Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots will feature several playmakers on both sides of the ball. That’s how two football coaches in the Greater Olean area size up the game.
Allegany-Limestone High School head football coach Paul Furlong and Olean High School head football coach Phil Vecchio feel that both teams have a lot of X-factors and smart playmakers.
Both coaches agree that the Patriots will miss tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been out of action since week 10 of the season and will not participate in Sunday’s big game. When healthy, Gronkowski is regarded as one of the top tight ends in the league.
“Anytime you lose a player of his caliber it is going to affect your team, although it hasn't seemed to stop the Patriots,” Vecchio said.
The Patriots have had other playmakers step up in Gronkowski’s absence. Vecchio said players such as Chris Hogan, LeGarrett Blount and the former backup tight end Martellus Bennett are the ones to look out for as valuable weapons for quarterback Tom Brady.
“I will be interested if they put (cornerback) Malcolm Butler on (wide receiver) Julio Jones with some safety help,” he added.
As for the Falcons, Vecchio said the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones connection will be key for Atlanta to succeed, but he believes others will need to step up.
“Obviously the running back Devonta Freeman will play a huge part, but (wide receiver) Mohammad Sanu could be a big option for the Falcons,” he said.
Furlong said backup running back Tevin Coleman also is a player to look out for.
“Outside of Jones, Coleman is a guy that should step up for the Falcons,” he said.
Both Furlong and Vecchio also mentioned rising outside linebacker Vic Beasley as someone who could have an impact on the Falcons’ defensive side of the ball.
“If Vic Beasley can play the ‘Von Miller’ role that helped the Broncos defeat the Panthers, Atlanta has a shot to win,” Vecchio said.
The coaches have different views on the “pro-style” offense that both teams use.
Furlong feels personnel determines if pro-style is a team’s best option, but Vecchio believes it is best way to go.
“I have always been partial to a pro-style offense,” he said. “You have to be able to run the ball and it sets up play action,” said Vecchio.
The coaches also have different views on who will win Super Bowl 51.
“I am going with the Falcons,” Furlong said. “They have too many weapons on offense and are playing better.”
Vecchio said, “It's awful hard for me to go against a Bill Belichick team that has two weeks to prepare. It doesn't hurt that Tom Brady plays for them also.”
Super Bowl 51 will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST.
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