It didn’t take long to see a drastic difference in team speed between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots when the two teams took the field on Sunday night and that was perhaps the biggest reason why the NFC team was in control for much of the game in Houston.
Guys like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will get much of the attention for this Falcons team, but it was Devonta Freeman and the Atlanta defense that set the tone for the game from beginning to end.
In the end to be the man you’ve got to be the man, however, and Tom Brady again showed why the quarterback is the most important position on the field and he is arguably the best to ever play the position. He willed his team to a comeback and stood in the pocket time and time again to deliver the ball down the field, showing the killer instinct that few can match in the history of the game at the position.
For the first two and a half quarters Brady’s reads were sped up dramatically because of the pass rush from the Atlanta front four. Without a true stud receiver physically, the Patriots had no downfield weapon to threaten the Falcons so Atlanta sat on the short routes and brought the heat time and time again.
While Brady was able to make them pay down the stretch and pull out the overtime victory, thanks to a foolish Kyle Shanahan call when he decided to throw the ball deep inside field goal range up eight points. There are not many other quarterbacks who have ever played the game that could have done what we witnessed in the Super Bowl.
Speaking of the coaching blunder, what on earth were the Falcons thinking? After losing a yard on first down on a running play they had the ball at the New England 23-yard line with four minutes left and up by eight points. Instead of taking the sure three points and keeping the ball on the ground, Atlanta dropped back to pass. A sack and a holding call later and they were forced to give the ball back to Brady still up by just one touchdown and a two-point conversion.
That was a big mistake.
Speed on "D" Holds The Key
Defensive speed is what is needed to be able to play defense at a high level in football, something that translates to the college game at every level from the front four to the secondary. It has always been important on the back end, but not more than ever you’ve got to be able to run at the linebacker position and up front to take your defense to another level.
You can see Auburn continuing to transition to that under the guidance of Kevin Steele as the defensive coordinator. Running things like an NFL team would approach a draft, Steele had guys on his big board for the 2017 signing class and didn’t want to reach for guys they had questions about signing.
Getting players like Tadarian Moultry, Markaviest "Big Cat Bryant" and Chandler Wooten as potential pass rushers is big when you add them to guys like Jeff Holland and Nick Coe already on campus. Alec Jackson has big play potential inside and being able to watch a similar player like Andrew Williams should give him a game plan to follow while learning the ropes this year.
Another Opportunity For Pearl’s Tigers
Following another road win, this one in Tuscaloosa, Auburn is sitting at 15-8 overall and 4-6 in SEC play with eight games left in the regular season. One thing this group of Tigers continues to show is the ability to beat anyone on the schedule if they’re playing well, but unfortunately they’ve also shown they can lose to any SEC opponent if things aren’t going well.
Now Auburn has a great opportunity to make a legitimate run for postseason play starting with games this week at home against Mississippi State on Tuesday night and Saturday at Ole Miss. Both are very winnable for this team as it continues to mature, but first these Tigers have got to learn how to take care of business at home.
With the exception of a hot final few minutes against Alabama and several non-conference games, for the most part this year Auburn hasn’t played its best basketball front of the home crowd. If the Tigers can change that thereis not a game they can’t win down the stretch, even against the hot Florida Gators, they can't win. Do that next Tuesday night after winning twice this week and it would be bubble time for the Tigers.