The Atlanta Falcons have made their choice on the color of their jerseys in Super Bowl LI. If recent history is any indication, it was a poor one.
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The Falcons confirmed they will be wearing their red jerseys in the Feb. 5 championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Patriots will wear their white jerseys. Fun fact: Teams wearing white jerseys have won 11 of the last 12 Super Bowls.
The “home” team in the Super Bowl alternates between the AFC and NFC each year. This year, the mostly symbolic distinction went to the Falcons, who had first choice of uniform top.
Because I know it’s killing you, the last time a conference champion wore white and lost was 2011, when the Steelers donned their road jerseys and got popped by the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
The Falcons wore their black jerseys in their only other Super Bowl appearance — a blowout loss to the Broncos. That’s not an option here as the team discontinued those kits in 2002. This would need to be a longform blog post to break down all the jersey combinations the Patriots have worn in Super Bowls, but just know New England is 2-1 when dressed in white for the big game.
“They have very good players all around: players that are interchangeable that can be pass-rushers, that can be linebackers, that can be corners, that can be safeties. And they have an extremely good scheme. So, it’s by far the biggest challenge we’ve had this year.”
The Patriots own the NFL’s top scoring defense at 15.6 points per game allowed while ranking eighth in yards surrendered per game at 326.4. Bill Belichick’s teams have only had the No. 1 scoring defense one other time in franchise history (2003), culminating that season with a Super Bowl win.
In the Belichick era (since 2000), the Patriots have won the Super Bowl in three of the four seasons in which they allowed 17.0 PPG or less, per NFL Research.
The reason some are discounting the Patriots’ defensive statistics is due to a cavalcade of sub-par quarterbacks faced during the season. New England went against three top-10 offenses during the 2016 regular season — Arizona, Pittsburgh and Buffalo (twice) — allowing 19.5 PPG in those contests.
Shanahan and the Falcons’ offense faced three top-10 scoring defenses in the regular season, averaging 25 points per game, per ESPN.
The Falcons’ offense has been unstoppable this year, scoring 30-plus points in each of its last six games and averaging 40.0 PPG during the playoffs.
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McDaniels had shied away from head coaching interviews in recent years, preferring to focus on his duties alongside Bill Belichick in New England. That seemed to change in 2016 after McDaniels took interviews with the Rams, Jaguars and 49ers. Los Angeles ended up hiring 30-year-old Sean McVay, while the Jaguars opted to stick with interim head coach Doug Marrone, while bringing in Tom Coughlin to control the 53-man roster.
The development certainly protects any destructive changes in New England during the most important time of their season. Both McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia were considered for head coach openings this winter.
While many will speculate whether this means McDaniels is hanging around New England to eventually take over, it seems like he’s just being smart. Knowing that perhaps his second head coaching opportunity will be his last, one might assume McDaniels did not want to risk it on a franchise that has now fired two head coaches in two seasons. Owner Jed York’s refocused priorities this offseason were aimed at creating a cohesive front office structure between a head coach and general manager.
McDaniels could also be removing his name as a formality, as candidates sometimes do when the team has decided to hire someone else.
Either way, he remains a key cog in a Patriots machine that is still built to win. With Tom Brady professing his desire to play for much longer and Belichick showing no signs of slowing down, New England offensive coordinator remains one of the best jobs in sports. Better, even, than some head coaching gigs.