Photo by Vavel
Aaron Carter, 23 Sports
Saturday, February 4—
The conspiracies surrounding the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick continue. First it was “spygate,” then it was “deflategate,” and now the recent “playbookgate”. This occurred when current Falcons Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan left his backpack unattended and a reporter briefly had his backpack containing the mysterious and effective plays that the best offense in football has used on its way to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. Now, I’m not saying there is any foul play, but… it is the Patriots.
Even if it turns out there were some fishy actions behind the misplaced playbook, it can’t incriminate the Patriots (it seems like nothing really can), who are well on their way to their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
I have ultimate respect for the Falcons and what they have done this season. Matt Ryan is having one of the best seasons in NFL history, the running back combination of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman is deadly and Julio Jones has cemented himself as possibly the most dominant receiver in football. However, we’ve seen time and time again that defense wins championships, not necessarily offense. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true.
This was evident last year when the Denver Broncos dominated the best offense in football, that of the Panthers and MVP Cam Newton. Peyton Manning, an undisputed top five quarterback of all time, had the worst season of his long 18-year career while the opposing Newton had the best season of his career, but none of that mattered as the Broncos defense was completely dominant and shut down Carolina. All Manning had to do was play “game manager,” which he possibly did better than anyone who ever played professional football, and let his defense and running back C.J. Anderson do the work.
I see many similarities between Super Bowl 50 and Super Bowl 51. Tom Brady is the most playoff-experienced quarterback currently in the NFL and Matt Ryan is a somewhat inexperienced playoff quarterback who happens to be having the season of his career. This is just like Manning and Newton last year, and if the pattern holds true then I give the edge to Brady and the Patriots.
Brady has done so much over his career with so little, including this year. His best receiver in the playoffs has been a former standout lacrosse player at Penn State, Chris Hogan, who caught two touchdowns and 180 yards in the AFC Championship game. He is also missing his favorite target, the unrestrained (on and off the field) tight end Rob Gronkowski. This ability to turn something out of nothing is what differentiates Brady from Ryan. Ryan has one of the most consistent wide receiving corps in the NFL. Jones has battled toe injuries all season, but has still been able to stay on the field and played 14 out of 16 regular season games. Also, Mohamed Sanu, Ryan’s number two target, has played 15 out of 16 games. This has given stability to the Falcons offense that the Patriots have had to fight for all year.
If you look at the statistics, you wouldn’t be able to tell which quarterback had a better season; in fact, you might give the edge to Ryan and the Falcons. Ryan’s last six games are almost identical to the best six-game stretch of Brady’s career, which came in 2007. Ryan’s past 6 games: 72.8 percent completion rate, 1,861 yards, 18 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 133.3 passer rating. Tom Brady’s best career six-game stretch: 73.1 percent completion rate, 1,828 yards, 24 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 136.4 passer rating. Keep in mind, this was the year that Brady and the Patriots went undefeated for the entire season, only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The Giants not only received clutch play from Eli Manning, but produced extraordinary play from their defense.
The 2007 Giants defense, led by veterans such as Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce and Osi Umenyiora, held the Patriots offense to only 14 points. This again shows another similarity to the current Patriots defense. The Patriots main contributors on the defensive side of the ball are all veterans: Rob Ninkovich, Alan Branch, Chris Long and Patrick Chung. This defense is not as fast as their opponents will be on Sunday, but it is much more sound and experienced, something that is known to play a big factor on the big stage.
Despite my confidence in the final outcome of this game, I am not so sure how close the score will be.
Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn are both great head coaches, and both have received consideration for Coach of the Year Award. However, one is the greatest coach in NFL history, and one is not. Sorry Dan. Belichick is able to turn unknown players, with all due respect, such as Hogan, Dion Lewis and even Malcolm Butler (known for his interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl 49) into studs. Both coaches are great in late-game situations, so it could come down to a big special teams play (something both teams excel in).
As a Broncos fan, I am happy that the men in orange and blue still own the most recent Super Bowl, but that will all change Sunday night. Brady will cement himself, if he hasn’t already, as the greatest player in NFL history, and Belichick will continue to expand upon his already great legacy. So please don’t just watch the game for the commercials, even though the Doritos ads are fantastic. Watch the game for the history and the significance. You won’t regret it.