Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are 4-0 this postseason, and they’ve made it look pretty easy. Atlanta beat Seattle and Green Bay by a combined 39 points, while New England beat Houston and Pittsburgh by a combined 37 points.
We’ll start with the Falcons. How was Atlanta able to flummox a Packers squad that had won eight straight games?
“I just think Atlanta is loaded,” CBS Sports senior NFL writer Will Brinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think Kyle Shanahan is locked in as a play caller and Matt Ryan is locked in as a quarterback, and they’re just on this roll right now offensively and they’re really tough to stop. I don’t think it was necessarily Green Bay’s defense being terrible so much as it was Atlanta’s offense being kick-ass.”
Ryan finished with 392 yards and five touchdowns (four pass, one rush) against Green Bay, outplaying Aaron Rodgers in the process.
Brady, meanwhile, led New England to a 36-17 rout over a Steelers squad that had won nine straight games.
“It was a bad week to have a bad week,” Brinson said. “The secondary forgot that Chris Hogan existed and treated him like he was invisible. You just can’t do that. When you go to Foxboro and you’re playing Tom Brady and the Patriots, (you have to be ready). Mike Mitchell said afterwards they weren’t prepared for the flea-flicker. They weren’t even looking for it. When you go to New England and you have all these busted coverages and you have these trick plays picking up chunk yards and you’re not executing yourself on offense, it’s going to be really tough to beat the Patriots. It’s a hard job to do in the first place, and if you show up with your D-game on defense, then you’re definitely not going to win. So I think you got to blame a Steelers defense that certainly looked good for the second half of the season, and then they just get blasted by New England.”
The Patriots will advance to their seventh Super Bowl of the Brady/Belichich era, while the Falcons are back in the big game for the first time since 1998.
Which quarterback has more to gain from a win in Super Bowl LI?
“I think it’s Matt Ryan, and I don’t know that it’s that close,” Brinson said. “And this is a very generational thing, I think. I think some people lean toward Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback ever. I’ll take Brady. I don’t like when people discount him because Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl – as if making it to more Super Bowls is somehow a negative thing on your resume. So to me, I’m not elevating Brady any further than he already is if he wins the Super Bowl. He’s already there for greatest of all time.”
But the difference for Matt Ryan? Startling.
“The difference in Matt Ryan, from the guy that ended 2015 as maybe the fourth-best quarterback in his own division behind Jameis, Drew Brees and Cam Newton to suddenly being a guy (who’s considered elite is enormous),” Brinson said. “If he wins the MVP and if he wins the Super Bowl and he probably wins Super Bowl MVP, then I think you’re putting him in a conversation where he’s on a trajectory for the Hall of Fame if he continues to play well throughout the course of his career. So to me, the difference between what Matt Ryan could have on the line and what Tom Brady has on the line is pretty stark.”