It is finally here
Super Bowl LI in Houston, TX
Kickoff between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots is at 4:30 PM (MT) on the Fox Television Network
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
This is the franchise’s ninth Super Bowl breaking a tie between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers who have appeared in eight. If the Patriots win, they join the Steelers, Cowboys, and 49ers as teams who have won at least 5 Super Bowls. If the Patriots lose, they would tie the Broncos with the most Super Bowl losses.
This is the seventh time the Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick Era comprising a 4-2 record with the 2 losses coming at the hands of Eli Manning and the Giants. The six games – XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, and XLIX – were decided by a total of 20 points. I expect this game to be another close contest.
New England enters this game with a defense ranked in the top twelve in points allowed (1st), pass yards allowed (12th), and rush yards allowed (3rd). The Patriots scored 441 points which was third best in the league.
Even though most of the attention is on quarterback Tom Brady who had impressive 28 touchdowns vs. 2 interceptions ratio despite missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension over Deflategate, the running game has been flown under the radar.
LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 18, beating out Arizona’s David Johnson and Dallas’s Ezekiel Elliot.
This is the second time that the Falcons have appeared in a Super Bowl. The last time Atlanta played on Super Sunday was Super Bowl XXXIII in the carefree days of January 1999. The Falcons were blown out by the Denver Broncos 34-19 in what would be John Elway’s final NFL game that capped the team’s back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the late 1990s.
A Falcons Super Bowl victory would be the first professional sports championship in Atlanta since the Braves defeating the Cleveland Indians in 6 games in the 1995 World Series. It would be a fitting end to the Falcons’ tenure at the Georgia Dome as the team moves into Mercedes-Benz Stadium being built nextdoor.
Dan Quinn is in his second season as an NFL coach comprising a 21-13 record. Quinn was the Seahawks defensive coordinator during their recent back-to-back Super Bowl appearances; winning one (XLVIII) and losing the other (XLIX).
Quarterback Matt Ryan won his first NFL MVP award, and it was the first award given to an Atlanta Falcons player. Ryan was first in passer rating, second in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns, and had the best Pro Football Reference Approximate Value.
As shown in their two playoff wins, pick your poison on how to stop the Falcons and their number one scoring offense. 13 different Falcons caught a touchdown pass during the regular season. Receiver Julio Jones’s turf toe injury has received a lot of attention but it has not stopped him from catching 15 passes on 20 targets for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns in the playoffs. I do not expect him to sit this game out.
Atlanta is currently on a four-game losing streak to the Patriots. The last time the Falcons beat the Patriots was a 41-10 win in their 1998 Super Bowl appearance season. The four losses occurred during the Brady-Belichick Era.
Given the NFL’s current scheduling formula, these two teams are scheduled to play each other in 2017 with the rematch taking place in Foxboro.
TransGriot’s Monica Roberts would scold me if I did not mention this factoid, so I better do so.
This is the third Super Bowl that the city of Houston has hosted. The first being Super Bowl VIII, a 24-7 victory by the Miami Dolphins over the Minnesota Vikings that capped their back-to-back Super Bowl victory wins. The second Houston Super Bowl was 30 years later that had a great game – a 32-29 victory by the Patriots over the Panthers that had a 37-point fourth quarters and kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard game winning field goal – but is mostly remembered for the halftime show.
Matt Ryan is the eight league MVP to play in the Super Bowl this century but that award has not translated into recent success. The previous 7 league MVPs that have played in the Super Bowl has left the game without the Lombardi Trophy. The last league MVP to win the Super Bowl was Hall of Famer quarterback Kurt Warner for the then-St. Louis Rams in the 1999 season.
It would not surprise me if the Falcons win this game but at the start of the season I said Patriots
And then at the start of the playoffs I said Patriots
I have to go with experience.
PATRIOTS 34, FALCONS 30
MVP: Tom Brady