Matchup of the Decade
Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick have one thing in common: They have both coached for the New England Patriots. This is where the similarities end. Both coaches run their teams in completely different manners and are known for different strengths. Carroll is laid back and allows his players to behave in any manner they wish. His players state this is why they enjoy playing there. Irvin is quoted as saying, "You can be yourself here." Carroll says he tries to work around his players strengths.
Apparently it has worked. It worked last year when the Seahawks made their way to the Super Bowl and won. Under Carroll, 11 players have tested positive in the last 3 and a half years for PEDs - specifically Adderall. All of these players are on this years Super Bowl team, except one, Brandon Browner. And who does Brandon Browner now play for? Unless you have been living under a rock, he plays for the New England Patriots. Here is where the teams differ.
If you're a Seattle fan, or simply a Patriots hater, you may say, "See. The Patriots are a dirty, cheating team. They knew Browner's history and still played him. You are no better than we are." As a Patriots' fan, and mostly as a football fan, who marvels at Bill Belichick's coaching, I say this is part of the genius. Belichick runs a program that doesn't allow players to bend the rules. It isn't laid back. I don't believe you will ever find a Patriots player using PEDs. Why? The hater in the room now says, "They've done enough dirty tricks. Why not PEDs?" I'll tell you why. Belichick makes every player buy into his program. It's simple. Do what Belichick says. Show up, run some of the toughest parctice sets in the NFL, keep your mouth shut, focus on the moment, and he'll give you the opportunity to go to the playoffs, and very likely the Super Bowl. This formula has worked for 15 years now. That is why Belichick is so hated. Belichick picks up players like Browner, who may have made a mistake elsewhere, and tells them if they follow his rules and formula, they can be part of the team.
Rodney Harrison told a story once of shopping teams as a free agent. He talked about visiting other NFL teams, being picked up in a limo, wined and dined. Then he heads to New England. He is picked up by an SUV, driven to Foxboro, meets with Bill, who laid out the formula, and didn't get a meal. Harrison said that's when he knew that this team was magic. You don't need hype, limos and fancy dinners to prove you're a winning organization. You need records, and the Patriots have them. Their win/loss and playoff history back up the style of coaching Belichick has year in and year out.
If you don't agree look at Jonas Gray, Running Back (RB) for the Patriots. Gray came out of Notre Dame undrafted. He was signed to Miami's and Baltimore's practice squads, but never made the team. In 2014, he came to New England. In November, Gray, a virtual unknown, rushed for 199 yards and 38 carries. Indianapolis, the day's opponent, never saw him coming. This is the magic of Belichick. He sets the formula, the players follow it, and every player on the team is ready to do their job, no matter what the opponent throws at them. The other side of this coin is that the following week, Jonas Gray decided to talk trash and show up hours late to practice. We haven't seen much of him since, have we?
Another example of the magic formula is Randy Moss. Moss had problems at Minnesota, but came here to finish his career. No issues whatsoever because he went along with Belichick's strategy.
Carroll had a phenomenal season last year, in a tough conference. Hats off to his success! However, if I had to put money on a coach, it would be Belichick time and time again. He will only get better with age and more experience.
Belichick Hard at Work on His Formula
Seattle's Defense v. New England's Offense
Seattle's defense has earned legendary status in a short period of time. They are ranked number one in overall defense, followed closely (.7%) by Buffalo. So if you would like to use this statistic as the reason Seattle would win, let's look at New England's games this season against Buffalo. In October the Patriots won by 15 points, and lost this past December by 8 points. In December, the Pats had already clinched the #1 seed in the AFC and did not play their top players the second half of the game. As a New England fan, I like these odds. As LaGarret Blount said yesterday, Seattles defense "is not immortal".
In passing defense against different types of receivers, Seattle ranks number 3. Specifically, they are ranked 18th against Tight Ends (THE) and Runnings Backs (RB). So maybe Seattle can stop Edelman, Amendola and LaFell. In fact, I would argue they can. These stats show they will have a tough time with Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and LaGarret Blount. An article I read today coming out of Seattle's press stated that Seattle will win because Brady can't throw down field. These statistics show that Brady doesn't need to be able to throw down field. He simply needs to throw to Gronk or hand it off to one of his three running backs. If Seattle chooses to cover Gronk, as the Colts and Ravens did, they are too ineffective to stop him completely, as the statistics show. Gronk keeps people too busy to defend the entire Patriot's offense effectively, and there is always the Patriots running game. Maybe Jonas Gray will come out of the woodwork to help his team earn a title?
