Jan. 30, 2019
Pooleing the Load
The Patriots winning ways are geared around one thing: To beat the Patriots, you have to be the Patriots. Everyone knows about the Patriots consistent-balanced offensive attack with power and speed coming from the backfield in the form of Blount and Lewis as well as the passing attack lead by Tom Brady. The Patriots also pride themselves on the defensive side of the ball by taking away the other teams' star player, while also limiting the rushing attack and deep passing game with an array of athletic talent and tremendous open field tackling. So how do the Falcons compare?
The Patriots, offensive scheme showcases a complexity of slants, curls, posts, and just overall a lot of moving parts throwing off the defenses and producing gaping holes in a defense to pave a wide open lane for Yards after Catch. The Linebackers, as well as Keanu Neal and Brian Poole, will have to have a huge game to limit YAC and fill in gaps in the Falcons zone defense.
Offensively the Falcons will need to match the Patriots. The deep threats will be limited and the run game defended well by the Patriots scheme. Julio Jones will get his plays but don't expect him to be the key contributor to the offense instead look for the likes of Tevin Coleman and Taylor Gabriel to play a key role in creating mismatches and running short routes In order to gain Yards after the catch. Whoever dominates the Yards after Catch battle will be in control of not only the clock but the scoreboard as well.
2. Pressure up the middle:
With each team showcasing a duo of strong tackles in the form of Schraeder/Matthews and Solder/Canon the edge rush will be limited in this game. Where the rush will be needed is between the tackles. In playoff games where Tom Brady is rushed up the middle, he is only 2-4. Grady Jarrett and Rashede Hageman must be able to clog the middle and supply an occasional rush and expect a Vic Beasley to get the majority of his rush from stunts up the middle taking advantage of the young offensive middle of the Patriots.
3. MVP Dark Horse:
Brian Poole has had a tremendous year for an undrafted rookie and it has been strongly overlooked. Poole finally gained recognition in the playoffs for his hard hits on both Russel Wilson and Aaron Rogers. Atlanta will not have to worry about the mobility of a Quarterback in this game but it will have to worry about the versatility of Dion Lewis. Poole will play a strong role, combined with Deion Jones in containing Dion Lewis as a receiver. Plus with much of the Patriots' focus on Atlanta's interior pass-rush, Poole should have a few clear shots on the multi-million dollar piece Brady.
With versatility on defense as well as speed and sure tacklers, the Falcons defense will have to limit the Yards after Catch of the Patriots' offense. On the offensive side, Matt Ryan has already displayed confidence in each of his receivers and backs by dispersing the ball evenly and consistently. As long as he maintains his MVP play the offense will have no problems advancing on the Patriots' defense. Whoever wins the YAC and turnover battle wins the game in this one.
MVP: Matt Ryan/ Tevin Coleman