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Here is the perfect Super Bowl LI game plan for the New England Patriots

The Patriots offense revolves around Tom Brady and the passing game, but LeGarrette Blount provides New England with a runner that is difficult to stop. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots have appeared in eight Super Bowls, six since Bill Belichick became the team’s head coach in 2000. But to get Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady a ring for the thumb, they are going to have to beat the Atlanta Falcons, the league’s top offense.

It won’t be easy, but if the Patriots have their way, this is how they’ll see Super Bowl LI shake out. This is their perfect game plan:

Lean on LeGarrette Blount

The Patriots offense revolves around Brady and the passing game, but LeGarrette Blount provides New England with a runner that is difficult to stop.

Here is the perfect Super Bowl LI game plan for the Atlanta Falcons

Blount finished the regular season with 1,161 rushing yards and led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns. His most efficient runs were straight up the middle (5.1 yards per carry) but he showed he could bust through at almost any time with runs of 40 or more yards behind the left guard, to the right of center and outside of the right tackle. Three of his runs of 20 yards or more were against eight-plus defenders in the box and almost two-thirds of his yards per carry (2.5 out of 3.9) occurred after contact. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game it took seven, yes seven, defenders to finally get him to the ground . . . after he ran for 18 yards.

Atlanta, meanwhile, stopped just an average amount of runs at or behind the line of scrimmage (19 percent) with only defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who was third on the team in stops (23), providing any sort of resistance. Once runners get beyond the line of scrimmage, it gets worse. The linebackers allowed 1.29 additional yards on carries that reached the second level of the defense, the seventh-most in the NFL.

Beyond the fact that Blount has been effective and the Falcons defensive front line has not, keeping the clock running and the ball away from Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense will be a critical element.

Get the ball to Julian Edelman

Chris Hogan had a breakout performance in the AFC Championship Game, catching nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but Edelman is the most dependable wideout on the roster.

The play-by-play path to Super Bowl LI for the Falcons and Patriots

He caught 98 of 159 targets during the regular season and has hauled in 16 of 23 passes during the playoffs. Including the postseason, no Patriots receiver has more yards per route run this season.

What also makes Edelman the most important Patriots receiver in the Super Bowl is his “possession” role, helping New England to chew up small chunks of yardage over the course of a drive and, again, keeping the clock rolling. His passer rating on passes down the middle of the field (100.9) was higher than it was on passes to the outside (89.1) and only two receivers — Odell Beckham Jr. (24) and Dennis Pitta (21) — had more first downs on short routes over the middle than Edelman (20).

Make Atlanta one-dimensional by stopping the run

Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who helped the Buccaneers beat the Falcons in September, told Conor Orr of NFL.com that the key to stopping the Falcons was to make them one-dimensional and force them to pass.

“Matty Ice is Matty Ice, but if you make it to where he’s one-dimensional, where Matt Ryan has to beat you by himself, that’s your only shot,” McCoy said. “But if you give them a run-pass option, you’re going to have a long day.”

Three of Atlanta’s five losses were when the team was held below 60 yards rushing and they became a more pass-reliant team, as most teams are when they are trailing on the scoreboard.

“We stopped the run [in the first matchup],” McCoy added. “That’s all we did. Once we did that, everything changed.”

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The Patriots are 5-0 this year, including the playoffs, when they hold an opponent to 60 yards or fewer on the ground. The key will be how well New England can control the line of scrimmage. During the regular season they had the fourth-best run-stopping unit in the NFL per Football Outsiders but struggled to stop rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage (17 percent, 21st in the NFL) and surrendered 1.03 second-level yards (between 5 and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage) per carry.

“Expect defensive tackles Alan Branch and Malcom Brown to line up over either Falcons guard and follow this specific Belichick instruction: Push the line of scrimmage back  — run or pass,” Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi wrote at The Ringer. “No swim moves, no spins. Just pure power straight on, the same way the [New York] Giants disrupted Tom Brady’s line of scrimmage nine years ago in [Super Bowl XLII].”

Brown has been one of the better run-stuffing defensive tackles, finishing the regular season at No. 13 per PFF, and Branch was even better at No. 11, drawing high praise from Belichick for his ability to use his size and strength to keep rushers from making big gains.

“[G]uys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is — I mean they don’t grow on trees,” Belichick said.

If the Patriots can accomplish those three factors — control the clock with Blount, move the chains with Edelman and make the Falcons one-dimensional by taking away the run — New England should emerge victorious. Admittedly that’s a big a challenge, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goal.

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