By ELITE Staff
Tale of the Tape
New England Patriots (-2) vs Seattle Seahawks 6:30 PM ET, February 1, 2015 (NBC)
U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
We are just writing this so we won’t get fined. For the last week the biggest game of the NFL season, and the most watched event on television, has been overshadowed by a controversy concerning deflated footballs. Rather than flood the internet with more Deflate-Gate stories, let’s take a look at the game to be played on Sunday.
Super Bowl XLIX features a matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. The Seahawks look to become the first team to repeat as champions since the Patriots last did so in 2005.
For New England, this marks its sixth Super Bowl appearance since 2002 and gives them a shot at winning their fourth title in that period.
On paper it looks like the Seahawks are the favorite in this matchup. They boast the NFL’s top defense, which ranked first in passing yards allowed and total defense.
Also, they rank third for rushing yards allowed per game. On the offensive side they possess the league’s most prolific rushing attack averaging 172.6 yards per game.
The Seahawks defense and running game has been crucial to their success all season. These areas helped Seattle survive a nail-biter in the NFC Championship against Green Bay. In that game, they held Green Bay to 306 total yards and only 171 yards through the air. Also, Marshawn Lynch carried the load on offense by running for 157 yards on 25 carries.
Another strong defensive performance will be crucial for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. When allowing more than 270 yards on defense, they are 5-4 this season. Also, stopping LeGarette Blount and the Patriots’ rushing attack is a huge factor in this game. All four of Seattle’s losses came when allowing over 100 yards on the ground.
They must stop Blount who is coming off a 148-yard outing against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. The Seahawks need a strong performance from their front seven. It is essential for linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright to make plays near the line of scrimmage to prevent Blount from getting to the second level.
If the ground game gets rolling, look for safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to play up and help stop the running attack.
Also, the Seahawks need a big game from Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson’s legs to beat the Patriots. The Patriots have a very good pass defense, and Wilson is coming off one of the worst passing performances of his career.
The ground game will be the Seahawks’ solution for keeping Darrelle Revis and the rest of the Patriots’ secondary from making plays. If they can find a way to get Lynch and Wilson running effectively they can keep the Patriots’ offense on the sideline and easily move down the field.
This will be easier said than done though as the New England defense ranks ninth in rushing yards allowed. The Seahawks must find a way to successfully run the ball or they will have a very long day on Sunday.
New England Patriots
New England comes into this matchup off a much better conference championship performance. They beat Indianapolis 45-7 in dominating fashion, allowing just 209 yards on defense. However, they have a much tougher challenge against the Seahawks.
The Patriots’ chances of winning the Super Bowl are predicated off Tom Brady and their ability to stop the run. New England ranks ninth in the NFL in passing yards, and in its two playoff games Brady managed to throw for 593 yards and six touchdowns.
Brady has his work cut out for him as he is facing the league’s best passing defense, but if anyone can beat the Legion of Boom it’s the man with three Super Bowl rings. He will rely on the underneath routes and tight end Rob Gronkowski to handle the Seahawks.
Gronkowski is probably the most difficult Patriots’ receiver to cover. The big tight end has given teams trouble all year catching 82 passes for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Also, he will have extra motivation after Seahawks’ cornerback Jeremy Lane said,
“I actually don’t think he’s that good.”
Gronkowski is a tough matchup for anyone, and he will be looking to show Seattle just how good he is on Sunday.
Brady will try to spread the ball to his other receivers on short passes. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell have been primary targets all year and their ability to get open against the Seahawks’ secondary will be crucial for Brady’s success.
While Wilson is most certainly a capable passer, the Patriots must make him beat him through the air. He struggled last week and their secondary has the ability to make big plays.
Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty can give Wilson problems in the passing game, but only if he is forced to throw the football. If the Seahawks have success on the ground, he will throw sparingly and prevent the secondary from creating turnovers.
