Super Bowl

Super Bowl 51: The team everyone loves to hate vs. the team that nobody really knows

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, and quarterback Tom Brady smile with the AFC trophy after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The New England Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, and quarterback Tom Brady smile with the AFC trophy after the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The New England Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. AP

Welcome to Super Bowl 51, where the New England Patriots look to make history.

The Atlanta Falcons? They’re looking to do something completely different.

“It would just be a great way of starting a franchise’s history,” Falcons center Alex Mack said a few days back. “To be able to be a part of that. … I’m just fired up. I just want to play the game.”

Wait — what?

The Falcons have been around since 1966. They’re the same age as the Dolphins, for goodness sake. They’ve played 784 games all time.

So perhaps Mack needs revision. A Falcons’ win Sunday would be a great way of changing a franchise’s history.

The Patriots, the NFL’s gold standard, are in the Super Bowl for the ninth time, seeking their fifth title.

But the Falcons? They have the same number as Super Bowl trophies in their headquarters as you have in your living room.

Zero.

“I’m really happy for the city of Atlanta, for sure,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I’ve been in Atlanta nine years, and I know that we have some unbelievable fans and great support in that city. So it has been a little while since we’ve been back here, but we’re all excited to be here.”

How long has it been? Bill Clinton was still in the White House the last (and only) time the Falcons made the Super Bowl.

Something to consider:

If you’re a 16-year-old Patriots fan, all you know is winning.

If you’re a 16-year-old Falcons fan, all you know is heartbreak.

Which explains why Super Bowl Week was the Patriots’ world, and the Falcons were simply living in it.

Even Ryan, who had a season for the ages, is a subplot and not the plot.

The Falcons have played 18 regular-season and playoff games this year. Ryan’s passer rating was over 100 in all but four of them. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and threw 31 more touchdowns than interceptions during the regular season.

“You know what’s so cool about his season is how hard he went for it,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “When you’re a really good player, to get to that next spot, that’s tough. There’s another ceiling you have to go through to break through to get there, and he put the work in. That’s why I’ve been so impressed by Matt. He’s the one that set it off for our offseason. He’s the one that organized the guys to get together before even OTAs came and then from that time, he has not backed off.”

Good stuff, right?

And yet the story lines this week? All about the Patriots.

A sampling:

▪ How awkward would it be if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has to present the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots, whom he’s twice punished for cheating?

▪ When will Patriots coach Bill Belichick, soon a senior citizen, retire?

▪ Will New England’s Tom Brady cement his place as the best quarterback ever with a win?

▪ Will Brady’s ill mother, Galynn, be at the game?

“It’s personal with my family and I’m just hoping everyone’s here on Sunday to share in a great experience,” Brady said. “But it’s just been a tough year. Every family goes through different things, and my family’s always been a great support system for me and, hopefully, we can make everyone happy on Sunday.”

It’s not possible to make everyone happy. Someone will lose Sunday.

Either the Patriots will taste rare defeat or Falcons fans will be crushed, once again.

Time to make some history.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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