Few people picked the Atlanta Falcons to reach the Super Bowl this year. After all, Dallas was the best team in the NFC, Aaron Rodgers ended the season with six straight wins, and Seattle is always a tough out. Nevertheless, the Falcons, following blowout wins over the Seahawks and Packers, are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998.
And Will Brinson called it.
“I liked the Falcons before the playoffs,” the CBSSports.com senior NFL writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “If you look at what Pittsburgh did and couldn’t do against the Patriots, one, I was really impressed with the way that Dan Quinn was able to generate pressure up the middle against Aaron Rodgers. I think you have to do that against Tom Brady. If you look at his numbers, Pro Football Focus had him 6-for-6 for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the blitz. If you blitz against Tom Brady, he will destroy you. The Falcons are going to have to get pressure with four guys upfront. They’re going to have to generate pressure on the interior and move Brady off his spot, and they’re going to have to be able to score without Julio Jones getting eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. I think they can do that.”
Jones, one of just two receivers to top 1,400 yards this season, shredded the Packers and has 15 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs. The Falcons, however, are far from a one-man band.
“He’s probably going to be double-teamed or triple-teamed,” Brinson said of Jones, “and what they’re going to need is Tevin Coleman stepping up, Devonta Freeman stepping up and having a game, and I think Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu can be better than Cobi Hamilton and Sammie Coates. I mean, they have to be by default.”
If the Falcons can pressure Brady and if Matt Ryan can utilize all of his weapons, the Falcons will have an excellent shot in Super Bowl LI. If they can do all of that and stop LeGarrette Blount, watch out.
Stopping Blount, however, is easier said than done. The Falcons finished 17th in rushing defense this season and allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, which tied for 18th in the league. Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns and finished eighth in yards.
He’s tough to bring down, especially near the goal line.
“The one concern that I have is Atlanta was not great against the rush defensively this year, and if LeGarrette Blount has a massive game against Atlanta, then I think it’ll be Patriots in the under,” Brinson said. “As it stands, I actually like the Falcons to pull off the upset, but I don’t think it’s going to be above 60 points.”