Palouse wants to see Atlanta buck the trend in Super Bowl LI


Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn served as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks for two years and helped the franchise win its first and only Super Bowl in 2014.

JACOB MOORE | Evergreen sports columnist

The stage is set for Super Bowl LI after the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots cemented their spots with blowout victories in conference championship games.

To better understand which team the Palouse community is rooting for, this week I conducted an online poll. The Seattle Seahawks are clearly the team of choice in the area, and about 82 percent of the voters indicated that they are rooting for the Falcons to take down the Pats.

The Seahawks defeated the Falcons on Oct. 16 and played a more competitive game than the Green Bay Packers’ performance in the NFC Championship game on Saturday in their divisional round loss on Jan. 14 in Georgia.

One voter, Brandon Menge, explained why he is rooting for the Falcons.

“This is the farthest the Falcons have gone with Matt Ryan as QB,” Menge said. “They have always been fairly good but also, I’m just sick of the Patriots.”

It surely seems like the Pats are in the Super Bowl every season or at least a bonafide contender. Since 2002, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have steered the ship in New England to seven Super Bowl appearances and four victories with a chance for a record fifth win on Feb. 5 in Houston. To put that figure in perspective, the Patriots participated in just two Super Bowls in the 41 seasons previous to 2002, coming up short in both games.

To explain how Brady, 39, has sustained unprecedented levels of success over the span of two decades and perhaps convey some of his secrets, he said on the “Kirk and Callahan Show” that Belichick is a brain-washer.

“He never makes it about one player, he never makes it about one play,” Brady said. “He never makes it about one call, or one situation. It’s all about all of us collectively trying to do the best thing we can for the team to help us win. And he never lets his foot off the gas pedal, so really, when you come to our team, it’s just, you’re brain-washed. It’s just the way it goes. It has a lot of success.”

Menge, despite his preference, acknowledged Belichick and Brady’s legacy.

“The Patriots have always been a stellar team due to Belichick’s coaching ability and the way he sets his team up,” Menge said. “Personally, I believe that a quarterback is only as good as the people he is surrounded by.”

Also, Belichick and Brady have not lost to the Falcons in their 17-season run together. However, the duo has not faced an Atlanta squad as talented as this year’s.

The respective successes of the two franchises is certainly unbalanced, as Atlanta is only making its second appearance on the largest stage in the sports world. However, the Falcons have an edge in the 51st edition of the Super Bowl in that the game is not just “business as usual” like it is for the Patriots.

The results of the poll indicate two common themes reflected both locally and nationally: football fans are tired of watching the Pats dominate the NFL and folks want to see the Falcons’ second-year head coach thrive.

Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn knows a little something about what a championship team looks like. As former defensive coordinator for the Seahawks, Quinn played an integral part of the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl win back in 2014.

Now, Quinn has a chance to do the same thing with Atlanta. It won’t be easy. It never is when facing New England. But with the top-ranked offense in the league and defensive genius, Quinn has both the tools and knowledge to pull off the upset.

“I’ve been through the process,” Quinn said after the NFC Championship game, “and I knew some of the things that I really liked and some of the ones that we had as pitfalls.

“So I tried to use that experience. For me, I had a great model in Pete (Carroll) during the time that we did it with him.”

The popular argument as to why the Falcons will come up short, however, is that their defense cannot contain the Patriots’ offense in a neutral site game.

History does indicate that defenses wins Super Bowls. In the five games that pitted the NFL’s top-ranked defense against the league’s most efficient offense, the team with the defensive edge won four. The Seahawks’ win over the Broncos in 2014 may ring a bell.

Football fans on the Palouse have spoken, and they want to see the Falcons buck the trend and rise up as the underdog.