It’s funny; the Buffalo Bills are my favorite team, and yet I know far less about them than about the New England Patriots. I could probably write a book on the subject of the New England Patriots from 2001 to the present. Even though Michael Holley already did that.
I have written about New England so much because are always on TV and in the playoffs. As such, I know their strengths and weaknesses pretty well at this point. Their strengths are Tom Brady’s ability to read defenses and throw accurate passes, and Belichick’s skill at confusing the opponent with coverages.
Their weaknesses are related to their strengths. Brady is so good that their offensive game plans tend to rely on him almost exclusively. (Unless they are playing the Colts) They will throw in obvious running situations. Usually, it works. But sometimes it blows up in their faces. But they keep doing it. This is what is known as”hubris”.
If you want to beat Brady, you need to do two things: take away his favorite receiver with one defender, and get pressure with four, or better yet, three lineman. Do not blitz him and do not attempt to double cover his favorite receiver, unless it is Gronkowski, but Gronkowski is injured as usual, so he isn’t a factor.
As for the New England defense, you can generally beat Belichick’s defenses by being patient and not going for the big play. Getting pressure isn’t really a priority for Belichick, so if your quarterback is willing to wait around and go for short passes to second or third receivers, you can move the ball against them. But you are not going to get big plays to your top offensive player. They won’t let it happen. So you have to plan to win with somebody else.
Can the Falcons do any of that?
I’m much less familiar with them than with the Patriots. But based on what I’ve seen…
Well, their defense is not great. That bodes ill. But they did manage to shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, so perhaps there is hope. The Patriots have a much better screen passing game than Green Bay, so I don’t expect a similar performance from Atlanta’s defense. Brady is going to have a good game, and LeGarrette Blount probably will too.
So, ok; maybe Atlanta can win a shootout, then?
Atlanta’s major weapons are wide receiver Julio Jones and their running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Jones gets the headlines, but my sense is that the RBs are far more critical to their offense.
I suspect Belichick has noticed this too, and will stifle them much as he did Marshall Faulk, the superstar running back at the core of the St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” years ago.
In the end, it comes down to that old adage: defense wins championships. Atlanta has the number one scoring offense, New England has the number one scoring defense. The Falcons will still manage some points–but they’ll also probably commit some costly turnovers. So it goes.