New England Keys to the Game:
1) Patriots must put points on the board. Whether it be field goals or touchdowns, they can’t fall into the same trap the Packers did by getting complacent in the second half. Limit 3 and outs!
2) Keep Russell Wilson from scrambling . Wilson might be a better quarterback outside the pocket than in it. Keep Wilson confused and on a swivel. If he runs out, you can guarantee a big play.
3) Contain. Marshawn. Lynch.
Seattle Keys to the Game:
START THE GAME STRONG:
If the Seahawks are going to repeat as Super Bowl champions, coming out of the gate firing on all cylinders will be imperative. In last year’s game, they were able to jump out to a 2-0 lead on the very first play. The momentum never shifted back to the Broncos and the Seahawks ran away with the game.
However, in this year’s playoff they’ve struggled early, only scoring 14 points in the first half combined in their two games. Though they finished those games strong, it may be too late if they fall behind a very potent Patriots offense by too many scores.
LIMIT THE PATRIOTS RUN GAME, FIRST!!
Thought the majority of the focus has been about Russell Wilson vs. Tom Brady, the player that everyone should watch out for is LeGarrette Blount. Already the Patriots all-time leader in postseason rushing yards, Blount will be in line to receive a heavy workload early to make life easier for Tom Brady.
The Seahawks were ranked the 3rd best rushing defense during the regular season but have been vulnerable in their two postseason games giving up an average of about 134 yards per game. The last thing Seattle wants is Blount rushing for long yards that set up easy passes for Brady down the field.
Limiting the run will allow the Seattle secondary to play their brand of physical football, without that, it’ll be very difficult for them to win.
DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS MUST UPLIFT OFFENSE
As I mentioned in my first point, the Seattle offense has had struggles scoring points offensively, therefore, the defense and special teams will need to do their part to set them up for success. Another reference to last year’s Super Bowl where 16 of the 43 Seattle points came from defensive/kickoff scoring plays.
In this years playoffs, it was a Kam Chancellor interception return against Carolina and the fake field goal turned touchdown against Green Bay that aided the offense when it was struggling. It will be a 60-minute game and will take a true team effort from all involved if the repeat is in Seattle’s future.
Damian: SEA 27 NE 24
Kalyn: SEA 20 NE 17
Kenny: SEA 28 NE 24
Mariya: NE 24 SEA 17
I think the Patriots put enough pressure on Wilson to make a few mistakes. Blount may be the difference in the game.
Zack: NE 24 SEA 21
Even though Seattle looks better on paper, I’m going with the Patriots. I think the Patriots defense will make just enough plays, and Tom Brady will get it done in the clutch. I think LeGarrette Blount will play a huge role in this game and take some of the pressure off Brady.
This is a very tough pick, and by no means would I be surprised if the Seahawks won this game. Hopefully, we get to see a better Super Bowl than what we got last year.
Jared: NE 17 SEA 14
When two teams are as evenly matched as this, I usually revert to the old time tested formula of which coach/QB would I rather have.
Do I want Wilson, who for the most part stunk against Green Bay, and Pete Carroll? Or do I want Tom Brady, who provided is with a vintage 4th quarter comeback against Baltimore, and a motivated (and ticked off) Bill Belichick?
AJ: NE 35 SEA 28
Overall I think it will actually be a high scoring game. This is arguably the best Patriots team Tom Brady has ever had from top to bottom. I don’t think the Seahawks will be able to keep up with the number of points.
Tevin: NE 21 SEA 17
Can New England stop the run, and on defense make the Seahawks one-dimensional team who has to depend on Russell Wilson with not many receiving weapons? They do just enough to win.
Jamari: NE 31 SEA 20
This pains me to write. I don’t see how Brady’s method of attack is any different from Manning’s the past two times he faced Seattle. But looking at the tapes, he had success.
I don’t think a ball snaps over Brady’s head on the first play nor does he have Eric Decker who will freeze like a deer in headlights. Julian Edelman will dominate the middle of the field and win Co-MVP with Missy Elliot for performing with Katy Perry.