On Sunday night, the dynasty of our era, the New England Patriots, head into another Super Bowl, making it their seventh trip, and looking to give Tom Brady and Belichick yet another ring.
This time, it is the high-powered and high-octane Atlanta Falcons that stand in their way. They bring an offense that the Patriots have yet to see in 2017, and many pundits see the Falcons as the greatest threat they’ve faced in their most recent Super Bowl trips, even more so than the Seattle Seahawks a couple of years back.[NickF]
How can Brady and company lift another Lombardi Trophy on Sunday? Well, here are five keys to victory for the Patriots.
1. Disrupt Matt Ryan
These two teams feature two of the least injured, best-prepared offensive lines in football. It’s no secret that a good line wins in this league, and that means that getting pressure on the red-hot QB is going to be harder than ever. Still, the Patriots have had a solid rush most of the season and got Big Ben rattled and forced him into errant throws. That’s been the Patriots M-O this season, and they’ll need to get in Ryan’s face if they want to limit that offense: nice coverage won’t be enough to keep them off the field.
2. Make Them Run
Along those same lines, the Falcons offense is heavily induced on the pass downfield. Sure, Freeman can get yards, but most lanes have been opened because of three and four man rushes allowing the line to rush up field. The Patriots are good enough to limit the air attack and Atlanta may use that excuse to run. Let them: the Patriots defense is good enough inside to let the Falcons run as much as they want as long as it keeps Ryan from targeting those receivers downfield.
3. Julio Jones: Bend, Don’t Break
This one is a little odd, but hear me out: the Patriots have to sag off Jones in coverage. While I’m sure he’ll be doubled most of the game, Jones is going to get his catches. Just be sure you don’t leave your corner trying to make crazy plays to save the game. The Falcons can have all the yards they want from their side of the field to the 30, but as long as the defense can lock in toward the red zone, Tom Brady can score more points.
4. Establish The Run
The Patriots have been pretty good all year on keeping their attack as close to balanced as they can. But using Blount and the running game is going to be key, and trying to keep Matt Ryan off the field will be critical in not letting this game turn into a shootout. Along those same lines…
5. Let Dion Lewis Go to Work
The Patriots have a secret weapon this year that’s allowed them to transform into a really scary team: Dion Lewis. Lewis is everywhere for the Pats, from kick returns, runs, and passing plays. He’s the Patriots big time weapon, and he’s turned a lackluster special teams unit into a dangerous one.