FOXBOROUGH — New England’s Tommy Kelly doesn’t expect Atlanta to run the ball that much Sunday night.
The Patriots defensive tackle is so certain the Falcons will primarily pass, he’s focusing solely on quarterback Matt Ryan.
“That’s their offense,” Kelly said Friday. “You got a top-five quarterback, two big-time receivers, Hall of Fame tight end, they’re going to throw the ball.
“Me personally, I’m playing pass. I’m defending the run on the way to the quarterback,” he added with a chuckle. “I’m going to put all my eggs into that basket thinking they’re going to throw the ball.”
With Ryan under center, there’s no reason to believe Kelly is wrong, either.
Now in his sixth season, Ryan has developed into one of the game’s premier passers, due in part to the stockpile of receivers he has to choose from. Between deep threat receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, and perennial Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, Ryan is a threat to throw a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
He is one of seven quarterbacks this season to average more than 300 yards passing per game, a tall task even for New England’s sixth-ranked passing defense.
Kelly, who faced Ryan last year while playing for the Oakland Raiders, grouped him with some of the league’s elite signal callers.
“Whoever is the best, he’s up there with them, with Tom (Brady) and Peyton (Manning) and Philip Rivers, Drew Brees,” he said. “He’s up there — top five, top 10.
“The whole offense runs through him. The game’s on the line, he’s going to have the ball in his hands. So, we’ve got to try to get him off the spot and try to make him make some hurried decisions.”