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Hannable: Put away those 28-3 t-shirts and jokes because Super Bowl LI means nothing this week

Ryan Hannable
October 18, 2017 - 11:19 pm

FOXBORO — Get ready for a bunch of 28-3 jokes the rest of the week as well as numerous 28-3 flags and t-shirts in the Gillette Stadium parking lot Sunday night, but the reality is what happened in Super Bowl LI will have no bearing on what happens between the Patriots and Falcons this week.

Some may think the Falcons will be using the game as motivation, but when they come into the game losers of two straight, including blowing a 17-point lead at home last week to the Dolphins, the biggest thing on Atlanta’s minds will be snapping the losing streak and improving to 4-2.

As for New England, Bill Belichick has made sure the game is not a topic of conversation or on the players' minds this week.

“We’ve been given really highly strict rules that we are not allowed to talk about that game, so you're not really going to get any information from anyone about that, so I'm just looking forward to this week,” Rob Gronkowski said Wednesday.

Even Tom Brady wouldn’t get into it much when he was asked if it was his favorite Super Bowl win on a conference call with the Atlanta media. He turned the answer into the team this year.

“I would say everything’s different,” he said. “I mean, really, they’re all unique. They all hold a special place in your mind, but every game is different. They’re all different scenarios and situations. I mean, obviously, winning the game, it’s an incredible moment in your life. Like I said, we got to celebrate it. 

“This year I don’t think we’re really where we need to be. We’re, certainly, 4-2 – I think there’s a lot of things we wish we had done better and we’re still working to improve. That’s where we’re at. We’re focused on playing a great team. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of respect for this coaching staff, these players, and I know they’re going to be at their best on Sunday night.”

While both teams likely will use the game film in their preparation, they won’t be able to take much out of it because a lot of things have changed for both teams.

Starting with the Patriots, the offense is completely different than a year ago. The scheme is no longer short, quick passes over the middle of the field, as it is much more of a vertical offense. Part of this is due to the loss of Julian Edelman, but also the addition of Brandin Cooks. It could be said Cooks was added partly because of what took place in the Super Bowl as Atlanta had a great game plan which took away the middle of the field and when the Patriots made their comeback the majority of the throws were outside the numbers.

Also, Gronkowski didn’t play in the game, as he had season-ending back surgery the first week of December. Obviously, he’s a major part of the offense and a huge focal point, especially without Edelman.

Defensively, while the only major change is having Stephon Gilmore instead of Logan Ryan at cornerback, the unit also lost veterans Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich. Last year, the unit was No. 1 in the league in points allowed, but through six weeks it is 30th. A huge difference.

Not much has changed with Atlanta from a players standpoint, but it’s worth noting it has two new coordinators. Kyle Shanahan is now the coach of the 49ers and Steve Sarkisian has taken over as offensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith was fired after the season and now Marquand Manuel is leading the unit.

It’s also worth noting Matt Ryan was MVP last year and he isn’t even playing close to that level this year. In five games he’s thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. Last season he threw seven interceptions the entire year.

Atlanta was first in points per game last year, but now 12th this year. They have improved on defense, though. It went from 27th last year in points allowed to now 15th this year.

Without question, both teams are extremely different.

It’s human nature to look back at the Super Bowl and think it could have some impact on this week, but the reality is both teams are completely different and have their own things to worry about this week — looking back and focusing on a game seven months ago not being one of them.

Sure, there will be tons of 28-3 apparel and people reliving the Super Bowl in the stands, but on the field there likely won’t be any mention of the game at all because it doesn't matter.

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