Tale Of The Tape: Super Bowl LI

By Tom Long, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

As usual, the second Sunday in February will set the stage for Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots, led by head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, will make their seventh Super Bowl appearance since the duo began working together. Belichick, with a victory on Sunday, will become the only head coach to have five Super Bowl titles.

The Patriots opposition, the Atlanta Falcons, make just their second ever appearance in the Super Bowl and their first since 1998.

Let's take a look at how they got here.

The Patriots playing for another Super Bowl has become dining room table talk — even your grandmother could've seen it coming. But what makes the Patriots so successful?

Brady is an obvious first answer. Brady, who was suspended for the first 4 games of the season, has ultimately found himself having one of his best seasons ever. Yes, that's right, at age 39. In the regular season, Brady threw an impressive two interceptions, along with 28 touchdowns. But that's not good enough, huh?

Maybe the key to the Patriots success is in the coaching. Belichick has been a phenomenal coach for years and provides the Patriots with an advantage.

The Falcons have a pretty successful quarterback of their own. Matt Ryan is having his best season of his career, collecting almost 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Ryan currently leads what is arguably the best offense in the league, averaging 33.8 points per game to lead the league, 415 yards per game (2nd), and ranks Top 5 in passing and rushing yards per game, third and fifth respectively. 

Keys to the Game

I have always predicted and analyzed games in a simple way — take whatever coaching means necessary to remove the other team's best player from the game. As a coach, I would not sit back and allow the opponent's star to dominate the game.

To put an example to this theory, take Julio Jones. The Patriots and Belichick need to gameplan to remove Jones from the game. Force another player to carry the team.

The Patriots will win this game if they can stop the Falcons running offense. When Falcon running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are effective, the Falcons are, for lack of a better word, unstoppable. A solid run game stretches out the defense and even causes them to change into nickel and dime packages. The key for the Patriots is to stop the run game early.

The Falcons have a slightly different key to winning the game. The Falcons should avoid a slugging match against Tom Brady, simply because it never ends well. The Falcons should focus their efforts on running the ball, in an effort to force the Patriot to defend a balanced attack and keep a quick, but not too quick, pace in the game.

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