Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Super Bowl will pit Brady's Patriots against Ryan's Falcons

A season that began with Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension will end with him in the Super Bowl, where his New England Patriots will take on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

While much of the attention between now and the NFL championship game on Feb. 5 in Houston will be focused on Brady vs. Ryan, the truly key matchup could be Atlanta's score-at-will offense, which produced the most points during the regular season, against the unheralded defense of New England, which allowed the fewest.

And these two teams are playing their best football at the most important time.

AFC champion New England (16-2) has won nine consecutive games — and hasn't even trailed since Nov. 27.

NFC champion Atlanta (13-5) has won its past six in a row, scoring at least 33 points in each.

"We'll enjoy this," Ryan said after earning his first Super Bowl trip in his ninth season, "but we've got some work to do."

RELATED: Falcons clobber Packers, 44-21, to win NFC championship.

Brady and coach Bill Belichick will be seeking their — and the Patriots' — fifth Lombardi Trophy, and second in three years. This will be the franchise's league-record ninth appearance in the Super Bowl, including titles in the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2015 editions.

"This team showed a lot of mental toughness over the course of the year," Brady said.

The Falcons have never won the Super Bowl. This will be Atlanta's second trip to the big game; it lost to Denver in 1999.

The club's never had a quarterback quite as good as Ryan, though.

The guy nicknamed "Matty Ice" went 27-for-38 for 392 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, while adding a rushing TD, to boot, leading Atlanta past Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 44-21 on Sunday in the NFC championship game.

"We did exactly what we've been doing all year and it feels really good," Ryan said after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least three TDs in four consecutive postseason games. "We'll be ready to go. That's for sure."

RELATED: Patriots rout Steelers, 36-17, to win AFC championship.

Later Sunday, the 39-year-old Brady tied Hall of Famer Joe Montana's record with a ninth three-TD postseason game, helping the Patriots beat Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers 36-17 for the AFC championship.

Oddsmakers didn't even wait for the second game to end before making New England a three-point favorite over Atlanta in the Super Bowl.

New England opened the season with a 3-1 record despite using two backup quarterbacks while playing those games without Brady after he went through a lengthy court battle in an unsuccessful bid to have his ban overturned for what became known as "Deflategate." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brady because the league said it determined the Patriots intentionally underinflated footballs used in an AFC championship game victory two years ago.

During Sunday's game in Foxborough, Mass., spectators mocked Goodell by chanting "Where is Roger?" — he chose to attend the NFC title game in Atlanta instead.

And as well as Brady played — 32-for-42 for 384 yards, those three scores and zero interceptions — it was the way New England's defense played that stood out.

Right from the get-go, too: On Pittsburgh's first two drives, nine plays yielded a total of 26 yards. Then there was the stand late in the second quarter, when the Steelers had first-and-goal at the 1-foot line and wound up settling for a field goal. And, by game's end, the Patriots had forced two turnovers.

New England ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed per game at 15.6, and it gave up only 326.4 yards per game, eighth-best.

MVP favorite Ryan, meanwhile, directed a unit orchestrated by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — expected to be hired after the season as San Francisco's head coach, he's the son of two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan — that topped the league in scoring (33.8) and ranked second in yards (415.8).

Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP, and the Patriots also own a pretty effective offense, even after losing star tight end Rob Gronkowski to an injury. New England ranked fourth in yards (386.2) and third in points (27.6).

Another thing these teams have in common is that neither hurts itself with turnovers: They tied for the fewest in the regular season, with 11.

Super Bowl will pit Brady's Patriots against Ryan's Falcons 01/22/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2017 12:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 5:52: Cash said the off-day should have done the Rays good after losing 12 of their last 16 games and 20 of their last 30, with just one day off in that stretch:

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.
  2. Commissioner Manfred to visit Trop Wednesday for Rays-Blue Jays

    Blogs

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.
  3. Bucs running back's gamble pays off for his mom

    Bucs

    TAMPA — When Peyton Barber decided to leave Auburn after his sophomore year, with only one season as a starting running back, it was a risky decision, one he hoped would let him help out his family back home in suburban Atlanta.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) takes the field with an American flag before a preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Armwood vs. Tampa Bay Tech teeming with Division I-A talent

    Footballpreps

    Armwood High School strong safety Caleb Sutherland (18) breaks a tackle to score a pick-six during the Spring Football Jamboree in Seffner, Fla. on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  5. Bucs bring back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete

    Bucs

    Just 12 days before the NFL makes its final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn.

    Andrew DePaola is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January.  [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]