Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons has everything a football fan could ask for. The NFL’s best offense vs. its best defense, two super-elite quarterbacks and head coaches with some Super Bowl history of their own — this year’s game doesn’t lack for story lines.
Bill Belichick looks to become the league’s all-time leader in Super Bowl victories by a head coach (he’s currently tied with Chuck Noll with four). Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, when Patriots’ cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone to seal New England’s fourth championship.
Then there’s Tom Brady, looking to add to an already Canton-solidified resume, against 2016 PFWA NFL MVP Matt Ryan.
Game Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Chris Myers
Online: FOX Sports Go | Verizon NFL Mobile
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Odds: Patriots -3
Patriots blog: Pats Pulpit
Falcons blog: The Falcoholic
Halftime show: Lady Gaga
Referee: Carl Cheffers
A victory Sunday gives Brady his fifth Super Bowl championship, which would surpass Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana who each won four.
“He’s the best quarterback to ever play the game,” Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said. “He’s obviously, in my opinion, the best ever.”
Brady will make his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl start, and holds Super Bowl records in attempts (247), completions (164), passing yards (1,605) and touchdowns (13).
“You never know if you’ll get these opportunities in life and fortunately this team has got the opportunity,” says Brady about advancing to the Super Bowl. “Now we’ve got to do something and go try and take advantage of it.”
Ryan and the Falcons will take the field Sunday having won six consecutive games. They’ve scored 39 points per game over that span and Ryan has thrown 18 TDs to zero interceptions, on his way to a 133.6 passer rating.
“MVP,” Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said about his QB. “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader on this team and he’s my brother.”
Jones, who has solidified himself as the league’s most dominant receiver in the eyes of most, is all but certain to be the focal point of New England’s defense. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can also be a matchup nightmare for the Patriots.
On the other side, Atlanta will count on NFL sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. (15.5) to make life miserable for Brady. Pressure was key to the Patriots’ two “Giant” Super Bowl losses in 2008 and 2012. New England’s seventh-rated rushing attack during the regular season (117 yards per game, 19 TDs) could also offset that pressure against Atlanta’s 17th-ranked run defense (104.6 yards per game).
Use this as your Super Bowl open thread during the day and for the game itself.