The NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons are set to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI Feb. 5th in Houston. It is the Super Bowl, but the preparation does not change for the Falcons.
“Whether it’s week two, week 12, week 20, the scenery may change, but our process stays the same,” said Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn. “So I look forward to seeing that matchup today between (DT) Grady Jarrett and (C) Alex Mack. I look forward to seeing (LB) Deion Jones and (RB Tevin) Coleman going after it. I look forward to seeing (OLB Vic) Beasley and (T Ryan) Schraeder battle. Those are the things we look forward to in our process today.”
Going against QB Tom Brady and the Patriots offense is challenging in itself. The Falcons have a young defensive group as they have seven defensive players they took in the last two NFL drafts starting: OLB Beasley, CB Jalen Collins, DT Jarrett, S Keanu Neal, MLB Jones, OLB De’Vandre Campbell and undrafted CB Brian Poole. Starting that many young players can hurt a team, but the Falcons young players have made quick strides to help the defense get here.
“What we’ve seen from guys who have been in their first or second year, making these strides quickly,” said Quinn. “The goal has been how fast can the young guys play like old guys in terms of their knowledge, their scheme, their effort, their communication. So, that’s been on point. We don’t really look at it as the risk side of things because they wouldn’t be in there if they weren’t ready.”
With a year under his belt and the help of DE Dwight Freeney, Beasley led the NFL in sacks with 15.5. He realizes the importance of getting pressure on Brady to frustrate him.
“It’s so important that we get to him (Brady), even if we get him off his spot. Tom Brady doesn’t get knocked down that much so put pressure in his face and get him off his spot and get him kind of frustrated will definitely help us at least try to come out with the win.”
On offense, the Falcons are a juggernaut. They lead the NFL in scoring offense at 33.8 points per game and rank second in yards per game at 415.8. Much of that has to do with Falcons QB Matt Ryan and his improvement this year. He has thrown a touchdown pass to a NFL record 13 different players.
Ryan threw for 38 touchdowns, 4,944, and only seven interceptions, all career best. He is a had an NFL MVP-caliber performance this season and gives credit to the Falcons additions in the offseason, but also making changes in his offseason training program.
“I think I’ve continued to improve throughout my career and work really hard to get the most out of myself,” said Ryan on his performance this season. “I think specifically this year, I made few changes in terms of my offseason training program and work with Adam Dedeaux and Tom House out in California.”
His go to guy WR Julio Jones has been dealing with a toe sprain he suffered Dec. 4th in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He aggravated the injury in the NFC Divisional Round against the Seattle Seahawks, but says he feels great and is no longer limited in practice.
“We’re going to ramp up practice,” said Jones. “Just going back to a normal practice for me. That’s it though. I’m not limited anymore.”
Jones was a monster this season. He was second in the NFL in yards with 1,409 to go along with 83 catches and six touchdowns. Jones was named first team AP All-Pro team for the second time in his career.
Wide receivers are known as divas of the NFL, but Jones is different. He has a quiet personality, but does not lack the confidence in his ability.
“I don’t know what other guys are doing. Just for me, I stay in the moment,” said Jones on his personality. “Stay in the process. Everything will take care of itself.”
The RB duo made up by Devonta Freeman and Coleman helps the Falcons offense flourish. Freeman had over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year and to go along with 13 total touchdowns. Coleman added 941 yards from scrimmage to compliment Freeman. Both guys are able to do everything a running back is asked to do.
“Our running backs, Devonta and Tevin are two of the best in the league,” said Ryan. “They complement each other so well. They’re guys that can run the ball between the tackles. They catch the ball out of the backfield, and they’re excellent in pass protection. It’s rare that you have one guy on your roster like that, and we happen to have two that are really, really talented.”
Super Bowl LI will be the first major event after the recent travel ban made by President Donald Trump. The ban may have an impact on the game, but Ryan is staying optimistic.
“I hope it won’t take away from the event,” said Ryan. “Obviously, the Super Bowl is really, really important for so many people throughout for so many people throughout the country, whether it’s players, fans, media or just casual fans that get into it for this weekend. So, I hope it won’t affect anything, and I trust that law enforcement and everyone will do a great job.”
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