Something has to give right?
For average NFL football fans this is a must watch game for the offense vs defense match up alone. For Seattle fans, this is the biggest test for Pete Carroll‘s young and physical defensive unit in 2012.
Hype vs reality, there’s just no way of getting around it.
Important statistics (courtesy of NFL.com):
Key to the game: Progress in the Pocket
Russell Wilson took a step in the right direction last week vs the Panthers. My biggest concern thus far has been his inability to find the confidence to climb the pocket to avoid pressure. Too often his first impulse is to feel pressure (real or imagined) and bail to the right to clear his vision.
Last week he showed me signs that this tendency can be coached out of him. Most of his throws came from sound fundamentals in the pocket and as he stepped up, so did his accuracy. He has a long way to go, but its a nice step forward.
Wilson will need more of that against the confusing Patriots defense. While not a power house defensive unit, the Patriots will no doubt try to force Wilson to fall back on bad habits in the pocket with blitzes and pressure schemes that plug the A-gap throwing lanes and perhaps even the backside B-gap.
This cuts his route progression read down to half the field and it makes playing defense very easy. If he can fight the urge to bail under pressure, there may be big opportunities down the field on Sunday.
I’m predicting a boom or bust type of game here.
Key to the game: Keep the chains moving
Key Matchup: Russell Wilson’s pocket fundamentals vs Patriots front 7
For all the talk about about the Patriots offense vs the Seahawks defense, the biggest thing that will affect the outcome of the game is Seattle’s ability to convert on 3rd down and keep the ball out of the hands of Tom Brady.
[The Patriots have allowed a 44 percent completion rate on 3rd down, and that is the one area the Seahawks offense must exploit on Sunday.]
The Patriots do not have a stellar defense (29th against the pass, 8th against rush) but it is good enough to bother the Seahawks anemic 27th ranked offense.
If Seattle get’s bogged down with predictable play-calling and Russell Wilson regresses inside the pocket, it may be a very frustrating day.
Bottom line: More Seahawks offense means a fresh and aggressive Seahawks defense. It also means more pressure on the Patriots to perform in an extremely loud environment with far fewer offensive snaps.
12th Man, get ready.
Key to the game: Force the Patriots to show their hand
As you’ve already read and heard repeatedly, New England boasts the number one ranked offense. What you may not know is that the Patriots are doing it with incredible balance.
Per NFL.com the breakout looks like this:
Rushing attempts: 191
Passing attempts: 185
This is not the Tom Brady to Randy Moss Patriots from years ago. This team has become completely unpredictable and that makes them very dangerous.
For Seattle, the front four must control the line of scrimmage, stop the new found running success, and force the Patriots into predictable down and distances e.g., 2nd long, 3rd long. This will be critical against the Patriots high tempo offense.
Key Matchup: Patriots’ Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski vs the Seahawks underneath coverage.
Bottom Line: Predictable Patriots mean exposed Patriots, and Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin sack dances.
Key to the game: Special Teams Field position
The Seahawks kick off and punt team have been very good this year in return coverage and will need to force the Patriots offense into long field situations.
Failure to do so in this area could be disastrous to the Seahawks game plan.
Key to the game: Winning the chess game with Bill Belichick
Obviously, football is a game of adjustments. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may just be one of the toughest coaches in the NFL to deal with from a game plan perspective.
There is nothing that will hurt the Seahawks more than allowing Belichick’s schemes to confuse Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. In my opinion, this is paramount.
The Seahawks may not have time for Carroll’s famous second half adjustments.
Carroll, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell need to keep the Seahawks unpredictable and the Patriots defense as vanilla as possible to get the win.
How you ask?
The Seahawks must keep the tempo high with quick play calls, and even quicker substitutions. Delays here will hurt. Allowing Wilson and the Seahawks offense to get in and out of the huddle quickly will establish a rhythm and keep the Patriots substitutions limited.
The 12th Man and Seahawks defense will do its part against the Tom Brady led Patriots offense, but has to get help from the other side of the ball.
Hopefully for Seattle, Pete Carroll is up to the task.