Patriots Preview - Sleepless in Seattle, for which team?
Friday, October 12, 2012
It's rare that Tom Brady has to quarterback his team in an unfamiliar venue.
In fact, in his previous 11+ seasons under center, there are only two stadiums that he has not visited as a Patriots' QB - San Francisco's Candlestick Park, and Seattle's CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks home field is considered to be one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, with the fans (and the stadium structure itself, with plenty of metal bleachers) contributing to a real home team advantage. Since the opening season of 2002, Seattle is 53-29 at home, 2-0 this season. Conversely, they're 31-53 away from the friendly confines during that time.
Brady will get his formal introduction this Sunday.
"I think anytime you go on the road, you expect it to be loud," Brady said this week. "We practice with that. I know this is a very...(the stadium) gets some attention around the league for how loud it is. I'm actually excited to get out there and play in a place I've never played."
Managing the crowd noise will certainly be a key to success for the Patriots - as it is for any team traveling into Seattle. But it won't be noise alone that gets their attention. The Seahawks defense, statistically speaking, is one of the best in the NFL through the first five weeks of the season. They're #1 in yards against, allowing just 258 yards per game to their opponents; #2 in scoring defense (behind San Francisco), allowing just 14 points per game. They're also 3rd in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 66 yards per game on the ground.
New England's ground game has run for almost unprecedented numbers the past two weeks in wins over Buffalo and Denver, averaging almost 250 yards rushing. The back-to-back totals are the highest in two straight games for the Pats' offense since 1978. It seems Sunday could feature "strength vs. strength." Add to the mix Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, who was Bill Belichick's predecessor in New England from 1997-99 and is considered one of the top defensive coaches in the game...and Seahawks rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin, who has 4-and-a-half sacks and isn't even a full-time player. Yet.
Offensively, Seattle is led by rookie QB Russell Wilson, who put up great collegiate numbers at North Carolina State and Wisconsin...and former Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch. But they don't score a lot of points, instead letting the defense do much of their talking.
And the fans will apparently also do their fair share, come Sunday.
Step on the Gas
It may not be quite as often as was done against Denver, but don't be surprised to see the Patriots come out - especially early - in a hurry-up, no-huddle offense against the Seahawks in an effort to take some of the crowd effect out of play. With their big defensive backs and stout front line able to put pressure on an offense, Seattle probably feels like they've got a physical match-up to their liking against NE receivers and backs...so watch the Patriots look to the middle and attack the linebackers, where the Seahawks may be vulnerable.
Defend the Field
Seattle's offense is anything but dynamic. And usually, young quarterbacks don't fare well against a Bill Belichick defense. So, stay the course. Give Russell Wilson looks he won't recognize, and let Chandler Jones & Company fire at will. Consider playing eight-in-the-box (up closer to the line of scrimmage) to keep Lynch in check and make Wilson beat you deep. But...be careful with that fire, scarecrow.
Pete Carroll certainly has a reputation for being a rah-rah guy. It didn't work in New England, but it seems to be catching on in the Pacific Northwest...largely because he's got assistants who can play the "bad guy" roles that he didn't have here. Carroll is a good coach, and may be a great defensive coach. He saw plenty of up-tempo, no-huddle looks from the likes of the Oregon Ducks while at USC in college ball, so the Patriots won't throw anything at him he hasn't seen. Execute. Limit mistakes. And act like one of the NFL's best teams, on the road.