How Did Atlanta Get to Super Bowl LI?

How Did Atlanta Get to Super Bowl LI?

Written by on January 26, 2017

Super Bowl LI features a matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots are appearing in their ninth Super Bowl — but Atlanta is just appearing for the second time, and the first since Super Bowl XXXIII. There were many contenders to come out of the NFC, including Dallas, Green Bay, and Seattle — so how did the Falcons emerge? Let’s take a look at some of the key points in their progress this season. Also, don’t forget to check out the latest Super Bowl 51 odds.

How Did Atlanta Get to Super Bowl LI?

It starts with quarterback Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan joined an exclusive club in 2017, posting a quarterback rating of 117.1 and averaging 309 passing yards per game. Only three other quarterbacks in NFL history had ever finished a regular season with a rating at least 115 with at least 300 yards per game. He averaged 9.26 yards per attempt, the highest in the history of the league for a quarterback attempting at least 400 passes in one season. He threw 38 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions. In the postseason, Ryan just turned up his game even more. He threw seven touchdown passes without a single pick; he completed more than 70 percent of his passes; and he averaged 365 yards per game, as the Falcons averaged 40 points per game in the postseason, third in the Super Bowl era.

It continues with the talent around him

The Falcons have three dangerous wide receivers. Julio Jones gets the lion’s share of the catches, running slants, corners, and crosses all over the field. Mohamed Sanu is the one running routes through the middle of the field, while Taylor Gabriel is the speedster running fly patterns down the field to haul in the home run ball. If New England tries to use a coverage scheme that pulls more defenders into coverage, then Ryan simply has to check down to tailbacks Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman on screens and swing passes out of the backfield. The Falcons also like to run an empty backfield with the tailback lining up in a slot formation to get single coverage against a linebacker. That’s how they knocked off Denver in Week 5.

The Falcons are not afraid to mix it up — especially in the red zone

New England is good at clamping down on opposing offenses in the red zone, using Cover 2 and quarters in umbrella coverage from their own 20 to their own 5, and then man coverage inside the 5. The Cover 2/quarters combo requires quarterbacks to shove the ball through small windows, especially between the hashes. Look for the Falcons to use stacked alignments using levels and scissors concepts to draw defenders out of their assigned areas. When the Falcons beat Green Bay in Week 8, they used a stacked formation to free up Sanu down the field for an easy passing score, and the Packers were in a similar Cover 2 / quarters look as to what the Patriots like to use in the red zone.