It’s been hard this week not to develop quite the little crush on Seattle’s defense, and I’m excited to see how the Patriots offense responds to the challenge. The Seahawks do all the things that have given our offense fits over the last few years, and in a difficult environment it should be very interesting to see how our offense responds.
Here are our five keys for the Pats to get a win in Seattle.
1. Lloyd beating Sherman/Browner - One of the things that is so entertaining to watch with the Hawks, which is foreign to Pats fans in recent years, is their secondary. They’re all long and fast, and force turnovers just like the Pats do. The Seahawks like to play press man coverage, a technique that has worked in the past to disrupt Brady’s timing, especially on short routes. The thing about man is that if you can isolate someone in coverage it can make big plays possible. Brandon Lloyd should see plenty of balls thrown his way if he’s able to win at the line of scrimmage, something that you want to see out of your X-receiver.
2. Slow spread - I don’t think we’ll see a lot of hurry-up this week, but I do think we’ll see plenty of Brady in shotgun, spreading the field and choosing his best match-up. Communication in an environment like Seattle is tough enough as it is without trying to yell across the field, even with the vaunted one word play calls. The Pats can take their time, and find the match-up they like and exploit. But the key to making sure they can run the spread is…
3. Prove the ground game is elite - This week we’ll truly see how good the Patriots run game is. The Seahawks feature Football Outsiders’ 3rd ranked run defense, and as much as the Pats would like to avoid that strength it doesn’t get too much better with their 5th ranked pass defense. Still, they will have to get some movement on the ground to prevent the skilled Seahawk pass rushers from teeing off on Brady. If the Pats do run a lot of spread it could be Danny Woodhead that’s the lead back. Screen passes with him could be huge, especially with a linebacker on him. Kam Chancellor is big and talented, but covering a small quick back like Woody isn’t his strength.
4. Bait Wilson into two turnovers - I’m pretty positive about what we’re going to see from the Pats defense on Sunday; their straightforward 4-3 defense with not a lot of blitzing. Russell Wilson will complete some passes, but he’s still young and will make at least a couple head scratching throws. Belichick never likes to get too aggressive on young quarterbacks, which can be maddening to watch, but ultimately it will lull Wilson into a sense of security and that’s when he’ll make mistakes. As we wrote about earlier this week it all comes down to turnovers. If Wilson makes two bad throws that are picked the Pats are a near certainty to win. My biggest question though is whether or not the Pats will give up another slew of 20+ yard pass plays to a rookie quarterback. I’d like to think they won’t but I’m not going to be surprised if they do. But if they keep him in pocket, and force him to throw into small windows it’s highly unlikely he’s going to put together the perfect 60-minutes needed to put up more points than the Patriots.
5. Win - Anytime you face a confident, hot defense on their home turf you learn a lot about your football team. The Patriots offense has been the toast of the NFL world for the past two weeks, and surely Seattle’s capable defenders would like nothing more than to bring them back to Earth. They have the ingredients to do so, but even if their defense shuts down Brady and the Pats offense, it’s all ultimately going to come down to the turnovers. It should be a fantastic test, and I’m excited I’ll be there to witness it in person.
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