The NFL’s Final four featured that healthy number of former Scarlet Knights in action. In addition, Jon Freeny (Patriots injured reserve) and Patriots assistant coach Stephen Belichick were on the sidelines hoping to reach Super Bowl LI in Houston.
In the NFC Championship game Mohamed Sanu hoped to punch the Falcons first ticket to the Super Bowl since 1999 (and only second ever). Atlanta hosted the hottest team in the NFL, Green Bay, and ESPN had an article about how the Falcons feed on the “swag” of Sanu. Mohamed wasted no time backing up the talk as he scored on a beautiful touchdown catch to culminate the game’s first possession.
After that, the Falcons jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead and added another score early in the 3rd quarter to make it 31-0. The final of 44-21 saw Matt Ryan complete 27 of 38 passes for 392 yards, 4 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Sanu finished second on the team with 5 catches for 52 yards, adding a 7 yard run and 9 kickoff return yards as Green Bay was desperate rather early in this one. 8 receivers made catches for Atlanta led by Julio Jones 9 catches for 180 yards and two scores. They would await the winner of Pittsburgh at New England.
The Elias Sports Bureau still has not determined if there has ever been three players from the same college to intercept passes in the same playoff (or regular season) game as teammates other than last week’s Patriots-Texans game. They did confirm Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon also did it in a preseason game but none of that mattered in Foxborough as the league’s best scoring defense had to contain it’s most talented offensive trio. The Patriots as a team are still looking for their 5th Super Bowl title as Tom Brady would be the first QB in the Super Bowl era with that many (currently he, Montana and Bradshaw have 4 each).
The Pats jumped out to an early lead but the game remained close until they poured it on building a 33-9 advantage at the end of the 3rd quarter. The 36-17 final saw a few stars for New England. Tom Brady’s stats were impressive even for him (though somehow bested by Matt Ryan) as he completed 32 of 42 for 384 yards, 3 touchdowns, and also zero interceptions. His favorite target was N.J. native Chris Hogan who matched Jones identically with 9 catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs.
ESPN had a nice piece on whether this was the best final four quarterback matchups in NFL history. (Second only to 2009 with Peyton, Brees, Favre, and Mark Sanchez ... just kidding). The stats proved true for Brady and Matt Ryan, but not Big Ben as Belichick father AND son with the help of the RU alums held Antonio Brown under 100 yards. The game’s most explosive playmaker was aided by his teammates as Roethlisberger still threw for 314 yards, but it was on 47 attempts and there was only one touchdown. Ironically, that TD was scored by a guy RU couldn’t cover in college either (Cobi Hamilton), but the Knights still won that game as well!
Statistically, Logan Ryan led the Patriots with 9 tackles (8 solo) and a pass break up (pictured above). Devin McCourty added four tackles and Duron Harmon added two as well. They did share the wealth as Eric Rowe (no relation to David), had the one interception.
So we are set for Super Sunday with Sanu, Ryan, Harmon, and Devin McCourty lacing them up. Freeny on injured reserve also counts to the number in the tweet below. Stephen Belichick, Patriots secondary coach and former Knights backup long snapper will be looking for a ring.
Most Players in Super Bowl 51— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) January 23, 2017
Another newsworthy item this week is that Khaseem Greene was signed to a futures contract by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Season complete: Jeremy Zuttah’s (Ravens), Clark Harris (Bengals) and Tyler Kroft(Bengals) Jason McCourty (Titans) Andrew DePaola (Bucs), Brandon Coleman (Saints) Marcus Cooper (Cardinals) Kenny Britt (Rams) Quentin Gause (Broncos) Leonte Carroo (Dolphins), Michael Burton (Lions) and Steve Longa (Lions): Injured Reserve (Jonathan Freeny - Patriots, Tim Wright - Lions, George Johnson - Bucs). Futures: Khaseem Greene (Chiefs)