There’s no question that each team will score points but who will win the shoot out? The Patriots have the experience as Matt Ryan steps in to his first Super Bowl but the way that he’s thrown the ball around to various receivers surely has Belichick and the Patriots Nation worried?
In the NFC Championship game, Ryan threw to eight different receivers for a total of 392 yards. This alone shows the versatility of this offense as does five different rushers, including the MVP in waiting himself for a score.
In the AFC Championship game, Le’Veon Bell’s injury completely changed the course of the game and from the moment he left the field, the writing looked on the wall for the Steelers. However, Butler did a tremendous job in man coverage taking arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL at the moment, Antonio Brown, out of the game and limiting him to 77 yards on seven receptions. The Patriots stuffed DeAngelo Williams to 34 yards and with the whole rushing game stunted at 54 yards, Big Ben took to the throwing game and found seven different guys on 31 catches of his 47 attempts. Therefore, the Patriots seem quite comfortable covering multiple receivers on different routes and even if the ball has been caught, the Patriots D haven’t given up many 20+ yard receptions, so getting in behind the secondary is a formidable task.
Matt Patricia, and in particular Dont’a Hightower, will have his hands full this weekend stopping the Falcons run game but the MVP of the Patriots defence will be the same guy who is my defensive MVP of the season, Trey Flowers. Some of the others like Butler and Ninkovich get the headlines but the unassuming Flowers has had a breakout year that’s gone from strength to strength, especially since week eight. In that game against the Bills he recorded his first two career sacks and had five tackles in the same game. He leads the team with 7 sacks overall this season. The sophomore out of Arkansas will be pivotal in the pass-rush trying to limit Ryan to as few yards as possible and I predict if he gets two sacks in this game it will elevate the defence and drive them over the finish line.
The team from Atlanta will try to pick on Eric Rowe as the weaker of the defensive backs available to Patricia and Belichick but there is great confidence in the secondary that they can limit the receiving yardage of the Falcons weapons. The battle in the pit will be where the game is won and lost for the Patriots. If the likes of Malcolm Brown and Chris Long can stuff Devont’a Freeman at the line of scrimmage and flush out Coleman where he’s running out of bounds like a scared little boy, it will leave Ryan with a number of third and long situations. This will give Brady great field position to capitalise and bring Super Bowl number five back to Foxboro.