New York (AFP) - New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday he was most impressed with the speed of Super Bowl opponent Atlanta, stressing fundamentals and communication between defenders are essential to shutting down the NFL's highest-scoring attack.
"Everybody they give the ball to on offense can score from 80 yards away. And defense, at every position, they are fast," Belichick said.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Devonta Freeman and wide receiver Julio Jones have sparked Atlanta to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999, with designs on their first-ever NFL crown.
"They force the defense to react and adjust to what they do more than any team we play," Belichick said. "They're going to have some looks we haven't seen before. The communication against this team, we have to stress on a lot of levels."
Belichick, 25-10 all-time in the playoffs with four Super Bowl titles as New England head coach, said he sees "no weakness" in Ryan's game.
The Falcons scored 33.8 points a game this season with 415.8 yards a game, 295 of them thanks to a Ryan-directed pass attack. Ryan threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns while Freeman ran for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns and Jones caught 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns.
New England will need a strong effort from cornerback Malcolm Butler, who will surrender height and reach edges to Jones but who made the heroic interception of Russell Wilson at the goal-line to secure the title for the Patriots two years ago.
And Jones could have something to prove. Belichick was quoted in the book "War Room" as saying the cost Atlanta paid to Cleveland to move up in the 2011 NFL Draft and get Jones, two first-round selections, was too steep for a receiver.
Belichick was singing the praises of Jones on Thursday.
"He's probably about as good as anyone in the league," Belichick said. "So it's not just his receiving skills, although they're very good. I think he's a complete football player. I know he's a tough kid, and a hard worker, and is great for their program. I'm sure that they're very happy he's on their team, because he does a good job in every area."