Something’s Gotta Give
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We shall find out on Sunday.
The Patriots come into Century Link this Sunday boasting the league’s top offense in both points (33 per game) and yards (439.4 per game). This comes to no surprise with the human heart-throb Tom Brady behind center.
Yet this Patriots offense is different than the typical potent passing attack we are used to.
With a plethora of running backs headed by Stevan Ridley in the backfield, New England has the third-best rushing attack in the NFL – 165.4 yards per game- and a league-leading 10 touchdowns on the ground.
These kind of numbers haven’t been present in New England since the days of Corey Dillon (boo), and have caught the entire league off guard.
When this touchdown train enters Seattle, they will be matching up with the league’s top defense (god that feels good to type).
The Seahawks have given up a league-low 258.6 yards per game and are allowing only 14 points per game, second in the league. These numbers are far from inflated when you consider the offenses they have gone up against – Green Bay, Carolina, St. Louis (haha).
The Hawks’ D are the real deal, and they will have their hands full this Sunday.
Here is who needs to step up in order for the Seahawks to be victorious.
Stick to Square One
The formula for Seattle’s defense works like clockwork. Stop the run on first and second down, jamming the opposing wide-outs in man coverage, and then bring the pressure on third. It is a formula for success, considering the efficiency it has provided this season.
It may be tempting to throw several complex coverages and help over top against a Bill Belichick offense. I urge Pete Carroll to not fall into the trap that so many have already this season.
Their offense now feeds off of a prolific ground game. Seattle is great in run defense. Yes, Brady will find openings in our secondary. That is bound to happen. But if we shut down the run game, his opportunities for long drives will be greatly limited.
A huge reason this Patriots’ rushing attack is so efficient is their tight ends. Rob Gronkowski had a legendary season last year, and teams have adjusted.
Last season Gronk was averaging an outstanding 5.6 rec, 82.9 yards and 1.06 touchdowns per game. At the tight end position those numbers are unheard of.
This season, however, Gronk is averaging 4.6 rec, 59 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game. Not the same production, and the reason is defensive schemes.
Gronk was the leader of the Patriots receiving core last year, and took the world by storm with his enormous size and pretty lady friends, and defensive coordinators took notice. He is now the focus of defenses, constantly absorbing coverages from linebackers and defensive backs.
Taking these linebackers out of the box and onto Gronk opens up the running lanes for Ridley and co. Another genius maneuver by Belichick the Brain.
Aaron Hernandez is reportedly coming back this Sunday as well, so our linebackers are going to have their hands full.
Russ, Prepare to Throw
While our defense is like clockwork, our offense isn’t quite in sync. We have the league’s 7th ranked rushing attack with 140.2 yards per game – courtesy of beast mode – but our passing game is second to last.
Last week against Carolina, Russell Wilson grew. His numbers don’t jump off of the page, but his completion percentage was outstanding (19-25, 76%) and his interceptions were mostly bad luck coming off of tipped balls.
The offensive game plan is feed the beast, and management by Russ. This week may in fact turn into an up-tempo type of game if the Patriots get their offense going. If this happens, the ball is going to be put in Wilson’s hands to make plays. I have faith in the young QB.
Earn Your Paycheck Sidney
Over the first five weeks, the receiving corp has done little to impress. Granted they are working with a rookie quarterback in a run-first offense. But when the plays are necessary, the only guy coming up big has been Golden Tate (controversially might I add).
Sidney Rice was paid the big bucks to come into Seattle and be an elite receiver. His ability to stay on the field has been his catalyst thus far, but he has been healthy so far in his 2012 campaign. Healthy, but unimpressive.
So far he has 17 receptions for 199 yards and one score. We need more.
This week is the opportunity for Sidney to put his name back in the list of the NFL’s top receivers. Aside of Patriots’ CB Devin McCourty‘s surprising season, the New England’s secondary is porous.
They are 30th in the league in pass defense, and are tied for second to last with 12 touchdowns allowed through the air.
These are numbers that should get Rice pumped and ready for action. He needs to put on the burners, make big plays, and show the young Russell Wilson that he has a reliable weapon at his disposal.
Earl Thomas, Do What You Do
The Legion of Boom is the title given to the Seahawks’ secondary. Their prowess has now grown nation-wide, and are often thought of as the top group in the league. The leader of this outstanding secondary is all-pro safety Earl Thomas.
Earl has had a magnificent start to his career, earning pro bowl honors in his second season. His comparison is typically Ed Reed, the future Hall-of-Famer in the Ravens’ secondary.
Both have the ball-hawk mentality, seemingly always making plays in the passing game. And both have no care for their bodies, laying it all on the line every play in traffic.
Earl has faced elite quarterbacks so far in his career, such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo etc. He has yet to face Brady.
This the match up I am most excited about. Aside from Manning, Brady may be the hardest QB to read. His eyes are constantly down field, his ability to look-off defenders is unmatched, and his pump fake is very efficient.
Earl will be going up against – arguably – his biggest test so far as a professional.
Let the games begin.