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Super Bowl LI: THE FACEOFF Part 2

CHRIS BURTON

SPORTS EDITOR

Well, here we are again. It’s been a year since I lost to Garrett in Super Bowl 50: The Faceoff, and I’m determined not to lose again. And that, readers, is why this year, I’m backing… the Atlanta Falcons.

No, I haven’t been living under a rock for a year. Yes, I do actually watch football. In all honesty, I think the Falcons are vastly underappreciated. They have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league, and their defense, while it may not be stifling, shouldn’t be disregarded.

I have an admission: I actually identified the Falcons as a flukey playoff team. Looking back on their season, though, I can see how I was so wrong.

For one thing, their offense is much more dynamic than I gave them credit for. To me, their offense consisted of Matt Ryan lobbing balls to Julio Jones. However, that’s simply not true. Jones is one of the best receivers in the league, but he’s not Ryan’s only weapon. Wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel put up 500-plus yard seasons, and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman approached that mark receiving as well. Speaking of Freeman and Coleman, their 1,600 combined rushing yards make them one of the best one-two punch backfields in the NFL. In other words, Ryan, who finished the regular season with nearly 5,000 passing yards, has the keys to a Ferrari, and boy, does he know how to drive it.

As with any team with a high-octane defense, some have concerns about Atlanta’s defense. For those people, I have three words: Vic Beasley, Jr. The second-year linebacker/defensive end out of Clemson put up monster numbers this season, leading the league in sacks and forced fumbles. Against the disruptive pass rush of the Houston Texans, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw two picks and completed 47% of his passes, easily his worst completion percentage this season. The lesson? If Beasley can make Brady nervous, the Atlanta defense looks a whole lot better.

The Patriots are a great team, and Brady is a future Hall-of-Famer. These statements, like “water is wet” and “the Cleveland Browns are a sad excuse for an NFL team,” are indisputable facts. But the Atlanta Falcons are far from the pushover they’ve been cast as. The Patriots haven’t seen an offense like Atlanta’s before, and they won’t know what hit them. When the scoreboard in Houston reads triple-zero, the Falcons will
be on top.

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