By Chris Kennedy
The New England Patriots are set to square off with the Atlanta Falcons in Houston for the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5. This is the Patriots second trip to the Super Bowl in the last three years, winning in 2015, while the Falcons make their first trip since 1998. This season the Patriots open as three-point favorites against the Falcons. However the Falcons have the number one offense in the NFL this year, and they compliment it with a stingy defense, including a ball-hawking secondary and the league leader in sacks, Vic Beasley. It shapes up to be a great game, so here are five things that the Patriots need to do to be Super Bowl Champions.
#1- Tom Brady must play like a Hall of Fame quarterback
Brady is one of the best quarterbacks ever, probably the best, pending a fifth Super Bowl win this Sunday. It is no secret that this team goes where Tom Brady goes, so Brady needs to have a big game in the Super Bowl. He must get other receivers involved, besides Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett, because the Falcons secondary is very good and will try to lock down on Brady’s main targets and force interceptions. If Brady can best the Falcons defense, then there is a great chance he could earn his fifth Super Bowl ring.
#2- The offensive line must protect Brady
The Patriots offensive line is very good, and has protected Tom Brady very well throughout his career. The Falcons come into this game with a young, fast, and talented front-seven, spearheaded by second-year Pro Bowl defensive end, Vic Beasley. Beasley led the NFL in sacks in 2016 with 15.5, so he figures to be a big factor in this game. If the Patriots can stop him and the rest of the defensive front from sacking Brady, the Patriots chances of winning go up significantly.
#3- Legarrette Blount must give the Patriots something in the ground game
The Patriots are a pass-heavy offense, and the Falcons will game plan to stop that. If the Patriots can run effectively with Blount, then the Falcons defense will be forced to focus on the run as well. This will open up one on one opportunities for Patriots receivers if the Falcons have to commit extra defenders to the run. Of course, Blount does not need to run for 150 yards, but perhaps the occasional six yard run that keeps the Falcons honest would be a tremendous advantage for the Pats.
#4- Bill Belichick must continue his defensive-minded dominance
Bill Belichick may go down as the best NFL coach ever when it’s all said and done. He has done this by being a defensive mastermind. He is able to find hidden talent and develop players to take other players places, not to mention his suffocating defensive game plans. He faces a tough test in the number one Falcons offense, who averages 33 points per game. That being said, if anyone can crack this unstoppable offense, it’s Bill Belichick. If Belichick can cook up a stout defensive scheme with D-coordinator Matt Patricia to stop Atlanta, the Patriots will win the Super Bowl.
#5- The Pats secondary must be up for the challenge that is Julio Jones
Sticking with the defense, the Patriots secondary has been a big part of their number one scoring defense in the NFL. With players like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Super Bowl XLIX MVP Malcolm Butler, it’s no surprise that they have one of the best in the league. However, on the other side of the ball is Julio Jones, arguably the best receiver in the NFL. The Patriots must be able to contain him in order to win. That could mean having Butler play one-on-one with safety help or double-covering him all game. If the Pats can keep Jones in check, the Falcons will have to find another way to score on this defense.