Can Ryan's upstart Falcons stop Brady's juggernaut Patriots?

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1 Can Ryan's upstart Falcons stop Brady's juggernaut Patriots? By Associated Press, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 827 Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) recovers a fumbled ball against the Green Bay Packers during the second half of the National Football Conference championship game in Atlanta, Georgia, January 22, The Falcons won to advance to the Super Bowl. AP Photo/John Bazemore A season that began with quarterback Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension will end with him in the Super Bowl, where his New England Patriots will take on quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. While much of the attention between now and the National Football League championship game February 5 in Houston, Texas, will be focused on Brady vs. Ryan, the truly key matchup could be Atlanta's score-at-will offense, which produced the most points during the regular season, against the unheralded defense of New England, which allowed the fewest. And these two teams are playing their best football at the most important time. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 1

2 American Football Conference champion New England has won 16 games and lost two this season. They have won nine games in a row and haven't even trailed since November 27. National Football Conference champion Atlanta won 13 games and lost five games this season. The team has won its past six in a row, scoring at least 33 points in each. "We'll enjoy this," Ryan said after earning his first Super Bowl trip in his ninth season. "But we've got some work to do." Will They Make It Five? Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick, will be seeking their and the Patriots' fifth Lombardi Trophy, the trophy given in the Super Bowl. It will also be the Patriots' second trophy in only three years. This will be the team's league-record ninth appearance in the Super Bowl, including titles in the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2015 editions. "This team showed a lot of mental toughness over the course of the year," Brady said. Meanwhile, the Falcons have never won the Super Bowl. This will be Atlanta's second trip to the big game. The team lost to Denver in The club has never had a quarterback quite as good as Ryan, though. The guy nicknamed "Matty Ice" went 27 for 38 for 392 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, and added a rushing touchdown to top it off, leading Atlanta past Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers Sunday in the NFC championship game. "We did exactly what we've been doing all year, and it feels really good," Ryan said after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least three touchdowns in four consecutive postseason games. "We'll be ready to go. That's for sure." Later Sunday, the 39-year-old Brady tied Hall of Famer Joe Montana's record with a ninth three-touchdown postseason game. Brady helped the Patriots beat Ben Roethlisberger for the AFC championship. Patriots Get Favorites' Role Oddsmakers didn't even wait for the second game to end. They bet that New England would win by 3 points over Atlanta. New England opened the season with a 3-1 record despite using two backup quarterbacks while playing those games without Brady. He went through a lengthy court battle in an unsuccessful bid to have his ban overturned for what became known as "Deflategate." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell oversees the rules. Goodell suspended Brady because the league said the Patriots intentionally under-inflated footballs in an AFC championship game victory two years ago. Footballs that have less air are said by some to be easier to throw and catch. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 2

3 During Sunday's game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, spectators mocked Goodell by chanting "Where is Roger?" He chose to attend the game in Atlanta instead. And as well as Brady played 32 for 42 for 384 yards, those three scores and zero interceptions it was the way New England's defense played that stood out. Atlanta Defense Makes Key Stops Right from the get-go, too: On Pittsburgh's first two drives, nine plays yielded a total of 26 yards. Then there was the stand late in the second quarter when the Steelers had first-andgoal at the 1-foot line and wound up settling for a field goal. And by game's end, the Patriots had forced two turnovers. New England ranked as number one in the NFL in points allowed per game at 15.6, and it gave up only yards per game, eighth-best. Most Valuable Player favorite Ryan, meanwhile, directed a unit orchestrated by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan that topped the league in scoring with 33.8 points per game and ranked second in yards, at per game. Shanahan, the son of two-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan, is expected to be hired after the season as San Francisco's new head coach. Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP and two-time league MVP, and the Patriots also own a pretty effective offense, even after losing star tight end Rob Gronkowski to an injury. New England ranked fourth in yards with yards per game and third in points with 27.6 points per game. Another thing these teams have in common is that neither hurts itself with turnovers: They tied for the fewest in the regular season with 11. That could be part of why oddsmakers are expecting a high-scoring game, with most setting the over-under at 58 points. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 3

4 Quiz 1 All four sentences below help make the claim that the Patriots have a strong defense. Which of them has the BEST piece of evidence to support the claim? And as well as Brady played 32 for 42 for 384 yards, those three scores and zero interceptions it was the way New England's defense played that stood out. Right from the get-go, too: On Pittsburgh's first two drives, nine plays yielded a total of 26 yards. New England ranked as number one in the NFL in points allowed per game at 15.6, and it gave up only yards per game, eighth-best. New England ranked fourth in yards with yards per game and third in points with 27.6 points per game. 2 According to the article, the Patriots are favored to beat the Falcons. Which paragraph from the article BEST supports the idea outlined above? While much of the attention between now and the National Football League championship game February 5 in Houston, Texas, will be focused on Brady vs. Ryan, the truly key matchup could be Atlanta's score-at-will offense, which produced the most points during the regular season, against the unheralded defense of New England, which allowed the fewest. American Football Conference champion New England has won 16 games and lost two this season. They have won nine games in a row and haven't even trailed since November 27. National Football Conference champion Atlanta won 13 games and lost five games this season. The team has won its past six in a row, scoring at least 33 points in each. Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick, will be seeking their and the Patriots' fifth Lombardi Trophy, the trophy given in the Super Bowl. It will also be the Patriots' second trophy in only three years. This will be the team's league-record ninth appearance in the Super Bowl, including titles in the 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2015 editions. New England opened the season with a 3-1 record despite using two backup quarterbacks while playing those games without Brady. He went through a lengthy court battle in an unsuccessful bid to have his ban overturned for what became known as "Deflategate." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell oversees the rules. Goodell suspended Brady because the league said the Patriots intentionally under-inflated footballs in an AFC championship game victory two years ago. Footballs that have less air are said by some to be easier to throw and catch. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 4

5 3 The central idea of the article is MOST developed by: discussing why quarterbacks are important to a team s success explaining how teams make it into the Super Bowl each year highlighting the varied strengths of two football teams citing statistics about two teams' past Super Bowl performances 4 Which of the following sentences would be MOST important to include in an objective summary of the article? The Falcons have scored more points than any other team this season, while the Patriots have one of the strongest defenses in the league. Even though the Atlanta Falcons have a very strong offense, the Patriots are overall a better team and will likely win this Super Bowl. Atlanta s quarterback Matt Ryan and New England's quarterback Tom Brady have broken league records for touchdowns this season. Although Tom Brady was suspended from four games for deflating footballs, he will participate in the upcoming Super Bowl. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 5

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