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February 1st, 2015 · No Comments

6:30 PM, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2015

The football season is almost over folks. But don’t be “deflated”, because the big game is around the corner, and when it’s over we will finally hear more from Marshawn Lynch than “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”.

This game features 2 teams who were virtually counted out early in the season, only to rebound and prove everyone, including Yours Truly, dead wrong. Brady still has it, and the Hawks after trading away Percy Harvin were not giving up on their season. In fact, both of these teams won an astounding, combined 19 of their last 21 games. So both teams are hot, both have imposing defenses with shut-down corners, both have heady QB’s, and both are well-coached. What will give come Sunday?

Patriots’ Offense vs Seahawks’ Defense:

It’s 3-time SB winning-QB Terrific Tom vs the feared Legion of Boom. Statistically, the Seattle run-defense is 3rd in the league since the first week in November, while the Pats’ Run-Offense is 12th during that time. The Pats’ pass-offense is 9th overall, while the Hawk’s pass-defense is the league’s 1st-ranked unit. So, statistically, there is a definite and quantifiable edge favoring Seattle.

A look at the individual matchups does little to change this perspective. The Pats’ WR’s consisting of J.Edelman, D.Amendola and B.Lafell will be facing All-World Shut-Down CB R.Sherman (loquacious as he may be) and underrated “other” Corner B.Maxwell. The tale of the Playoff tape is a bit misleading if we look at the success of the New England wide-outs. Both the Ravens and the Colts’ pass-defenses were in the bottom 8 of the league when NE faced them in January. Now NE is up vs the number 1 unit, with 2 safeties in Cam Chancelor and Earl Thomas, who are inarguably the best 1-2 punch around (and punch they will). This spells big trouble for Pats’ All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski, who will be force-fed the ball at various times.

The Hawks are 7th in the league in sacks, led by DE Cliff Avril, and their front 7 is geared to move Brady “off his spot” much like they did Peyton Manning in SB 48 (and much like the Giants did to Brady 2x in the Big Show). Don’t expect much from RB L.Blount either as his playoff prowess came only against the lowly Cots’ run-D. The Seattle defensive front, anchored by play-making LB B.Wagner. is a ferocious group, and every bit as good as the LOB.

Overall, Pete Carrol and DC Quinn, will design schemes to pressure Brady with or without blitzing. They will be able to take chances with shooting-gap LB’s due to their ability to take out Gronk with Cam, and either of the Pats’ WR’s with Sherman and Maxwell, with deep help provided by FS Thomas. Keep in mind that the only TD thrown by Aaron Rodgers in last week’s title game was on a scramble. Brady is a pocket passer, and does not buy the time needed to place pressure on the LOB. Expect a very long day for Brady and Co.

Seahawks’ Offense vs Patriots Defense:
Since the start of November, the Hawks’ run-offense is No. 1 in the NFL, while the Pats’ run-D is No. 2 during that span. Meanwhile, the SEA pass-offense is No. 20 the last 3 months while the NE pass-defense is #29. However, the latter is not a true indicator of the ability of the Patriots to stop the pass in SB 49; rather, the individual matchups and ability to stay true to what Darth Belichik plans to do will be key.

The offense of the Seahawks filters mainly through 2 players: RB-Lynch, aka “Beast-Mode” and QB-Wilson. Wilson had a very poor 3+ quarters in the NFC title game. Don’t expect him to throw for another 4 picks and account for 5 total turnovers in conditions completely inapposite to the rainy, slippery atmosphere which prevailed the last time he played.

Both of Seattle’s aforementioned players’ success will be dictated by the effectiveness of the Darth Belichik game plan and the defensive line / linebackers’ execution of that plan. We all know that star CB Darell Revis and B.Browner (last year on Seattle) are as “shut-down” as corners can be. We all expect both players to single-cover and blanket the Hawks’ primary WRs, Baldwin and Kearse, who have recently played well with the proverbial chip on their respective shoulders. But that expectation is based on “primary route running”, and does not account for Wilson’s ability to extend plays.

Enter the Belichik scheme: Wilson runs the “read-option” which places pressure on the defense to take away either the QB running outside or the RB inside the Tackle-box. The Pats’ defense will gear itself to define the read and defend the runner. This means forcing Wilson to hand off to Lynch based on the personnel placed to stop the outside run off Wilson’s instinctive read of that defensive look. The key here will be whether the Pats’ front-7-plus, who allow 2.5 yards-per-carry this season when re-directing runners to the inside, will be able to stop Beast-Mode. This will be a tall order as Lynch is not a typical RB. He breaks tackles at will, and uses his extraordinary vision to cut backside into areas not occupied by pursuit. Even Belichik’s disciplined defense will occasionally break down and succumb to these deadly cutbacks and physical style preceding Marshawn’s well-deserved nickname.

Likewise, the effectiveness of Seattle’s pass offense will depend on New England’s ability, or lack thereof, to defend against Wilson’s structured improvisational plays. This is an oxymoron for sure, but despite the counter-intuition underlying that phrase, history has shown that QB Wilson is a master of calling plays where he eludes pursuit and extends the time in which he has to locate an open receiver.

The Pats know that Wilson is prone to do such, and thus will not blitz, but rather place a “spy” on him. The question then will be whether Revis, Browner or the other DB’s, either in base or nickel/dime packages, will be able to prevent Baldwin, Kearse and TE Luke Wilson from extending their patterns or run multiple routes against man-coverage in a single play. If QB-Wilson is able to avert pressure to buy this additional route-running time, then expect limited, but sure-fire big plays against a Belichik defense geared to “take away” a limited number of primary options.


I expect a low-scoring, defensive battle of wits, including crucial and well-timed in-game adjustments by 2 guru-like head coaches whom are each destined for HOF-status. Seattle will stop the run and pressure Brady on obvious passing downs. New England will not be able to effectively contain RB Lynch at the expense of attempting to limit R.Wilson’s “extending” of plays. Super Bowl 49 will be won by the team which maximizes its opportunities in the “red zone” and commits less mental errors. In the end, I expect Seattle to do this more often than New England, and as a result, repeat as world champions. Final Score: Seahawks 20, Patriots 16.

(*Spread and O/U line are as of Friday, Jan. 30)

Related posts:

  1. Are you ready for Super Bowl Sunday?
  2. Super Bowl 45 – Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Championship Sunday Predictions
  5. NFL Playoffs – The Games Start Today

Tags: Cool Topics · Eric Miller · Sports

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