The official Super Bowl 51 Matchup is finally set and Sunday, February 5 is the date.
The new school standard of the Atlanta Falcons and their high-flying offense will take on the old school consistency of the New England Patriots who are appearing in their seventh Super Bowl.
After routing the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round, the Falcons treated the streaking Green Bay Packers much worse.
In a game that featured an over/under of 60 points in Vegas, the magic number was reached and exceeded, but very one sided.
The Falcons dominated the Packers from the start, driving 80 yards on the opening drive and getting seven points, putting Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in an early hole.
They were in a much deeper hole by the end if the first half after the Falcons scored a late half touchdown on a five-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones with three seconds remaining to bring their lead to 24-0.
Ryan to Jones was just as dominant a combination in this game as it has been all season and it’s a combination that has led the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance.
The start of the second half started just like the first half, a Falcons touchdown. On their first possession, Ryan hit Jones on a quick slant route that went 73 yards for another score to bring the lead to a really insurmountable 31-0.
The offense was at an all-time high and the defense continued to swarm Aaron Rodgers who never got comfortable at any point in this game to the tune of two Packers turnovers.
Pretty much over from the start, the game would end 44-21. Ryan finished throwing 27/38 for 392 yards and four touchdowns while Jones would catch nine passes for 180 yards and two scores.
On the AFC side, the Patriots, much like the Falcons, controlled the game from the start and never relinquished control, stifling a high-powered Pittsburgh Steeler offensive attack.
It was a typical Patriot game where unsung heroes stepped up in a big moment, Tom Brady threading the needle pass after pass, and a very opportunistic defense taking advantage of mistakes.
On the offensive side, Chris Hogan was clearly the star. Hogan, affectionately called “7/11” for his propensity to always be open, lived up to that name and more Sunday night as he caught 9 passes for 180 yards and two scores.
Brady would spread the ball all around the field, completing 32 passes to nine different receivers for 384 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Patriots surprisingly bullied a physical Steelers offense and kept their star players at bay.
Running back LeVeon Bell, who sustained a groin injury during the game, only rushed for 20 yards on six carries. Wide Receiver Antonio Brown, who punished many secondaries this season, only caught seven passes for 77 yards on not a single touchdown.
This lack of production from key assets were due to a usually finesse Pats defense, showing a lot of physicality, pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage and controlling the front seven, stifling the run game and getting hits on Ben Rothlisberger. This allowed them to cause two Steelers turnovers at points in the game where they were looking to get back into it.
Ultimately, the Patriots won 36-17 and advance to their seventh Super Bowl.
What’s intriguing about this matchup is that it’s truly an old school vs new school showdown that actually features teams with similar concepts.
If you look at each Conference Championship game, the similarities in the numbers are staggering.
The first thing to look at is offensive concepts where each team used the passing game to open up lanes for their running game. Many times, the running game becomes an extension of the passing game because each team’s backs have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
For Atlanta, running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman compared to catch over 80 passes this season. For the Pats, backs like Dion Lewis and James White are more pass catchers than they are runners and are used coming out of the backfield and in the slot. Each team can also pound the football on the ground if need be with LeGarrette Blount for the Patriots and Freeman and Coleman for the Falcons who are also a good combination of power and elusiveness while running the football.
As far as the passing game, that is each team’s bread and butter.
On Sunday, this was the display. As previously mentioned, Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns on 27 completions while Brady threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32 completions. Again, Brady hit nine different receivers on Sunday for completions while Ryan hit eight different receivers.
Talent wise, offensively, the Falcons represent the new standard, which is kind of a spin-off of what the Pats have been doing, but more explosive.
You have a smart, efficient like Ryan who uses the short, intermediate passing routes to set up big plays, much like Brady has done throughout his career. You have multiple running backs in Coleman and Freeman who can run effectively and catch passes out of the backfield, much like Blount, White, and Lewis for the Pats.
The biggest difference here is in the receiving core for each team.
The Falcons feature the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones who possess the strength, speed, route running, leaping ability and the hands that make him a complete receiver. They also feature a great number two option in Mohammed Sanh who also possesses great speed, good hands, and leaping ability that make him a nightmare for any corner to cover one on one.
This is in comparison to the Pats who lost their best receiver in Rob Gronkowski to injury and have had to rely on players like Hogan, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola to carry the weight; all of whom are really slot receivers, but gathered together, have formed a great receiving core that can be explosive.
Defensively, both teams caused two turnovers on Sunday each, one interception and one fumble recovery. Each team has shown that they will give up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points as they are extremely opportunistic and get timely turnovers and stops.
What this matchup really comes down to is the experience of the players. Brady and the Belichick have been here seven times while the Falcons are making their first appearance since 1998.
They represent the old guard that has been established by the Pats and the young, explosive newcomer looking to take the reins and make this their own.
Who do you think will win Super Bowl 51? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.