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Super Bowl LI Preview: Why the Patriots need to pressure Falcons QB Matt Ryan

The Falcons quarterback is a stud when given time in the pocket.

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When it comes to creating a Super Bowl game plan, they are always easier said than done. But one thing is for certain: the New England Patriots will have to pressure Falcons QB Matt Ryan to slow the Atlanta offense.

Matt Ryan holds a ridiculous 131.1 passer rating when left unpressured, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), which is easily the top mark in the league. In 29 passing plays without pressure against the Green Bay Packers, Ryan went 22 of 27 for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 153.5. When the Packers pressured Ryan, he completed 5 of 11 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

The trick is pressuring Ryan without needing to blitz, which is why the strategy is easier said than done. “Pressure Patriots QB Tom Brady without blitzing” is just as obvious a strategy to take down the Patriots.

The Patriots only pressured Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on 8 of his 46 passing plays and EDGE Trey Flowers was the only player to get a finger on the quarterback. The New England defensive front seven will have to step up in the Super Bowl to reach Ryan.

While Flowers has played well over the second half of the season, the Patriots still don’t have a reliable pass rush. Chris Long leads the Patriots in quarterback pressures, but he was last in the Patriots edge defender rotation against the Steelers. Jabaal Sheard or Rob Ninkovich will need to force a game-changing play or two in the Super Bowl if the Patriots defense is going to keep Matt Ryan in check.