Falcons vs. Patriots: Super Bowl LI: The Houston showdown

Mark Makowski, Opinion Co-Editor

On Feb. 5, 2017, Houston will lift off with Super Bowl LI. The NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons (11-5) will face the AFC Champion New England Patriots (14-2).

The Patriots and Falcons both had easy paths into the playoffs. New England faced Houston and Pittsburgh which were blow outs. Atlanta achieved the same results with wins against Seattle and Green Bay.

This is the second Super Bowl appearance for the Falcons. Their only other game was in Super Bowl XXXIII, which was a 34-19 loss to the Denver Broncos. The Patriots have loads of experience as they are making their NFL record, ninth Super Bowl appearance — their seventh appearance since the 2001 season.
With a win, Quarterback Tom Brady would win his fifth Super Bowl championship, and most likely cement himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. However, a loss would possibly put a large dent into his legacy. If the Patriots were to lose to the Falcons, this would be Brady’s third Super Bowl loss giving him a 4-3 record.

The Falcons enter this game as the team that is looking to make a name for itself. Matt Ryan has had a very solid career over his past nine seasons with the Falcons.
The third player selected in the 2008 NFL Draft has seen lots of regular season success and has even led the Falcons to the playoffs four times, but this trips would in failure as the Falcons would lose in their first round games.

The closest the Matt Ryan led Falcons ever got to reaching the Super Bowl was the 2012 season where the Falcons would be downed by the San Francisco 49ers. With a win, Matt Ryan can enter his name into the list of elite quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Patriots and Falcons both started the 2016 NFL season as teams that might not be able to make the runs that they have. For the Patriots, they would be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season while serving a suspension over the Deflategate scandal which occurred during a 2014 playoff game.

The Patriots ended up starting three different quarterbacks during the four games. However, the Patriots defense would step up and the offense would be able to survive and have a 3-1 record before the return of Brady.

With Brady under center, the Patriots went on their revenge tour of the NFL. Brady played 12 games and throw for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns. However, Brady should give thanks to his defense for this run. The defense finished the season in the top 10 of all stats, including the number one scoring defense.

The Falcons came into the 2015 season with rookie Head Coach Dan Quinn and would hit the ground running with a 5-0 start. However, this successful start was about to crash as the team lost eight games to finish the season with an 8-8 record.

After this rebuilding type of year the Falcons reached new heights during this past season. They had the number one offense in the NFL and were the highest scoring team in the league averaging almost 34 points per game.

All of this success of the offensive side of the field gave Matt Ryan the best statistical season of his career to date, and is also a strong favorite to win the NFL MVP Award. Ryan threw for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns passes, which would lead the NFL for both categories.

Running Back Devonta Freeman again posted another 1,000 yard rushing season in back to back seasons. Wide Receiver Julio Jones missed two games during the season while nursing a turf toe injury but still proceeded to have more than 1,400 receiving yards.

On paper the game looks like it could be one of the highest scoring Super Bowls to date. Yes, both offenses were on hot streaks throughout the playoffs, but the defenses also did their parts to help secure victories.

The Patriots defense has been one of the most reliable in the league all season while the Falcons defense has gotten better since the season has progressed. So the game can also turn into a defensive showdown.

The key for the Falcons to win their first championship is to get to Tom Brady, and keep sacking him. Tom Brady’s two Super Bowl losses were to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI.

If the Falcons are able to achieve this then they will be hoisting The Vince Lombardi Trophy that night, and will look like a team that will be competing for the next few seasons to come as they have young talent at all positions.

The Patriots are riding with the high stakes here as they look to cement themselves as a two-decade dynasty by winning three titles during the 2000’s and looking for their second in the 2010’s. This Super Bowl seems like it will be a nail biter to the end.
But I believe that the Falcons can pull off the victory, they are riding under the radar as the Patriots really have a lot more on the line than the Falcons do. Either way, we are expecting a great game with the team with the least mistakes hoisting up The Vince Lombardi Trophy.