Atlanta Falcons edge defender Dwight Freeney is preparing to face the New England Patriots for the 15th time in his long career. Freeney has played the Patriots more than any other franchise in the NFL, excluding his divisional rivals in the AFC South. He and his 5-9 record against the Patriots has every right to hate New England as a franchise.
He just can’t.
“They're so consistent in what they do, year in and year out,” Freeney admit. “I think that's a testament to what they do day in and day out -- preparation. That's why they are so good is because they have a good foundation of how they do things. They don't make stuff up, they have their system and stick by it and they go through it day in and day out, and if you do that you're going to be more consistent at winning, and that's why they continue to make the playoffs and have these [Super Bowl] appearances."
Freeney has four career sacks against the Patriots, but just one in his past 10 games dating back to the 2005 season, but he still considers Patriots QB Tom Brady as one of the biggest rivals of his career.
“There are a lot of memories,” Freeney said about facing the Patriots. “There are a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones. The thing is, I try to hate the guy [Brady], but I can’t because he is a good guy. I know him personally off the field, too – he is a good dude. I guess it comes with the territory, just playing as long as I have been and as long as he has been.
“We have had a rivalry in the Colts versus the Patriots for years – it was like they were in our division since we played them twice a year, because we played them once in the regular season and once in the postseason. We knocked them out, they knocked us out, so it is kind of those things where you know it is going to be a battle. You know it is going to be a war.
“At the end, you have so much respect for them because of the fact that they are such a great franchise and they can continually make it to this moment year in and year out, even when they have changes on the team. They go through adversity throughout the years. Tom is not playing the first four games and they are still here. It is a testament to what they do around there.”
Freeney described the Patriots as “up there” with regards to the greatest dynasties in NFL history, noting the continued success in the face of free agency and increased competition. Freeney believes the Patriots consistency at quarterback and on the coaching staff has served as the cornerstone for the franchise.
During the Super Bowl, Freeney is expected to play a heavy amount of snaps opposite of Patriots LT Nate Solder. After almost an entire season’s worth of games against the Patriots, Freeney will have one more chance to take down his rival.