The New England Patriots have gone 25 straight games without allowing a 95 yard rusher. An incredible stat, it shows how determined the Patriots are to not allowing teams that run the ball to defeat them. Going up against backs like Le’Veon Bell, Lesean McCoy, Jay Ajayi, and Lamar Miller and not allowing them to go over 95 yards is remarkable. A big part of this has been the outstanding play from defensive tackle Alan Branch. Picked up midway through the 2014 season, Branch has been just what the Patriots have need in replacing long-time starter Vince Wilfork. The Patriots allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL during the 2016 season.
Branch played just over 60% of defensive snaps this season, and standing at 6’6 350 pounds, he is truly a monster. Branch will go up against another monster on Sunday, with Falcons center Alex Mack standing in his way. This will be one of the more entertaining matchups on Sunday.
Atlanta running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman gave the Falcons the fifth most total team rushing yards in the NFL this season. Freeman had over 1,000 on the ground while Coleman had just over 500 yards. Not only do they hurt you running the ball, they will kill you in the passing game.
The rush defense has been what the Patriots defense has done best all season, and there is no sign of that changing Sunday. However, coincidentally, their greatest test meets them in a game that will change lives. Legacies will be cemented, Branch and the Patriots have the chance to finish the season with a Lombardi trophy, if they can slow down the high powered rushing attack.