The most anticipated sports weekend of the year is almost here. The Super Bowl is back in Houston for the first time since 2004 when -who else? - but the Patriots were the last team standing, defeating the Jake Delhomme-led Carolina Panthers, 32-29. Tom Brady went on to win the Super Bowl MVP in Houston and as some may remember, the national viewing audience was introduced to Janet Jackson’s right breast during a halftime show “wardrobe malfunction” courtesy of Justin Timberlake.
You could not ask for a better matchup in a Super Bowl, with the Falcons offense ranking number one in the NFL scoring 33.8 points per game and the Patriots defense ranking number one in the NFL, allowing only 15.6 points per game. Something has and will have to give.
In the words of Hall of Fame coach Marty Schottenheimer, the most telling stat in this game will be turnovers, and quarterbacks of both of these teams have not turned the ball over much this season. Tom Brady set an NFL record for touchdown to interception ratio throwing 27 to 2 and Matt Ryan only threw 7 interceptions all year.
Ryan and Brady will be in the spotlight, but we must not forget about the coaches of these two teams. By now we all know about Bill Belichick’s resume. Belichick has been to the Super Bowl seven different times with Brady at the helm, with the duo coming out on top four times. Belichick has always made moves that have left others scratching their heads, but the guy always seems to prove everyone wrong. Belichick obviously has a method to his madness, a method Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is trying to devise a plan to stop.
After Sunday, Quinn will have coached in three of the past four Super Bowls. He will be coaching against Belichick for the first time and the numbers are not in his favor. During his career, Belichick has a 22-3 record against coaches he has faced for the first time. Matt Ryan also has not fared well in the two career games he has played against the Patriots, end up on the losing end both times.
But if there is anyone who can turn the tables on the Patriots it will be Falcons All-Pro wideout Julio Jones. Jones is averaging 110 yards per game and a touchdown during the playoffs and has shown no signs of slowing up despite dealing with a lingering foot injury. You can bet that Jones will be the point of focus for the Patriots defense but he still might be able be stopped. That's is ironic, because in 2011 Belichick tried to warn his former scout turned Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff about trading up to draft Jones. Dimitroff ignored Belichick’s warning, and traded five picks to move up in the draft to take Jones sixth overall.
As of today, it looks like Dimitroff made the right decision and Jones may be the deciding factor in this Super Bowl. Maybe Belichick saw the potential that Jones had and knew that the pieces the Falcons already had in place would make for a deadly combination.
It all comes full circle Sunday.