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Patriots and Falcons kick-off Super Bowl LI

Falcons seek first ring as Brady chases fifth

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As the playoffs come to an end, the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons find themselves to be the last two teams in the running for the Lombardi trophy.

The National Football League (NFL) consists of 16 regular season games, and for some a chance at the playoffs and the ultimate dream of taking their team to the Super Bowl Championship.  Will the Patriots make a run for another Super Bowl win and defend their title? Or will the Falcons win the franchise’s first Super Bowl win?

For the Patriots, going to the Super Bowl is nothing out of the ordinary. This marks the ninth time in franchise history that New England has advanced to the Championship, which is the most appearances in NFL history. In total, the Pats have four Super Bowl Championship wins from 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2013. One similarity with all these wins is the pairing of Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. With the Patriots franchise, the two have made seven Super Bowl appearances.

“It’s very good for our team to be able to achieve this,” said Brady in a recent press conference. “I think we’ve done a good job taking advantage of our opportunities. It’s a very hard mental and physical team that has shown a lot throughout the season.”

While there have been many struggles in the past for the Falcons, this year the team found      

themselves with a winning record for the first time since 2012 as they

finished first in the National Football Conference (NFC) South. The team ended with an 11-5 record and clinched their first NFC division title since 2012.

Although Atlanta was defeated in their week one game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they would go on to win their next four games of the season. During the regular season, the Falcons put up a total of 540 points, which is tied for the seventh best in NFL history.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for a total of 4,994 yards, which was second in the league this season. During a win against the Carolina Panthers, Ryan had a team record of 503 yards and four touchdowns.

The Patriots defense have “done their job” this season only allowing an average of 15.6 points per game. While New England’s defense has been impressive, Atlanta’s offense flourished this season as they scored a league best 33.8 points per week.

These two teams also butt heads in the fact they have two quarterbacks that finished with great seasons. Ryan may outnumber Brady in this season’s stats, but Brady did not play in four regular season games due to his suspension. Ryan ended the season with 4,994 passing yards and 38 touchdowns compared to Brady’s 3,554 passing yards and 28 touchdowns.

“Tom’s had an unbelievable year,” said Ryan to the Boston Globe. “He’s played extremely well, and been extremely efficient. A lot of touchdowns, very few turnovers. He’s just played really really good football.”

The Atlanta Falcons are less familiar with being in Super Bowl territory as this will be only their second Championship appearance. The last time they went to the Super Bowl was in 1998 when they lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos. This leaves the franchise without a single Super Bowl win in the 51 years that the team has existed.

Before the league announced the 2016-17 season schedule Patriots, fans were troubled with the news that their star quarterback had to serve a four-game suspension for the Deflategate scandal. The scandal refers to how the Patriots were accused of tampering with footballs in the 2015 American Football Conference (AFC) Championship.

Many wondered how New England would play with such a huge loss to their roster. Second string quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo stepped up to the challenge of taking Brady’s place. Garoppolo got the first win for the Pats against the Arizona Cardinals.

In week two, after he sprained his acromioclavicular joint against the Miami Dolphins, rookie Jacoby Brisset took over for Garoppolo.

“I’m going out there with the mindset, ‘I’m the starter,” Garoppolo told WEEI at the end of August. “It’s a great opportunity to get these first four games. We’ll see where it goes from there. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s a crazy league, and anything’s possible, really.”

Between the two quarterbacks New England had a record of 3-1 during Brady’s suspension, the one defeat coming from a 16-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

After coming of off  his suspension, Brady seemed unaffected by his absence and finished with a 13-1 record.

“Every year has its own challenges,” said Belichick in a press conference. “Whatever they are, they are. Every team faces them. Every team has to deal with them.”

The Super Bowl 51 will be played at 6:30 p.m. in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium. The game will air on Fox and singer-songwriter Lady Gaga is scheduled to perform at the halftime show.

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Patriots and Falcons kick-off Super Bowl LI