@TSFSports Super Bowl XLIX Pick: The Patriots Are Out to Defeat the Seahawks, Critics and Father Time
New England’s self-proclaimed “Baller” faces Seattle’s defensive Shot Caller.
We’ve listened to how the New England Patriots are corrupt as an organization and the Seattle Seahawks are annoying narcissists for two weeks. One of the best Super Bowl match-ups in recent memory has become a media-driven carnival, but the tents are now lowered and the lights have dimmed. It’s time to talk X’s and O’s.
Super Bowl XLIX: Sunday February 1, 2015: Kickoff is at 6:30 pm
Tom Brady faces a tougher, more aggressive Seattle Seahawks defense than he did in their 2012 meeting. In 15 seasons, Brady has faced his share of great defenses, but none of this magnitude has stood between him and the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The trio of LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen give the Patriots offense and effective running and short passing game unmatched by most teams. Blount and Gray are bruisers, while Vereen is capable of getting outside of the tackles and creating mismatches in the passing game. One statistic which cannot be overlooked is this trio has not fumbled through 302 combined touches.
With the Seahawks looking to neutralize tight end Rob Gronkowski as much as humanly possible, the door is open for wideouts Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. Edelman — who led the team with 92 receptions — could be Brady’s primary target for a good part of this game. Don’t be surprised if there is a reverse of gadget play involving the six-foot (that’s being generous) receiver who has a touchdown pass this postseason. If there is a downside to Edelman’s game it’s his five fumbles this season, best believe the Seahawlks secondary is aware of this. LaFell will have to find a way to gain separation from Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, occasionally lining up Edelman and LaFell on the same side is an option. Opportunities to beat the Seahawks deep will be rare so yards after the catch are vital. Rob Gronkowski is going to be covered by Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and everyone in between, Brady is going to have to check his reads in case Gronkowski is thrown off his route and the pocket gets smaller. Danny Amendola will get his chance to make an impact on this game at wide receiver and in the Pats return game. Seattle safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas can be in coverage one play and in Brady’s face the next — they must be accounted for.
Eleven-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork is the most important player on the Patriots defense for his particular game. If Wilfork can disrupt any of the Seahawks blocking schemes, he not only causes problems for Marshawn Lynch, he also throws of runs designed for Russell Wilson. It’s possible that Wilfork — who has played every game since returning from a torn Achilles last season — could be playing in his last game. The big fella will have plenty of help as the Patriots will stack the box to smother the Seahawks ground attack. Donta’ Hightower and Jamie Collins along with defensive end Chandler Jones will be asked to pinch the edges and bring everything to the inside. Akeem Akers is the man responsible for keeping Wilson from running wild. Corners Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis will be asked to make Seattle receivers Doug Baldwin and Jerome Kearse as pedestrian as possible. Ricardo Lockette is a third receiver who can get deep and has good size. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty must be at the best against the run.
“Will” when referenced in sports has become cliché’, but for the Seattle Seahawks it’s a culture, a way of life. Should the Seahawks be viewing the Super Bowl instead of participating? Depends on who you ask. Down twelve points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation of a game full of self-inflicted miscues? Probably not. Take those same circumstances and place them at the feet of a champion and you see how the Seahawks got to where they are.
If Russell Wilson plays anywhere close to the way he did for the first 55 minutes of the NFC Championship there will be no historic comeback. Wilson will have his work cut out for him as the Patriots will key on Marshawn Lynch and dare Wilson and his receivers to beat them. There’s no way to explain how Lynch does what he does, the one word which comes to mind is superhuman. Just when you think he’s made his last great run, he literally takes your breath away with another bludgeoning run. Lynch and Wilson have the luxury of playing with an offensive line which averages 311 lbs. per man. Expect 5-7 receptions for Lynch who can not afford to just be a ball carrier in this contest. Backup Robert Turbin runs just as hard as Lynch and will get his share of touches. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin has grown more vocal as the postseason has gone on, most recently lashing out at Deion Sanders, who implied the Seahawks receiving corps wasn’t good enough. Wilson, Baldwin and Jerome Kearse must be in sync from the start, dropped balls on third down and breaking off routes cannot be the norm against the Patriots. Ricardo Lockette has good size and speed to get deep into New England’s coverage. Don’t be surprised to see tight end Luke Willson grab 8-10 balls.
The Seahawks defense is facing one of the NFL’s most tactful coaches in Bill Belichick. The Patriots offense makes up for its lack of star power with schemes that feed off personnel mismatches. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have to get up field and in Brady’s face regularly — an occasional ride to the turf can’t hurt either. The Seahawks front four also has to deal with LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray, who are looking to pound the middle. Bobby Wagner will be locked in on Shane Vereen when he’s on the field. The Seahawks might have some difficulty when the Patriots have Gronkowski and Vereen on the field in passing situations. Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman will have to deal with a solid Patriots trio in Amendola, Edelman and LaFell. Safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are capable of coverage against any of the Patriots receivers, including Gronkowski. They have to be careful not to allow Vereen to sneak behind coverage.
Prediction: Once you get past Deflate Gate and the media prodding of Marshawn Lynch, this shapes up to be a potentially great game. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are old friends who will put their acquaintance aside to pursue the game’s greatest prize. The Seahawks are looking to define themselves the way the Pittsburgh Steelers did in the 1970’s — with a dominant defense and a power run game as the hallmark of the offense. The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl after disappointments in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. It’s not a stretch to believe this could be the last run for Brady and Belichick as they look to end all speculation while solidifying their legacies in one fell swoop. This game has a Joe Namath/Johnny Unitas feel as Russell Wilson is looking to become the face of the league and Tom Brady is looking for his fourth Super Bowl victory to cement himself among the game’s immortals.
The public wants the Patriots, accused as cheaters to get what’s coming to them. The media wants Marshawn Lynch to speak and prefers Richard Sherman to shut up. The former will happen, the latter, not so much.
Seahawks 27 – Patriots 24