Super Bowl LI matchup officially set


Zach Cottam, Reporter

After 24 weeks of play from teams in the National Football League, the final matchup has been set: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots.

Two weeks ago, four teams fought for two spots in the Super Bowl. On Championship Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travelled to Atlanta to play the Falcons, and the Patriots welcomed the Pittsburgh Steelers into Boston.

The Falcons routed the Packers by a score of 44-21, thriving behind a 5 touchdown performance from Matt Ryan and a rushing score from Tevin Coleman. The Falcons rushing offense was stalled by the Green Bay front line, with four rushers combining for 101 yards all day. The passing game excelled, however, as Matt Ryan spread the ball around, with three receivers reaching the end zone, including Julio Jones who totaled 9 catches for 180 yards and two scores. On a scramble in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers grabbed Robert Alford by the facemask and with the momentum behind him, ended up throwing the defender’s helmet off of the field. This was followed up by Rodgers pushing Alford, which incidentally led to the greatest flop in NFL History. The Falcons will play in their second ever Super Bowl, the first since 1999.

In another blowout, the Steelers took the L to the Patriots. Their third time matching up in the AFC Championship, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady got the best of Mike Tomlin and Big Ben for the third straight time, winning 36-17. Following Le’veon Bell’s injury in the first quarter, the Steelers offense seemed to sputter out. Receivers forgot how to catch, and DeAngelo Williams couldn’t get much productivity behind the offensive line. The Steelers couldn’t hold Tom Brady back, and even without Rob Gronkowski, Brady put up 384 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. On top of this, LeGarrette Blount found the end zone once. After sustaining a thigh injury in the first half of the divisional round game, Pats wide receiver Chris Hogan tore the Pittsburgh secondary up, going for 9 catches, 180 yards, and two touchdowns. The Patriots set an NFL record, with their 9th Super Bowl appearance, surpassing the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. They’re 4-4 in past Super Bowls, and aim to get above .500 this year.

The Falcons hold the position of the best offense in football, and finished in the top 5 in all four major offensive stats: 33.8 points/game (1st), 415.8 total yards/game (2nd), 295.3 passing yards/game (3rd), and 120.5 rushing yards/game (5th). However, the defensive side of the ball didn’t fair as well finishing bottom of the pack in points allowed, yards allowed, and passing yards allowed. The Patriots finished top 7 in the four categories: 27.6 points/game (3rd), 386.2 yards/game (4th), 269.2 rushing yards/game (4th), and 117 rushing yards/game (7th). The Patriots defense was impressive as well: 15.6 points allowed/game (1st), 326.4 yards allowed/game (8th), 237.9 passing yards allowed/game (12th), and 88.6 rushing yards/game (4th).

This Super Bowl represents a Dynasty vs. the New Kids on the Block. Personally, I think Brady and Belichick is too much for the Falcons defense, and the Patriots defense will put enough pressure on Matt Ryan to the point he can’t spread the ball around. Julio Jones will be shut down, and Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL History, with 5 Super Bowl rings.