The Atlanta Falcons are in the Super Bowl due to key contributions of many players. Which of these players are unlikely candidates to play Super Bowl hero?
The Atlanta Falcons will need another total team effort in order to come away with the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. Having the soon-to-be MVP at quarterback and a super-human wide receiver are nice luxuries, but two players aren’t enough to beat the Patriots. Thankfully, total team football has been the Falcons specialty this season.
This offense has produced a multitude of statistics. One of the most impressive, is that Matt Ryan has thrown touchdowns to 13 different players. 13 different targets is a lot for any quarterback. That’s more players than are allowed on the field at one time. Typically “13” is unlucky, but for the Atlanta Falcons it has been a symbol of their success.
Bill Belichick has a knack for taking away the other team’s best players. For the Atlanta Falcons, I would nominate Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman or Devonta Freeman for the honor on offense. Defensively, it’s a forgone conclusion Vic Beasley is the player New England will attempt to isolate.
Let’s assume for a moment the Patriots are successful with the above plans. If that were the case, who are the other Falcons that might step up and make the big plays in Super Bowl 51?
WR Mohamed Sanu
The offseason acquisition of Mohamed Sanu was not looked on fondly by most that follow the Falcons. Lucky for Atlanta, Sanu has played admirably this season and established himself as a go-to target on third downs. If Julio is kept in check by Malcom Butler, (doubtful, but still), Sanu could have a big day against the Patriots secondary. I can see the Logan Ryan and/or Eric Rowe struggling to defend against Sanu’s big, physical frame.
TE Austin Hooper
When you think of a tight end being an X-factor in the Super Bowl, who’s the first name that comes to mind? It probably isn’t the Atlanta Falcons rookie from Stanford, but don’t sleep on him in as a key in this match-up. In limited action this season, Hooper caught three touchdowns and averaged 14 yards per catch. For some reason, I have a hunch we will see that play-action throw back to Hooper called again on Sunday. Let’s hope for results similar to what Hooper did to Carolina in 2016.
Don’t Forget About the Defense
It’s one thing to score on the New England Patriots vaunted defense. If the Atlanta Falcons want to be world champions, they have to also stop Tom Brady. We all know Vic Beasley, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones will be focal points, but who else can stand out? As Dan Quinn said, the Super Bowl will be a game “all about the ball”. So who might rise up and come up with big plays on defense?
FS Ricardo Allen
Lost in the offensive showcase we have witnessed is that Ricardo Allen is pretty darn clutch. Remember his game winning interception last season against Philly? Well he has upped the anti this season and recorded an interception in each of the past two playoff games. He becomes an Atlanta Falcons legend if he can pick off one more in the Super Bowl.
DL Ra’Shede Hageman
Many people have already labeled “Big Shede” a “Big Bust”, but I say we hold off on that talk. Another thing lost in the past few games has been the emergence of the Minnesota alum. In the past five games, including playoffs, he has totaled three sacks, four QB hits and four tackles for loss. These aren’t great numbers, but in limited snaps, Hageman has shown he has impact ability.