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slides: What to Watch For: Super Bowl 51 - Patriots vs Falcons

Sunday, February 05, 2017


After two weeks of waiting, Super Bowl Sunday is finally here! 


The New England Patriots face to Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on Sunday night.

"Once you start playing in the NFL, everyone's goal is the Super Bowl. That's the only reason you play. Nothing else really matters. That's the only reason you play the game, to get to the Super Bowl. I think everyone in the NFL shares that dream of winning this game. The thing is, only two teams get to do it a year," Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett told the media on February 1. 

While Bennett is playing in his first Super Bowl, the Patriots are looking for their second Super Bowl win in three years and their fifth title in the Brady/Belichick era. 

"There will certainly be a time to reflect on that at some point. Right now, I'm really just trying to put all my energy in preparing our team as well as I possibly can for the Falcons.  At some point I'll take a look back. It's certainly an honor to be in this game. It's a privilege to represent the AFC in this championship game," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his media availability on February 31 in Houston. 

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on Fox. 



Related Slideshow: What to Watch For: Patriots vs Falcons - Super Bowl 51

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Stephen Gostkowski

The game could very well come down to a field goal at the end to win it and for the Patriots, that means Stephen Gostkowski. Three of the Patriots last four Super Bowl wins came on field goal. 

Gostkowski has had a rough year, especially early on. 

In a six-game stretch starting in Week 2, Gostkowski converted six of nine field goals while missing two extra points.

He entered the season with a career success rate of 87.3 on field goals and had missed just one extra point in 564 attempts.

Overall this season, Gostkowski has missed five field goals (27 of 32) and missed three extra points (46 of 49). 

He has not missed a field goal since the final week of the regular season, and has never missed a field goal or extra point in any of his four Super Bowl appearances. 

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Falcons Rushing Attack

The Falcons have the fifth best rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 120 rushing yards per game coming into the Super Bowl. They have at least 100 rushing yards in four of their last five games. 

The Patriots give up an average of 88 rushing yards per game, good enough for fourth-best in the NFL. 

Atlanta is led by running back Devonta Freeman, who has 227 rushing attempts for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He also has 54 catches and two receiving touchdowns. 

Backing up Freeman is Tevin Coleman, who has 118 rushing attempts for 520 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. He has also been effective catching the ball for Atlanta, hauling in 31 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns. 

"They are both good, they have a little different style, but they are both very good. They are fast, they catch the ball well, they are hard to tackle and they catch the ball down the field. They are certainly dangerous on catch-and-run plays, check downs, screens, things like that. They are great running backs," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in his February 1 press conference in Houston. 

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Brady vs Falcons D

While the Falcons have the best offense in the league, they have one of the worst defenses, at least statistically. 

The Falcons give up an average of 25 points per game (27th in NFL), 371 yards per game (25th in NFL), 266 passing yards per game (28th in NFL), and 104 rushing yards per game (17th in NFL).

"They've got a lot of good players, a lot of youth, a lot of speed. [They're] very well-coached, very disciplined. I mean they're ahead by 20 points in so many of these games it's tough to really see ‘got to have it-type defenses' but they play with enthusiasm, they play aggressive, [they're a] very tough, hard-nosed team," said Tom Brady in his January 27 press conference. 

The Falcons have a young defense, starting three rookies (De' Vondre Campbell, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal)  and two other players in their second year (Grady Jarrett ad Vic Beasley). 

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Patriots O-Line

There is one player on the Falcons defensive front that stands out and it is Vic Beasley. 

Beasley leads the Falcons with 15.5 sacks on the season and it is not close. Adrian Clayborn is second on the team with five sacks. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Beasley plays 96% of his snaps on the defensive left side, meaning he would be matchup up primarily against New England's Marcus Cannon. 

Cannon has only allowed two sacks on the season, both coming in week 1, and a total of six quarterback hits and 19 hurries. 

This will be a key matchup in the game and could help determine the winner. 

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Butler vs Jones

In 2012, Malcolm Butler tweeted out that he would love to cover Julio Jones. Well, he is going to get his chance. 

"Dreams do come true. That tweet wasn't any trash talk or anything like that. I had a vision," Butler said about the tweet while talking to the media in Houston. 

A key for Butler in coverage against Jones is to try and be physical with him, knock him off his route right at the line of scrimmage. 

Jones comes into the Super Bowl with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns on the season.  

Butler enters his second Super Bowl after a 2016 regular season in which he recorded four interceptions and 16 passes defensed.

In 2013, the Patriots covered Julio Jones with Aqib Talib and safety help over the top. Expect something similar in this game. 


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