Super Bowl LI between New England and Atlanta features two teams that are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Super Sunday experience. The Patriots are playing in their record ninth Super Bowl, the seventh under head coach Bill Belichick. It’s also the franchise’s second appearance in three years, while Atlanta is playing in just its second Super Bowl. The Falcons lost to Denver (34-19) in Super Bowl XXXIII, which took place 18 years ago.
As for this Super Bowl, the Falcons arrive in Houston having won their six last games, including a 44-21 domination of Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. The Patriots have been even hotter, however, as they have rolled off nine straight wins, the most recent being a 36-17 dismantling of Pittsburgh for the AFC crown.
Here are 10 stats you need to know to get you ready for Super Bowl LI:
13: Number of times Atlanta and New England have previously played each other
Sunday’s big game will mark the 14th time the Falcons and Patriots have met on the gridiron. Both teams first squared off Sept. 24, 1972, with New England winning the inaugural meeting 21-20. After winning three games in five meetings from 1972-86, Atlanta went on a four-game winning streak that ran from 1989-98. Since then, the Patriots have won four in a row, the most recent a 30-23 victory in Atlanta during the 2013 season. That win gave New England a slim 7-6 edge in the series.
66: Number of days since New England last trailed in a game
On Nov. 27, 2016, with 10:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Patriots surrendered a touchdown to the New York Jets and found themselves trailing 13-17. New England would answer with a field goal and then on the next drive, Tom Brady would find Malcolm Mitchell for an eight-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 left for the go-ahead touchdown as the Patriots would hold on for a 22-17 road win in Week 12. New England has yet to fall behind in any of its subsequent seven games and enters Super Bowl LI on a nine-game winning streak.
4-0: New England quarterback Tom Brady’s career record against the Falcons
Brady’s first career start against Atlanta in 2001 produced 250 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 24-10 victory. Since then, he’s thrown for 943 yards, six scores and just one interception in winning all four of his games against the Falcons. His closest contest against Atlanta was in 2005 when the Patriots escaped the Georgia Dome with a 31-28 victory. In that game, Brady threw for 350 yards (most against Falcons), three touchdowns and the one interception he’s had in his career thus far against Sunday night’s opponent.
1,605: Tom Brady’s passing yards in Super Bowls
At 39, Brady is eight years older than his Atlanta counterpart, Matt Ryan. Brady’s name is synonymous with Super Bowls, as evidenced by his numbers and the records he holds. Besides this being his seventh Super Bowl start, Brady has thrown for 1,605 yards in his previous six appearances. He also holds the record for career touchdown passes (13), completions (164), and attempts (247), among others. Brady will no doubt add to his Super Bowl resume this Sunday, including the possibility of the most impressive achievement of all – a record fifth victory by a starting quarterback.
69.9: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan’s completion percentage entering Super Bowl LI
Simply put, Ryan’s numbers this year are from another stratosphere. In his ninth year, Ryan was first-team All-Pro on his way to setting numerous career highs, including passing yards (4,944), touchdown passes (38) and completion percentage (69.9). The latter ranked him third in the NFL in the regular season and he’s been even better in the playoffs, completing 70.7 percent of his attempts. Ryan’s numbers and the Falcons’ success are the main reasons he’s considered the front-runner for MVP. With Ryan as the trigger man, the Falcons led the league with 540 points in the regular season and have tacked on 80 more in two playoff games.
212: Number of passes Matt Ryan has thrown since his last interception
With 37 seconds left in the first half of the Falcons-Chiefs game on Dec. 4, Kansas City’s Eric Berry returned a Matt Ryan interception 37 yards for a touchdown. That was the last interception (Berry also returned Ryan’s two-point attempt for a rare defensive conversion in the Chiefs’ 29-28 win, but that doesn’t count as a pick) Ryan has thrown. He has gone 212 straight attempts without an interception and over his last six games alone he has posted a 18:0 TD-to-INT ratio, all Atlanta wins.
19.3: Points per game Atlanta has allowed in its last six games
Some Atlanta critics like to bring up the Falcons’ less-than-stellar numbers on defense (5,939 yards allowed, 25.4 points per game) as to why the team’s road to its first-ever Super Bowl victory will be littered with obstacles. But it’s been a tale of two seasons for head coach Dan Quinn’s young defense. In the last six games, Atlanta has given up just 19.3 points per game, including victories over New Orleans, Seattle and Green Bay. In the NFC Championship Game, the Falcons held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scoreless until they scored a touchdown with 9:19 remaining in the third quarter. Green Bay’s other touchdowns came when the game was well decided, as it appears Atlanta’s young defense is peaking at just the right time.
247: Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones’ receiving yards this postseason
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Jones’ body of work this season has been spectacular. Look no further than his 180 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, while dealing with a nagging toe injury. The NFL’s most dangerous target hauled in 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six scores during the regular season, falling just 39 yards of shy of tying Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton for the league lead in receiving yards. Jones has since added 247 yards and three touchdowns to his season totals. He has a total of eight 100-yard games, including his monster 300-yard effort against Carolina back in Week 4. Jones will no doubt be priority No. 1 for New England’s defense.
5: Numbers of players from Stanford and Rutgers that are on New England’s and Atlanta’s rosters for Super Bowl LI
Falcon tight ends Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo, along with the Patriots’ Jordan Richards, Tyler Gaffney and Cameron Fleming all played their college ball at Stanford. Rutgers is equally represented in Houston with Atlanta wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and four New England defenders – defensive backs Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan (cornerback) and Duron Harmon, along with linebacker Jonathan Freeny – all former Scarlet Knights and all expected to start on Super Sunday. These two programs are tied for the most former players in Super Bowl LI.
59,060: Number of people that have signed a change.org petition (as of Jan. 31) to have Georgia-based hip-hop group Migos replace Lady Gaga for the Super Bowl LI halftime show
So this stat might not directly relate to action on the field, but hear me out. Six-time Grammy Award-winning artist Lady Gaga is set to hold center stage during Sunday’s Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show, but a new grassroots movement to supplant her with Migos — the trio from Lawrenceville, Ga., which brought you the wildly popular “Bad and Boujee” — has caught fire. The change.org petition is quickly approaching its goal of 75,000 signees, but Lady Gaga likely isn’t going anywhere. Sorry, Migos fans.
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.