Misdirection. That’s what you have to do against the Seattle Seahawks. The defensive line is as aggressive as they come, last week Aaron Rodgers drew them offsides a few times. They are always in attack mode, ready to jump off the snap of the ball. In fact, they study film and try to time it. Despite leading the league in offside penalties this season, the Seahawks are the best at beating offensive linemen to the punch.
Tom Brady won’t get a lot of different looks, as the Seahawks don’t really disguise much. They play sound defense and tackle well. Their pursuit of where the ball is going to go, well, they move as a unit and they swarm the player with the ball. The cornerbacks are going to press up at the line, and receivers are challenged to beat the five yards of contact to run a route. This throws off a quarterback’s timing. Richard Sherman is the best in the business for a reason, picking off Rodgers and Cam Newton, in both playoff games they have played up to this point. Earl Thomas is the ballhawk on the back end. These All-Pro defensive backs will have to shrug off injuries from the NFC Championship Game.
Misdirection. Safeties, Thomas and Kam Chancellor, give this defense the ability to play man coverage all across the board. The Legion of Boom is interchangeable, where as their safeties cover running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, and blitz. Most teams are happy to have a safety that can do one or two of those things well. If there’s a weakness, the Patriots and Seahawks will expose it.
The ground game of LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen doesn’t pop out at opponents on paper or film. Blount has given the Brady Bunch a pair of productive postseasons, with Vereen as the passing back. For some reason, Brady and Vereen don’t connect as much as they should on the wheel routes downfield, whether it results in a drop or overthrow. It is something that they test opposing linebackers with. The linebackers just might be the key to it all. The Patriots squeeze the best out of their players, but none of the receivers or backs are standouts in this league, and they’re going up against a defense full of playmakers. Rob Gronkowski is the best weapon that Brady has, but something tells me that they will struggle if the Seahawks double-team the best tight end in the game.
With a furious pass rush and an active secondary, Seattle comes into this game overmatching the offensive line. Moving Brady from his spot with smaller receivers that might struggle to get off the line of scrimmage, New England needs success on the ground more than ever before. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell have been solid as possession type receivers. LaFell is big, standing 6’2, but Edelman and Danny Amendola fall short of the 6-foot mark. Amendola’s activity increased in the postseason, as he was barely a factor all season long. Sherman is a rangy 6’3, something that Rodgers found out after throwing a pick in the endzone. Byron Maxwell has played at a high level on the other side, he stands at 6’1. Chancellor is the 6’3 enforcer across the middle, and although Thomas is 5’10, the best free safety in the league hits hard as hell.
Bump and run man coverage leaves scrambling room for an opposing quarterback, but Brady isn’t the guy that’s going to take advantage of that loophole. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are an elite pass-rushing tandem. Veteran Kevin Williams lines up over the guards with Tony McDaniel, a guy that’s been stepping up with less blocking attention. Coming back to the key to this game, the lineebackers. Bobby Wagner is one of the best middle linebackers. K.J. Wright is one of the best outside linebackers. Bruce Irvin excels with the ball in front of him, which is attacking the quarterback and sealing the edge against backs and tight ends in the flat. This is the fastest group in football, actually on all three levels of their defense.
Usually for the O-line, run blocking is an easier task than protecting the guy under center. Whether or not defenders hit the Blount, it doesn’t mean that the big back goes down without carrying you for some extra yards. Gronkowski is a monster and matchup nightmare at 6’6, he’s still taller and strong than anybody on the Seahawks that will cover him. The thing that favors Seattle is that he lines up next to the tackle. That gives the defensive end and an outside linebacker a chance to bump him off his route. When you think about it, Gronk will probably be covered by Chancellor, who is just waiting for him to get past the initial hits. By that time, Brady might be sacked, or on to his 2nd and 3rd options.
I’m really curious to see how the Patriots free up Gronkowski. I realize that “some” tight ends found success against this defense, and yes Gronkowski may very well get his usual stat line hovering over 80 yards, but that was only Antonio Gates and Mychal Rivera in the AFC West. When you glance back at those games, San Diego held off the Seahawks for a home win, and Oakland’s late comeback fell just short at home. It appears that the Patriots will be in this game throughout if Gronkowski is involved as usual.
The issue is the other guys. Can LaFell and Edelman create enough separation in a short amount of time? Will Amendola even be a factor? This matchup points to a Tim Wright citing in the big game. Formations with two tight ends should reign supreme, reminiscent of the dynamic duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Brady can work magic and make teammates look better, and Gronkowski is nearly matchup proof. The two key players for New England’s offense are Blount and Wright. Any success the receivers can find the better, just don’t expect it. I don’t like how the O-line and run game matchup against Seattle’s front seven, but New England will have to stick with a balanced gameplan to alleviate the pressure from Brady. They can’t afford to keep Gronkowski in to block because he’s the best passing target. Maybe Wright is the guy to help the line out. All in all, when it comes to the Seahawks defense lining across the Patriots offense on Super Bowl Sunday, the advantage goes to Seattle. The way I see it, for the Patriots to win their 4th Lombardi Trophy in the Bill Belichick era, Blount and Wright need to be the x-factors.