The Atlanta Falcons are similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers in many ways. Both have explosive offenses coupled with defenses built around youth and speed. Yet, while the New England Patriots clobbered Pittsburgh, they could have their hands full with Atlanta.
While Pittsburgh’s offense is definitely explosive and one of the best in the league, it relies heavily on a few superstars, nicknamed the Killer B’s, for the system to function. Time after time, a single one of the stars whether it be Bell, Ben, or Brown are removed from the equation and everything crumbles. Atlanta doesn’t work that way.
The Falcons do have superstars. Julio Jones might be the best receiver in the league and has been on fire throughout the postseason. Running back Devonta Freeman might not be considered among the best but has proven to be elite and consistent while also having one of the best back ups in the league in Tevin Coleman. To cap it all off, the Falcons also have the MVP front-runner calling the shots with quarterback Matt Ryan at the helm.
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The thing that the Steelers lack is depth. The Steelers have players to match those Falcons. Antonio Brown is just as good as Jones. Bell is better than Freeman and Coleman, combined. Roethlisberger might not be better this year but has had a more illustrious career than Ryan.
Yet, it’s the depth that makes the difference. Despite the heroics of young players like wide receivers Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton, the Steelers lacked their other great veterans like Bryant and Wheaton. Had those players played, it could have been a whole different story.
The Falcons boast a dangerous duo in Jones accompanied with the Steelers good friend, wide receiver Mohammed Sanu. Sanu is a very similar character to Jones and while not identical in skill, has been instrumental in the progression of their offense.
Atlanta also has another old AFC North receiver in little speedster Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel has displayed an ability to make big plays and be used as a very dangerous weapon with his speed and elusiveness in open field.
On the defensive side, its speed and youth for the Falcons, much like Pittsburgh. The defense of the Falcons could be something that New England takes advantage of, much like they did against the young Steelers “Lurk Gang”. Pressuring Brady will be key to Atlanta’s victory with players like Beasley and the veteran Dwight Freeney being crucial to that pass attack.
The Steelers inability to sack Brady led to way too much time in the pocket and too many easy passes. Also keep an eye on linebacker Deion Jones to play a big role. His big play ability exhibited in the postseason could become a major momentum shifter.
The Falcons defense ranked 27th in the league this season while boasting the top offense in the league. Yet, their explosiveness on offense will not be enough to defeat the Patriots, and the Patriots will go all out to limit their productiveness.
The key to the Falcons’ success will be their defense. The Patriots trampled over Pittsburgh’s secondary, hitting big play after big play and pass after pass and slowly dismantled the inexperienced secondary. With a similar defense in Atlanta, they could easily do the same.
In the end, Atlanta’s offense will need to play to their potential to beat New England’s stout defense, but it could be up to the young defense to beat the streak of Belichick’s success against youth and upset the almighty Patriots. If they play like Pittsburgh did, it could be over, fast.