The Atlanta Falcons have the best offense in the NFL. This is indisputable. They led the league in scoring this year (33.8 points per game) and are averaging 39 points over their last six games – all wins.
But if they want to beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, their defense will need to get pressure on Tom Brady.
This is no secret.
“Well, it goes back to what the Giants were able to do to him in Super Bowls,” Pro Football Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “At the end of the day, getting pressure up the middle with Tom Brady (is key). You have to make him uncomfortable.”
Brady began his career 3-0 in Super Bowls. His first Super Bowl win, in fact, came against Williams and the Rams in February 2002, with Adam Vinatieri hitting a 48-yard field goal for the win as time expired.
“When I look back at these games, when the great teams play – and these are two excellent teams – these games usually boil down to who has the ball last,” said Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowler. “In our Super Bowl, Tom had the ball last. We lost. In many of the Super Bowls that he’s won, he had the ball last. In the case with some of the Giants’ Super Bowls, Eli had the ball, made the play to (Mario) Manningham making the play on the sideline, the miracle to David Tyree – but in this case, Brady got the ball back. But it was your pass pressure that eventually got him so uncomfortable and rattled him so that by the end of that game, it wasn’t vintage Tom Brady. Literally every human being has the Kryptonite, particularly quarterbacks. That’s when you hit them early.”
Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and the rest of the Giants’ defensive line did that in 2007, thwarting the Patriots’ bid for a perfect 19-0 season. Tuck did it again in 2011.
“When I think of my fellow Hall of Famer, Michael Strahan, and that defensive line with Tuck and all those guys – man, that was the difference,” the 49-year-old Williams said. “Getting pressure (on Brady) up the middle. You’ll hear me say that over and over again.”
The Falcons’ defense was far from dominant in the regular season. That unit allowed 25.4 points per game – which was 27th in football. In the postseason, however, they’ve limited Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers to five touchdowns – while also forcing four turnovers and generating five sacks.
“When I think about that Atlanta game with Green Bay, how many times did Aaron Rodgers get hit in this NFC Championship that I thought should have been penalties that they would have called during the season?” Williams asked. “I mean solid hits. I said, ‘This is going to impact the guy later on in the game.’ It’s the cumulative hits that impact (quarterbacks).”