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SBLI to Feature Top-Notch QB Matchup

There is more work to be done. The Falcons are using this week to begin focusing on facing the New England Patriots on February 5 in Super Bowl LI.

The first half-century of Super Bowls featured at lot of exciting quarterback matchups. The QB battle in SB LI, however, might be the best we've ever seen from a pure production standpoint.

When Matt Ryan and Tom Brady take the field on Feb. 5, SB LI will feature the highest combined regular-season passer rating (114.9) and TD-INT ratio (66 TD, 9 INT) by opposing signal-callers in any Super Bowl, according to NFL Research.

"Tom's had an unbelievable year, played extremely well and extremely efficient. A lot of touchdowns, very few turnovers. He's just been playing really good football," Ryan said Wednesday. "He's been that way for a long time. He's been consistent throughout his career. He's such a great player, such a great competitor."

At the age of 39, Brady had one of the best regular seasons of his life. In 12 games, he completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. His 112.2 passer rating was the second-best mark of his career and second-best in the league, behind only Ryan's 117.1.

Brady has been relatively sharp in the postseason, as well, going 50-for-80 for 671 yards, five TDs and two INTs.

Defending such an efficient player won't be easy, and few players know how difficult that task is more than Dwight Freeney. Atlanta's veteran pass rusher, a Syracuse alum, has been going against the former Michigan Wolverine since the two were in college. They've battled 13 times as professionals; per ESPN Stats & Information, Freeney has sacked Brady on four occasions in the NFL.

"I've probably seen Tom Brady more than probably anybody in the league, which is funny we're going against him," Freeney said. "He can make any throw. I think the biggest thing is his calmness in the pocket. His pocket presence is very good. He doesn't get rattled too often. He recognizes where the blitz is coming and what he needs to do prior to the ball being snapped as well as most. It's going to be a challenge."

The Patriots likely feel the same way about defending Ryan, who, according to Freeney, has all the tools of the great quarterbacks he's been around. In 16 regular-season games, Atlanta's completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Ryan has improved in the playoffs, going 53-for-75 for 730 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. Just six other QBs have notched seven-plus TDs and zero INTs in a playoff run, and they all won Super Bowls.

Ryan's numbers have made him one of Brady's leading challengers for Most Valuable Player. The Patriots captain said earlier in the month that "Matt has had an incredible year. I think he is as deserving [of the MVP award] as anybody."

New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been impressed with the Boston College product, too, and offered an assessment similar to Freeney's thoughts on Brady.

"(Ryan) does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly. And he moves on to the next play very quickly in that kind of methodical rhythm of an offense that needs it,"  he said. "He's got a tremendous arm, so he can throw short, he can throw deep, inside, he can throw outside. He can make all the throws."

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