When the Patriots take on the Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, the stars will shine the brightest on the likes of Tom Brady, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Julian Edelman. One of the most important players in the game, for New England at least, will be the less recognizable Logan Ryan.
It is no secret that the Falcons high flying offense is built around MVP candidate Ryan and the All-World Jones. In games of this magnitude, it is often that a secondary player will get a chance to make the difference and for the Falcons that will be receiver Mohamed Sanu. A free agent signing from Cincinnati, the 6’2”, 210 pound Sanu has been an excellent compliment to Jones this season, totaling 59 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season. He also added nine receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta’s two playoff games.
When the Patriots line up against the Falcons offense, they will have two options for Sanu. Either put Ryan on him while Malcolm Butler covers Jones with safety help, or put Butler on Sanu and have Ryan cover Jones with the same safety help. Either way, Ryan’s play will be critical to the defense’s success. If Ryan can lock down Sanu or at least slow down Jones, it will allow the Patriots to be more aggressive up front in getting pressure on Ryan and slowing down the Falcons’ rushing attack. If he does not play well, we could see a repeat of Super Bowl XLIX when Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews torched the Patriots’ Kyle Arrington throughout the first half, including a touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter.
When speaking with Dirty Water Sports during training camp, Ryan emphasized how comfortable he was with the entire secondary coming back virtually intact from 2015. As a group, they will now face their toughest test of the season and Ryan will be underappreciated but important key.