, of this success hinges on coming out hot. The Falcons led the league in first quarter scoring drives—with their opponents, the New England Patriots, in second place. Atlanta has scored a touchdown on their opening drive in eight straight games, and are 9-1 this season when they score first.
Taking an early lead would also put New England in unfamiliar territory, since the Patriots haven’t trailed since November.
2) Taylor Gabriel Needs To Be The Ultimate X-Factor
Early on in the 2016 season, the Cleveland Browns cut a little-known 5’8 wide receiver by the name of Taylor Gabriel.
A few days later, he would be a non-descript pick-up by the Atlanta Falcons. Few would’ve thought that six months later, Gabriel would be perhaps the most important X-Factor in the Super Bowl.
That is not to say that Gabriel is Matt Ryan’s most talented option. If you haven’t heard, there’s a guy by the name of Julio Jones who’s pretty darn good.
Jones’s talent is no secret, however, and the Pats defense will undoubtedly do everything in their power to shut him down. As a result, Gabriel will certainly have some room to operate. He’s simply electric when he catches the ball, turning short passes into huge gains with an elite combination of speed and elusiveness.
He is an absolute game-changer, and could be primed for a huge performance on the NFL’s biggest stage—a long way from Cleveland.
3) Use The Two-Headed Rushing Attack Wisely
The Falcons have the unique advantage of having not one, but two star running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, which has paid dividends down the stretch for Atlanta. Freeman is the more traditional ground-and-pound back, while Coleman is a dynamic receiving option out of the backfield.
However, each can fulfill either role, and that’s what makes defending them so difficult.
Few teams, however, have been better at stopping the run than the Patriots. New England hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, and has surrendered only one rushing touchdown in their past ten games. Freeman and Coleman are Matt Ryan’s best friends, and giving them touches, whether on the ground or through the air, will be crucial to their success.