It’s been nearly four years since the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons have faced off against each other, but that will change on Feb. 5 when they meet for the biggest prize of all: the Lombardi Trophy.
Both Super Bowl LI teams, led by two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, have high-octane offenses. For New England, 39-year-old Tom Brady seems to get better with age. It doesn't matter who he is throwing to, either. The four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback has been able to find success with a revolving door of receivers throughout his career.
The Falcons have an enviable quarterback situation, too. They have the probable NFL MVP under center. Matt Ryan has been lethal all season, throwing for 4,944 yards to go along with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
However, if past performances dictate how this game will turn out, Brady and Co. will be just fine. As long as Brady has been the signal caller for the Patriots, they have never lost a game to the Falcons.
Brady has played Atlanta four times in his 17-year career and won all four contests. In those matchups, he totaled 1,193 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and just one interception.
Tom Brady's Career Stats vs. Atlanta
|2001||24-10||250 yards, 3 tds, 0 ints|
|2005||31-28||350 yards, 3 tds, 1 int|
|2009||26-10||277 yards, 1 td, 0 ints|
|2013||30-23||316 yards 2 tds, 0 ints|
In 12 regular season games this year, Brady led the Patriots to an 11-1 record behind his impressive numbers, including 3,554 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. New England also landed in the top 10 of every major offensive category in 2016.
Brady will have to get his team to the end zone in order to keep up with Ryan and a dynamic Falcons offense, which led the league in scoring and finished second in total yards.
The 31-year-old Ryan has only played New England twice in his career, and the Patriots are just one of two teams in the NFL he has never beaten (the Steelers are the other). Even though he lost both games against New England, he still put up decent stats: 620 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Although this will be the first time the Falcons and Patriots have met in the postseason, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is familiar with facing Brady and Bill Belichick on the NFL’s biggest stage. Two years ago when the Patriots held off the Seahawks in dramatic fashion in Super Bowl XLIX, Quinn was the Seattle defensive coordinator. He knows more than anyone that Atlanta will have to get pressure on Brady to contain the Patriots’ offense.
The Falcons are the clear underdogs in this game, and they haven't had success against New England in the past. Still, we’ve seen before that underdog teams — think the Patriots remember the Giants? — can ride their momentum all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
In the Belichick-Brady era, the Patriots have as many Super Bowl rings as they do wins over the Falcons. But no one will remember those four earlier Atlanta losses if the Falcons knock off New England in Super Bowl LI.