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Super Bowl LI: Devonta Freeman undaunted by Falcons’ underdog status

Atlanta Falcons' Devonta Freeman answers questions during opening

Atlanta Falcons' Devonta Freeman answers questions during opening night for Super Bowl LI at Minute Maid Park Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in Houston. Photo Credit: AP / Charlie Riedel

HOUSTON — You don’t have to tell Devonta Freeman that the New England Patriots are the favorites in Super Bowl LI. The Atlanta Falcons running back is used to not owning the spotlight. But he has plenty of confidence in himself and his teammates.

“I know I’m the underdog, but I don’t walk around like an underdog,” Freeman said during Super Bowl Media Night at Minute Maid Park on Monday. “I walk around with a chip on my shoulder, but I don’t think about that stuff. I just think about X’s and O’s and trying to make plays.”

And he’s made lots of them since being drafted in the fourth round out of Florida State in 2014. Freeman, 24, has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of the past two seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year. He’s paired with Tevin Coleman, who recorded 941 yards from scrimmage plus 11 total touchdowns.

Super Bowl LI will pit the Falcons’ high-octane offense against New England’s stingy defense, which allowed the fewest points in the league. But Freeman remains confident in Atlanta’s chances. He reiterated his belief that opponents have to “pick your poison” when facing their loaded lineup.

“I think we have a lot of guys,” said Freeman, who on Thursday told ProFootballTalk.com that “we can do whatever we want” with their multiple weapons.

“I feel like we do a lot of great things. We’re going to be prepared. It’s going to be a good challenge . . . You know why it’s so hard for running backs to get open vs. our defense? Because you’ve got two of the best running backs in the NFL that’s on one team, who our linebackers have to face and compete with every single day. So our linebackers, they can run, they can catch, they’re not stiff. Our whole team is just versatile.”

Though the Falcons are the underdogs here, Freeman doesn’t feel threatened by the aura of the Patriots or overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment.

“The both of us are here for a reason,” he said. “There are 32 teams in the NFL and only two teams make it to the Super Bowl every year. Somebody’s gotta lose. So I feel like we don’t feel disrespected. We don’t feel confident. Whatever situation we go into, we’re just excited and we compete. It’s all competing.”

New York Sports