By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots and Falcons have barely begun preparing for Super Bowl LI. But thanks to Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, the defense already has plenty of bulletin board material.
No, he didn’t use any of the big trigger words. He didn’t call the Patriots a bunch of a-holes. He didn’t call them “cheaters.” But Freeman sure sounds quite confident – or “cocky,” depending on your perspective – about the Falcons’ ability to score on the Patriots defense.
“We can do whatever we want,” said Freeman in what Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio described as a “blunt and matter-of-fact” interview on Thursday. He added that any team trying to stop the Falcons offense has to “pick your poison.”
Here’s the part that would make Bill Belichick snicker, if it’s true: when asked about the Falcons’ offensive game plan, Freeman said, “We’ve had the game plan. The game plan doesn’t change.”
In a vacuum, these are innocuous comments by a confident, talented young man. But in writing, it comes off as brash and arrogant, the kind of material that the Patriots defense can really sink its teeth into when preparing for the Falcons’ high-powered offense.
There’s no doubt that the Falcons have a great quarterback in Matt Ryan and a lot of weapons for the Patriots to prepare for ahead of the Super Bowl. The Patriots may indeed have to ‘pick their poison’ – but, ironically, that poison might be Freeman.
It’s possible that Belichick and Matt Patricia employ a similar game plan to Belichick’s scheme that he deployed as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV, in which the G-Men essentially allowed Bills running back Thurman Thomas to get his yards on the ground. Belichick may be happy to let Freeman and Tevin Coleman get theirs in the running game, as long as they slow down big plays by the Falcons’ passing game.
Freeman has reason to be confident, but he’s toeing the line between confident and cocky here – especially if the Falcons really aren’t going to change their game plan. They better be ready to show something new or at least present some wrinkles for the Patriots defense if they don’t expect to be slowed down. Just “doing what you do” is potentially a recipe for disaster when you’re going up against Belichick’s defense.
“We can do whatever we want” is a perfect quote for Belichick to bore into the skulls of everyone on the defense. Guys like Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, and Alan Branch probably wouldn’t take too kindly to a running back saying he can do whatever he wants to them, whether or not he meant that in a literal sense.
It’s probably a stretch to say that the Patriots defense will ride this bulletin board material to a Super Bowl shutout. The Falcons probably have too much talent to be completely stopped. But Freeman may be getting a little ahead of himself if he thinks the Falcons will just be able to do whatever they want out there. It’s likely that Belichick will come up with something to keep that offense honest. They aren’t scoring 44 points against the league’s top scoring defense, even if the Patriots gladly “pick their poison.”
If the Patriots were looking for bulletin board material, Freeman just served up a whole week’s worth of it.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.