After defeating the Houston Texans 41-28, the New England Patriots look ready and determined for a return to the Super Bowl. If the Patriots can defeat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship as they did last year, then they will be on their way. Lets take a look at the two teams they may have to face:
Atlanta began the season with an impressive 8-0 record. Many believed that the Falcons would achieve the “perfect season” as was almost completed by the Patriots in 2007. Unfortunately, perfection never happened, as the Falcons lost 31-27 to the struggling New Orleans Saints (7-9) in week 10.
Since their first meeting in 1972, the Patriots are 6-6 against the Falcons. This stat may be deceiving though, as the Pats are 3-0 dating back to 2001. Obviously, today’s teams are completely different from past lineups, but the Patriots recent win streak may have some weight to it.
To beat an elite team like the Falcons, the Patriots defense may be the key aspect to their success. Being rated No. 25 in the league, the Pats D will need to stop the offensive combo of quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Ryan has thrown 32 touchdowns this season, eight of those touchdowns going to the 36-year old Gonzalez.
San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers have been the team to beat this year after Colin Kaepernick was given the keys to the franchise. Playing in just 13 games this season, Kaepernick threw 10 touchdowns for 1,814 yards and had a phenomenal 415 rushing yards. He also had a record setting 183 yard performance against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, New England has been unsuccessful over the years when facing San Francisco. Since 1971, the Patriots are 3-7, but most recently had a three-game winning streak against the Niners dating back from 1998-2008; a streak that ended in week 15 of this season.
With a Super Bowl victory at stake, most players aren’t looking to set personal records, but quarterback Tom Brady may just have one more that he wants to break.
San Francisco Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was Brady’s idol growing up. On Sunday, Brady passed Montana’s playoff wins record with 17 in their victory over the Texans. If Brady wants to make his case for why he should be called the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, a win against his idol’s former team may just seal the deal for him.
Past and Present:
Having to play either the Falcons or the 49ers will be a tough enough task, so for the Patriots, looking back and learning from last years Super Bowl against the New York Giants might give a glimpse of things to come.
The Giants limped into the postseason last year with a 9-7 record, but what New York and quarterback Eli Manning also brought to the table was the confidence and swagger of a team who had previously defeated the Patriots in a Superbowl (2007). Neither Kaepernick or Ryan have had any Superbowl experience, which may work against them.
Manning, who usually relied on his passing game, was held to only one touchdown in last years low scoring victory (17-14). The Pats defense was effective in shutting down New York’s offensive game.
Against San Francisco this year, things could possibly be much more difficult, with Kaepernick’s quickness and ability to scramble out of the pocket, and rush for large yardage gains. The Patriots defense may have an easier time with Ryan, a pocket passer, whose game more resembles Manning.
The Giants defeated the Patriots during the regular season last year, and then went on to a victory in the big game. This year, the Patriots were defeated by the 49ers in the regular season, but the outcome could be a little different. During the week 15 match up against San Francisco, the Pats overcame a 31-3 third quarter deficit to tie the game, only to eventually lose 41-34. It seemed as the game went on, the Patriots were learning how to exploit the 49ers defensive weaknesses, and also how to contain Kaepernick and the offense.
This would be Tom Brady’s sixth Super Bowl appearance in 12 seasons, could this fact alone make the difference? Will Brady’s experience be the deciding factor? If the Patriots can capitalize on this, then they should have no problem getting “Tom Terrific” his fourth ring.