NFL playoffs are done… the premlimaries any way… Falcons Win… Patriots win…
Now, it’s on to the Super Bowl… BUT… first, the Roundtable crew looks at the AFC and the NFC championship games…
1) Not exactly the way the Patriots probably drew it up but it effectively got one of their desired results… stop Le’Veon Bell… a groin injury effectively knocked the star RB out of the Steelers’ offense early in the game. Was that the turning point in the AFC championship game? Why or why not?
Chad: I believe so, because I believe it turned the Steelers 1 dimensional as Deangelo Williams wasn’t able to get much on the ground against the Pats.
Dan: I think so.
Without Bell, the Steelers offense just couldn’t get moving. They had a couple of drives within five yards of the end zone and just couldn’t punch it in. If, Bell was in the game, rushing for his average or somewhere close to it, I think the game would’ve been different. The Steelers could have controlled the clock better since they would have had a balanced attack between running and passing the football. They just weren’t able to move the ball on the ground against New England and that really killed their offense.
Granted, the Patriots putting up 36 points and Pittsburgh not being able to find the end zone until the 4th quarter didn’t help, but I feel like with Bell gone, it really hurt the offense’s tempo.
David: The Steelers offense has problems. With that RB and WR; with a great QB, and they score all of 2 touchdowns in 2 games in the playoffs.
I think the Steelers brain trust will have to take a long look at each other this offseason. I think the turning point was that extra day the Pats got to figure out that a strong defensive push with great gap control would stop the Steelers running game?
Earl: The Patriots were going to win that game with or without Le’Veon Bell. The Patriots just know how to win when it counts and they get production from players that no one would have expected going into the game. Bell going down with the groin injury did hurt Pittsburgh, but they didn’t have a chance really.
The game went as I expected it to.
2) Are you surprised that the Patriots were able to score 36 points against the Steeler defense? Why or why not?
Chad: I’m not surprised. They had opportunites and they took advantage.
Dan: I’m surprised that they were able to put up 36 points as easy as they were. There were multiple drives where New England just moved straight down the field with almost no competition. While I was expecting the Pittsburgh defense to be a lot stronger than they were, I’m not surprised based on the Sports Illustrated article I read on Sunday during the game that I’ll get into more later.
You tick off the Pats, and give them a chance to run up the score on you, and they will.
The Hoodie don’t care.
Earl: I was a little surprised. I didn’t think the Steelers defense was as great as it was made out to be, and that defense lacked the athleticism that it takes to rattle Tom Brady, but, I didn’t expect the Pats to put up 36 points. Actually, what I didn’t expect was for the Patriots to carve up the zone defense the way that they did and for Chris Hogan (of all people) to run free on two wide open touchdown passes. That came out of nowhere.
3) OK, they covered the over/under point total (60-point total) on the game but who expected the Atlanta offense to almost have to do it by themselves?
A) Were you shocked at the final score of the NFC championship game?
B) Were you surprised that the Packers’ offense was essentially ineffective in the game until late when it was more or less meaningless (except for anyone with an over/under bet)?
Chad: A) Yes, Definitely, I thought it would be more of a contest.
Dan: Yes, I was incredibly shocked. I actually thought the Packers could have out-done the Falcons and made their way to the Super Bowl. I was expecting a high scoring affair. I wasn’t expecting the Packers’ offense to be almost invisible for three quarters of football, nor did I expect their defense to not force at least one turnover. And, I don’t recall them ever getting a sack either. This whole game was just a nightmare from the defensive side of the football for Green Bay. No pressure, no sacks, no turnovers.
Then, they couldn’t actually retain possession from the fumble they forced. What made it worse was they allowed Matt Ryan to run 14 yards into the end zone untouched for a score. They did well against Dallas. They crushed the Giants. But, this is how you come out in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta? Please. They let Matt Ryan have his way with them. They couldn’t shut down Julio. They couldn’t do anything.
And, the offense was just horrible. An interception, a fumble by Ripkowski trying to drag the whole team with him to the end zone. Just bad play. I was impressed with Jordy Nelson though especially with two broken ribs. And while Montgomery did get hurt, the run game was invisible and that truly hurt their offense.
David: I figured a 2 TD score, and, as I predicted it was over by halftime. When Mike punted at the 37, I knew the game was over.
I’m just glad we don’t have to hear about the two idiots who kept rolling over 300 without taking a few grand out.
Earl: I was out of the house yesterday, and I got home around halftime. When I walked through the door, and saw that the Falcons got out to a 31-0 halftime lead, I had to rub my eyes. I didn’t believe the score.
So, yes I was shocked, and, yes, I was surprised that the Packers offense was not very effective.
4) Which QB do you want leading your team going into this year’s Super Bowl… Tom Brady or Matt Ryan? Why?
Chad: In 2017 I will take Matt Ryan. He is in a rhythm right now that very few ever get to and the Falcons offense is running on all cylinders.
Dan: I want Tom Brady. While, I think Matt Ryan is having an insane season and continuing it by beating Seattle easily and then demolishing Green Bay, it’d be awesome to have Ryan at the helm. But, like I said earlier, the Sports Illustrated article I read during the Patriots-Steelers game sealed the deal for me. Bill Belichick will come into the week with the team, even after a big win, and treat it like they just got destroyed. He has Tom Brady constantly competing with a high school quarterback down the street. He’s extra hard on Brady and Brady accepts it. That’s what has made him so great. And when he makes a mistake, the coach calls him out on it, he’ll accept it for him being wrong or him making a mistake. And with Atlanta’s defense and Bill Belichick’s brain and excellent coaching ability, I would much rather have Brady at quarterback for this game.
David: Unless mid-80’s Joe Montana walks in the door, I want Brady over anyone else in my lifetime.
Earl: Tom Brady all day. The man is 4-2 in Super Bowls, and he knows how to win the big game. While I might be rooting for Atlanta to win, just to see something different, I will not be at all surprised if Brady carves up the Atlanta defense and wins his fifth Super Bowl.
5) Can the Patriots’ defense stop the Falcons’ offense? How/Why?
Chad: They can, by doing what they did against Pittsburgh, They are the #1 scoring defense in the league for a reason.
I can’t wait for the game.
Dan: I think the Patriots defense will be able to slow down Atlanta much better than what Green Bay attempted to do, but I don’t think they’ll be able to completely shut them down. I have a very good feeling that this match-up will be high scoring. I full expect it. And I think Brady has the upper hand in this match-up. While I’ll be rooting for Atlanta, I think New England will win this game. They need to force bad throws of Matt Ryan by consistently having pressure on him and I think New England is more than capable of doing that.
David: Guess you’ll have to wait on my game pick to find out.
Earl: The Patriots defense is the best defense the Falcons are going to face this post season. They are the number one scoring defense, and they might not have the biggest names on defense but they play as a cohesive unit. The Pats might not have an answer for Julio Jones, but if they can contain him and limit the running game, they have a shot.
All credit due to Atlanta’s offense, and it’s definitely a beast to stop as they run and pass effectively, but if you give Belichick and crew two weeks to stop it, I think he’ll figure out a solution.
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