Here we go.
The rematch. The opportunity for revenge.
The Atlanta Falcons go up against the New England Patriots on Sunday night for a rematch of Super Bowl LI. What happened in that game is well known. The Falcons held a 28-3 lead, the Patriots led by Tom Brady roared back while the Falcons' offense made critical mistakes and didn't run the ball. The Patriots won their fifth Lombardi Trophy with Brady, and the Falcons went home bruised and battered.
Sunday's game presents an opportunity for the Falcons to make a statement, but this game won't be quite the match-up everyone originally envisioned. The Falcons are struggling offensively and can't seem to finish games...still. Meanwhile, the Patriots have the worst defense in the league.
The Falcons have a chance at revenge. But with the current state of their season, there's a lot more they need to prove:
There's no hangover
This is the most obvious one for the most obvious reason. While nothing but a Lombardi Trophy will help ease the pain of blowing a 25-point lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, a win over the Patriots would help.
There will be 28-3 posters, shirts, chants, etc. all over the stadium. New England fans will do everything they can to remind the Falcons of the past, along with the Sunday Night Football crew which will allude to it on every down, like they did when the Falcons hosted the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season.
A win will help show the nation that the Falcons are past all of that and that they aren't experiencing the dreaded Super Bowl hangover like the last two games suggest.
The 28-3 memes will never go away, but the Falcons silencing the trolls for one night would be a nice confidence boost.
They can finish games on national stage
It would also be nice get a slice of revenge on the No. 1 show in primetime, Sunday Night Football. Last week's game between the Giants and Broncos had 14.42 million viewers, and that number will likely spike with the casual fan tuning in to see what happens in a rematch of the Super Bowl.
The Falcons’ only dominant win this season was on NBC when they hosted the Packers. However, they struggled to put up points in the second half, which the commentators took as a good enough reason to bring up February's game.
Not only is it important for the Falcons to get a win in Gillette Stadium, but they need to finish strong and put up points in the second half. They can't surrender any sort of lead, big or small. And if they find themselves with 28 points on the board, they need to do everything and anything to get at least another point.
They've improved the play calling
Three words haunted the Falcons all offseason: Run the ball. Most agree it was their inability to run the clock down and run the ball that helped lead to their collapse.
Many blamed former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who had the Falcons passing on 3rd-and-1, and it ended with Matt Ryan fumbling the ball and the Patriots recovering. Then on the next drive, the Falcons were still trying to pass rather than pushing into field goal range (3 points which would have likely brought a Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta).
The start of the season has been bumpy under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The Falcons haven’t been able to return to their former ranking of No. 1 on offense, and they can’t seem to get a rhythm going.
Star receiver Julio Jones still doesn’t have a touchdown, and they didn’t throw to him last week against the Dolphins on a key fourth down play that ended in a turnover on downs and the Falcons with their second consecutive lost.
There’s no better week to try and rectify the offensive struggles and play calling than against the Patriots, who have the worst defense in the league so far this season. New England allows an average of 440.7 yards per game and 20.6 points per game.
Outscoring Tom Brady and the Patriots will likely be a key to victory. And if the Falcons are getting close to field goal range, let me help you out Sark: Run the ball.
Matt Ryan still has ice in his veins
Matt Ryan earned his nickname “Matty Ice” early in his career due to his ability to execute the 2-minute offense and put together several game-winning drives. Pundits said it was like he had ice in his veins.
Recently, I was debating with a colleague whether or not it’s time to let that nickname go because Ryan hasn't lived up to his nickname in awhile. However, this person was adamant that his nickname shouldn't change, not because he still has ice in his veins. Just the opposite: because his game has turned ice cold.
Many were doubting Ryan going into last season, believing he could never be considered an elite quarterback. It looked as if he had proved everyone wrong by putting together a record season for the Falcons and going on to win MVP of the league.
But now with six interceptions this season and the offense unable to outscore opponents like it did last season, the doubters are coming back and saying last season was just a fluke.
I tend to given Ryan the benefit of the doubt. His receivers are having trouble making catches (a lot of his interceptions have been tips). Plus he has, yet again, another new offensive coordinator. His throws have been accurate more often than not, despite an offensive line struggling to hold off defenders and has been dealing with injuries.
I won’t go so far as to say Ryan’s success last season was a fluke. But he hasn’t been able to live up to his nickname the past couple of weeks. His doubters began to surface again after the Falcons blew the Super Bowl to the Patriots. He can start to silence them again with a win in Foxborough.PHOTOS | Super Bowl LI in Houston