And then, there were two. On Sunday, Feb. 5, the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots will face one another in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots will be making their ninth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, while the Falcons will be looking to hoist their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in their second Super Bowl appearance.
The NFC and AFC Championship Games pit four of the best offenses in the NFL against one another, and the teams that were better defensively came out on top. Throughout their eight-game winning streak, the Green Bay Packers have faced potent defenses, like the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, and New York Giants, but it was the Atlanta Falcons, who were finally able to tame the dragon that is Aaron Rodgers. With two sacks and two turnovers, Atlanta's defense prevented the Green Bay air attack from ever getting into a groove. Meanwhile, the Falcons' offense was, well, the Falcons' offense. Led by Matt Ryan, who threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns, Atlanta racked up points, and coasted to the 44-21 victory.
In the AFC Championship Game, the goal of the New England Patriots' defense was to not get beat by Le'Veon Bell. When Bell went down with left groin injury in the first quarter, the Patriots' defense were able to focus their attention on stopping Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who failed to throw a touchdown pass until the 4th quarter.
On the offensive side of the ball, New England was damn near flawless under Tom Brady who went 32-for-42 with 384 passing yards and three touchdowns. Early on, Brady developed a strong connection with Chris Hogan, who set the record for the most receiving yards in a postseason game by an undrafted player, with his 180 receiving yards on nine catches and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh's defense didn't have an answer all night long, repeatedly getting gashed for huge yardage because of missed zone assignments, and the Patriots defeated the Steelers, 36-17.
While analysts will talk about the offenses of the Falcons and Patriots, it will come down to which team's defense shows up at Super Bowl LI. It may be an old adage, but it's a true one: defenses win championships.
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