BOSTON (CBS) — In case you haven’t heard, the top-rated offense will be going against the top-rated defense in Super Bowl LI.
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots defense will have their hands full on Sunday night, with All World receiver Julio Jones always a threat to make a big play. But Jones is not alone on that vaunted Atlanta offense.
We’re asking our CBS Boston team a question each day leading up to Super Bowl LI, so today we ask which Falcons player is the biggest threat to the Patriots other than Jones:
Steve Burton, WBZ-TV
Matt Ryan. “Matty Ice” finished second in the NFL with 38 touchdowns and 4,944 yards in the regular season, and he has seven touchdown passes while completing over 70 percent of his passes in the playoffs.
Dan Roche, WBZ-TV
It’s Jones’ running mate in the passing game, Mohamed Sanu. He’s been targeted quite often by Matt Ryan and is averaging four catches, 43 yards and a touchdown over his last three games — two of which have come in the playoffs. Sanu also had five catches for 70 yards and a TD in a 43-17 loss to the Patriots in 2014.
Levan Reid, WBZ-TV
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is the biggest threat to the Pats defense. And as a bonus, I’ll give you Vic Beasely on their defense. The linebacker can cause problems for the Patriots offense, as he finished the regular season with 15.5 sacks.
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
The biggest threat on Atlanta not named Julio is going to be somebody random, like Levine Toilolo and Taylor Gabriel and Justin Hardy. Bill Belichick’s teams always do a good job of managing the All-Pros. It’s the random guys — like Chris Matthews — who tend to show up against the Patriots.
Adam Kaufman, WBZ NewsRadio 1030/98.5 The Sports Hub
It’d obviously be easy to say Matt Ryan, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, or Devonta Freeman, and I wouldn’t scoff at any of those choices (in fact, offensively I’m inclined to go with Gabriel). But I’m actually more focused on the other side of the ball.
Vic Beasley led the NFL this year with 15.5 sacks in the regular season. He’s a force, incredibly disruptive and, as I see it, he’s the biggest threat to Tom Brady’s offense. I fully believe the Pats’ defense can reasonably contain the Falcons’ high-octane offense, but if Brady’s line fails him, New England’s in big trouble. The Patriots’ offense is predicated on timing and Brady’s patience to find the best available weapon. If the QB doesn’t have time to do that, well… you know. That Texans game wasn’t a lot of fun to watch, outcome aside.
One thing to remember with Beasley, though: he only has 41 total tackles in 18 games. So, if the linebacker’s not sackin’ ya, he’s probably not hittin’ ya either.
Mike “Sarge” Riley, WBZ NewsRadio 1030/98.5 The Sports Hub
Devonta Freeman. He is short, tough and confident. You may think by his words that he’s been at this level before, saying he may be the best running back in the league. He’s averaging 67 yards per game and had 11 touchdowns this season.
Bill Belichick, and Matt Patricia will have to carve up a game plan to shut down Julio, but beware of Freeman.
WBZ-TV will get you read for Super Bowl LI all week! It starts Thursday with Welcome To Houston on myTV38 at 8:30pm and continues all weekend with a special hour-long Patriots GameDay on Friday night at 7pm, Patriots All Access on Saturday night at 7pm and a 90-minute edition of Patriots GameDay starting at 11:30am on Super Bowl Sunday! Following the big game, tune in to Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV!
Tune in to Super Bowl LI on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 1pm with a special edition of Felger & Mazz from NRG Stadium!