January 27, 2017

Seattle's defense had taken charge, and the Seahawks led the 2015 Super Bowl by 10 points.

Then Tom Brady torched that unit in the fourth quarter - a unit coordinated by Dan Quinn.

Yes, the most memorable play in that game was Malcolm Butler's goal-line interception when the Seahawks appeared ready to successfully defend their title.

Now, though, with the matchup of the Falcons against the Patriots in this Super Bowl, the memory of Quinn's defense struggling in the clutch is vivid.

And Quinn doesn't exactly have the ''Legion of Boom'' on his side, although Atlanta's defense has shown staying power. It shut down his former team and then the potent Packers to get to the title match with New England.

Before Quinn begins figuring out how to figure out Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots, his first task is simply guiding the Falcons down a path they aren't familiar with.

Regardless of how that Super Bowl turned out two years back, at least Quinn has traveled this way twice before, including a romp over Denver in February 2014, when his D was too much for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

''For a lot of guys, playing in their first divisional game a couple weeks ago, and playing in their first NFC championship game, and all those experiences are new,'' Quinn said. ''You have to have awareness for those. And this experience is different, also. I want to fully recognize that.

''However, when we do get to the game, it's still going to be the game. There's a lot of hype that leads up to it. There's more media exposure that goes along with it. But our process of getting ready doesn't change.

''Our intent of how we're going to play doesn't change. The attitude and identity that we want to play with doesn't change. So those things are going to stay really consistent and really the same.''

Really consistent and really the same is what can be expected from the other side. No team or coaching staff is better at planning for a specific opponent than the Patriots. Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia offensive coordinator and Josh McDaniels will devise strategies that can rob Atlanta of its most dangerous options.

If that means shutting down All-Pro receiver Julio Jones, that's where New England will focus. If it means neutralizing NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr., that's also where the Patriots will concentrate efforts.

This is old hat for Belichick, in his record seventh Super Bowl as head coach (he's 4-2). The spotlight in this matchup will glare on Quinn, and not just because he is more personable and entertaining.

Just how will he handle the biggest challenge of his career?

Technically, he's already into it. Speaking of Brady's prolific offense - yes, Atlanta's was even more prolific in 2016, but the season's final game is an entirely different scenario - Quinn was spot-on.

''Number one, they're difficult to defend,'' he said. ''They use a variety of different formations, personnel groups. They've got a huge playbook from the pass game into the run game, the gap schemes, trap schemes and run game, quick game. So I would say it's offense that's well-versed. They have different ways to attack you.''

Quinn knows his defense must be doing just as much attacking. He need look no further back than the Patriots' rout of Pittsburgh last Sunday to see what happens when a team takes the conservative route.

Fortunately for the Falcons, Quinn, like mentor Pete Carroll, is often a turn-it-loose coach. Those units that helped carry Seattle to the top of the NFC and to a Lombardi Trophy were assertive, relentless and, well, downright nasty.

He needs for those traits to spill over into this Super Bowl.

Quinn also must make sure offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, in what appears to be his final game with Atlanta before taking over as head coach in San Francisco, attacks from the outset, too. Trying to outsmart the Patriots isn't the trick to winning. Outplaying them is.

While Quinn assesses those challenges, Belichick dryly explains what his coaches can use from two years ago.

''Yeah, sure, they have some of their own characteristics and of course the players are different, so that makes it different. But schematically there is quite a bit of carry-over,'' Belichick said of Seahawks-Falcons similarities.

''I think just kind of at first glance it might be a little more pressure from Atlanta than Seattle ran, but you know, Seattle did some of it, too.

''I think overall the schemes are very similar, so the players that you can relate to those schemes are. Both teams have them: (Kam) Chancellor and (Keanu) Neal,'' Belichick said of the big-hitting safeties for Seattle and Atlanta.

''Go right down the line. They're similar. They play a similar position in a similar defense, so that's the player. I'm not saying their skills are the same, but that's what they do.''

No one is saying the skills of the head coaches are the same right now, at least judging by the resumes. But one thing to remember about Dan Quinn is that he won't back off.

And that's the best way to take on New England.

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