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Falcons have more in common with Pats than meets the eye

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Jan 26 (Reuters) - At first blush, perennial powerhouse New England Patriots seem in stark contrast to the upstart Atlanta Falcons team they will face in the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Houston.

But the Falcons, seeking their first NFL title, have more in common with the seasoned AFC champions than meets the eye, from the front office to their leadership under center.

Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his assistant Scott Pioli worked six seasons together with New England during the remarkable reign of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who will be playing in their seventh Super Bowl together.

Lessons learned have helped build a contender in Atlanta.

"I go back a long way with Tom (Dimitroff) when his dad was a scout for me with the (Cleveland) Browns and Tom was working in the organization when he was coming out of high school and into college," Belichick said in a conference call this week.

"He's done a very good job with the Falcons football team."

20 PHOTOS
Atlanta Falcons 2016 season (11-5 record)
See Gallery
Atlanta Falcons 2016 season (11-5 record)

Week 1: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

(Photo via Getty Images)

Wek 2: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Week 3: Falcons 45, Saints 32

(Photo by Tyler Kaufman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 4: Panthers 33, Falcons 48

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Week 5: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Week 6: Falcons 24, Seahawks 26

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

NFC Divisional Round: Seahawks 20, Falcons 36

(Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Week 7: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Week 8: Packers 32, Falcons 33

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Week 9: Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 11: Bye

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Week 10: Falcons 15, Eagles 24

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Week 12: Cardinals 19, Falcons 38

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Week 13: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Week 14: Falcons 42, Rams 14

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Week 15: 49ers 13, Falcons 41

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Week 17: Saints 32, Falcons 38

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Week 16: Falcons 33, Panthers 16

(Photo by Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFC Championship: Packers 21, Falcons 44

(Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

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Dimitroff served as the Patriots' national scout and director of college scouting from 2002 to 2007 before taking the Falcons job in 2008.

Three years ago, former Pats' personnel chief Pioli joined him in Atlanta after a stint as general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dimitroff's key decision with the Falcons may have come at the start when he selected quarterback Matt Ryan third overall in 2008.

Dimitroff said being around Brady underlined for him the importance of leadership and work ethic in quarterbacks, and Ryan had those, he said, in addition to physical similarities, the Monday Morning Quarterback website (mmqb.com) reported.

"Having had the opportunity to be around Tom, watching him, and marveling at him and how he handled himself, ad-libbing in the pocket was one of the things that really got my attention," Dimitroff said.

"When I started to watch Matt Ryan, it was a major similarity they have. They can create and ad-lib in the pocket before they throw ... the similarities sunk in for me on several levels."

Hiring Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as coach in 2015 helped him build the roster the right way, identifying the right players for his system, Dimitroff said about what has been a tenet of the Patriots' approach.

"When Dan came in, he was crystal clear about what he wanted and each of his assistant coaches were crystal clear on what they wanted, each position what to look for," Pioli said.

Ryan and Brady, eight years older at 39, have even struck up a connection.

"I'm always sending him texts over the course of the season and vice versa," Brady said. "I like him a lot as a person, as a player, as a leader."

20 PHOTOS
New England Patriots 2016 season (14-2 record)
See Gallery
New England Patriots 2016 season (14-2 record)

Week 1: Patriots 23, Cardinals 21

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Week 2: Dolphins 24, Patriots 31

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Week 3: Texans 0, Patriots 27

(Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Week 4: Bills 16, Patriots 0

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Week 5: Patriots 33, Browns 13

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Week 6: Bengals 17, Patriots 35

(Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Week 7: Patriots 27, Steelers 16

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Week 8: Patriots 41, Bills 25

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Week 9: Bye

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Week 10: Seahawks 31, Patriots 24

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Week 11: Patriots 30, 49ers 17

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Week 12: Patriots 22, Jets 17

(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Week 13: Rams 10, Patriots 26

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Week 14: Ravens 23, Patriots 30

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Week 15: Patriots 16, Broncos 3

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Week 16: Jets 3, Patriots 41

(Photo by David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Week 17: Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

(Photo by Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

AFC Divisional Round: Texans 16, Patriots 34

(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

AFC Championship: Steelers 17, Patriots 36

(Photo by James Lang-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

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Ryan, who in college studied game tapes of Brady, has even taken to work out with the same quarterback guru, Adam Dedeaux, used by the veteran.

"He's set the bar for longevity, aging well and playing at a really high level for a really long time," Ryan said.


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