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Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels break down the Falcons speedy, explosive, and athletic defense

The Patriots coaching staff is ready for some speed.

NFL: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots coaching staff spoke with the media about the strengths and weaknesses of the Atlanta Falcons and whether or not the Patriots will look back to their Super Bowl LI game plan for advice. Here’s what they said.

“I think you study a lot of games when you prepare for an opponent,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “Some may go back to last year, and you certainly study all the ones that you have this year to look at. That was the last game we played last season, so just to look at some of the things that took place in the game and really just evaluate and self-scout what happened for us. We’ve already done that. We took care of that, and now we’re really focused on looking at the personnel that they have on their team now, which there’s definitely some new faces, some new people.

“There’s a few things that they’re doing differently schematically, and they’ve evolved. I mean, this is 2017 for them, too. We have new players. They have new players. There’s a few things that they’re doing differently. We’re doing some things differently. So, really the focus is on trying to get this team ready this year to play against a team that we see on film now as we study Atlanta this season.”

And what is different with the Falcons defense this year? All of their youth from the past few offseasons have come together to form a deep, athletic, speedy, and disruptive defense.

“It’s as fast of a defense that we’ve played or that I think we will play,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “They have great team speed. They have speed on the defensive front, linebackers, in the secondary. They’re a very fast team, explosive.”

“I think it's a very talented group of players,” he added. “They're explosive, fast on the defensive line, very athletic at linebacker. They have good corners, good safeties. Again, they have a good scheme. They're well-coached. They pursue the ball well. They tackle well. They're a very fast and aggressive group. I think that Thomas Dimitroff and his staff have done a great job of assembling a very talented football team.”

Players from Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley on the defensive front and Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford in the secondary are extremely productive players, but it’s the growth of the Falcons linebackers that really has the Patriots attention.

“[De'Vondre] Campbell’s a pretty good-sized guy,” Belichick said. “I mean, he’s got some length and runs well. [Deion] Jones is a little smaller in stature, very instinctive, obviously fast, quick, really does a good job of finding the ball, reads things quickly. [Duke] Riley plays in their three-linebacker defense and some of their nickel stuff with Campbell, but Jones pretty much never leaves the field.

“Look, they’re a one-gap defense and so there’s always one more guy than you have. However many you have, they always add one more in there, so the linebackers fill their gap and then they run well on perimeter plays.

“Again, defensively, they rely, I think, a lot on their ability to penetrate, to disrupt plays and have more people than you have, and those guys get to the ball. So, it could be [Grady] Jarrett, [Dontari] Poe – any of those guys could be disrupting the play – linebackers, but they’re quick and they’re hard to fit up on and just move out of there. They get off blocks well.”

The Patriots offensive line will certainly have their hands full, as will the ball carriers that needs to be aware that the Falcons are looking to strip the football at every given chance.

“They’re obviously a very disruptive defense,” McDaniels said. “They’re fast. They put a safety down near the box. [Keanu] Neal is going to be down there basically the entire game. They play with great effort, hustle. I mean, it’s hard to find a team that will play harder than this one.

“Historically, they’ve always talked about getting the ball and taking it off of people. They turned the ball over on us last year, and this is a team that certainly can do that if you’re not careful. You’ve got to be really good in terms of taking care of the football because that’s the hallmark of their defense. It always has been, and they’re physically tough, fundamentally sound, they play really fast, they’re a fast defense from front-to-back, they challenge you with plenty of man coverage, and they’ll mix zones in there, also, and then they have some different schemes that they try to throw at you in situational football that will certainly challenge your ability to communicate, protect and do those types of things well, too.”

The Falcons forced a pair of costly turnovers in the Super Bowl the last time these two teams played and unlike the Patriots, Atlanta’s improved their defensive performance over the offseason. I spoke with’s David Choate to get his insight on the Falcons defense.

“They absolutely have [taken a step forward in 2017], though they're committing a ton of unforced errors along the way,” Choate writes. “Penalties and a lack of turnovers have kept this from looking like a truly elite defense, but it's evident they're better than they were in the first half of 2016, when they were regularly allowing huge games for opposing offenses.

“Part of that is the emergence of De'Vondre Campbell, who went from a solid rookie to a terrifying, physical presence at linebacker this year. He'll get Gronk quite a bit Sunday night, and it's a credit to his play thus far that I think he may actually be able to hang on and keep Gronk from absolutely dominating.

“This is a team with a terrific secondary, too, and their defensive line has done a much better job of bringing pressure on balance. Grady Jarrett has been an absolute terror in the middle of this defensive line, and if he can be half as effective as he was in the Super Bowl, that's going to make for a tough day for Tom Brady.

“I'm not naive enough to think this defense will be able to shut down the Patriots' offense, but I think they'll have a handful of nice plays and are genuinely capable of getting a couple of stops. If they manage that, who knows?”

So the bottom line with the Falcons defense is that likes to penetrate and disrupt; they use their speed to fly all over the field; and they like to force a lot of turnovers. The Patriots needed 99 offensive plays to wear down the Falcons defense in the Super Bowl and it’s unlikely they’ll get that many chances on Sunday.

Can Tom Brady and the Patriots offense crack the Falcons defensive code? We’ll soon find out.