If Brady sticks to his M.O. of short passes and a running game, along with New England's total offense ranking number one in the playoffs with 409.5 YPG (yards per game), I believe the Patriots have a slight advantage over the Seahawks. Sure Sherman is scary and Irvin could do some real damage with an interception. Yet if Brady doesn't try to throw deep, which is usually when he creates an interception, New England's offense can overcome the Legion of Boom.
Gronk & Run: Key to Pats Beating the Legion of Boom
Patriots' Defense v. Seahawk's Offense
Russell Wilson is the darling of the NFL right now. He is young, successful, charming, and, as I heard many times on media day yesterday, "wise beyond his years". All of these compliments are well-deserved. Wilson is the quarterback for the reigning champions, with a completion percentage (63.1%) and QB rating (95) similar to the Patriot's all-time great quarterback, Tom Brady (64.1% and 97.5 respectively). He is young with a whole career ahead of him. If he wins Sunday, it will be like a passing of the torch from the older generation to the new. Seattle fans, and I'm guessing a lot of Patriots' haters, would love to see that happen. As a football fan, I love to watch the new greats of the game take their place in history. However, I will always be a Patriots fan before I am a NFL fan.
Russell Wilson has been sacked 42 times during the regular season. That's 5 more times than the average NFL quarterback. When we are talking about the two greatest teams left in the NFL, there are few mistakes. Every detail is hair-splitting. Wilson is one of Seattle's greatest assets and stopping him is key to shutting down their offense. Players on New England's defense like Rob Ninkovich and Kyle Arrington are needed here, as they hold the highest sack totals on the Pat's defense. Arrington also has the most points of any defensive player on the Patriots from turnovers.
New England's defense is similarly strong in defending wide receivers, like Seattles. Their weakness is in defending tight ends. The Patriots ranked 30th in the NFL at this during the regular season. If I was Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, I would be going to Luke Wilson all - day -long. As a Patriot in this scenario, I would play man defense and put my best defenseman, probably Jamie Collins, on Luke Wilson. Why Jamie Collins? Collins has the highest number of tackles and most forced turnovers on New England's defense.
This article would be amiss if I didn't mention the man, the enigma, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch can be contained by Wilfork holding the line, and a double team by Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung. In this aspect of the game, I think it will end up being an even split. Lynch has to be contained by multiple players to take him out of the game. This occupies a lot of men on the field leaving Luke Wilson open. With man defense, I would hope to contain both Wilsons and Lynch.
Say what you will about the Legion of Boom. I believe this side of the ball for both teams is the key to victory Sunday night. The Patriots are coached by the greatest defensive mind in NFL history and have the strongest defense they have had in 10 years. New England has a higher turnoner ratio at +12, most while the occurring during the other team's running game (Marshawn Lynch?!?), as opposed to Seattle's zero.
Winning will not be an easy task. New England has many weapons on defense. We didn't even get into Darrell Revis or Devon McCourty here, both of whom are phenomenal players. I just feel like Revis and Richard Sherman will cancel each other out in regards to effectiveness during the game. If the Pats can utilize all of these weapons to contain Seattle's 3 offensive threats (Wilson, Wilson & Lynch), and force the turnovers they are so good at, they will be successful. However, if any of these three elements to win is off, Seattle will have the advantage offenseively.
Jamie Collins: Key Player in the Hunt for Superbowl Win
In final analyis, after all of this talk of Marshawn Lynch, I believe the Patriots defense will hold Lynch back.. They certainly have enough weapons to help in doing so. I also believe Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, while they are key players, will end up canceling each other out as they have similar statistics in completion percentage and quarterback ratings. The Legion of Boom's loudest voice, Richard Sherman, will also be cancelled out by the best cornerback in the NFL on the Patriots' side of the ball, Darrell Revis.
So what loop holes does that leave open? How can either team win? The Patriots' showed a real weakness in defending tight ends during the regular season, which opens up Luke Wilson for Seattle. Offensively, he is their key to victory. I also believe he is the answer for them all around. Statistically, the Patriots offense has too many facets for Seattle to hope to contain them completely. So in order for Seattle to win on Sunday, they are going to need to rely on a player like Luke Wilson, in other words, someone other than Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle's weaknesses defensively are defending tight ends and the run game. The Patriots have three effective rushers in Shane Vereen, LaGarret Blount and Jonas Gray. Even the Legion of Boom cannot cover that many weapons. In the tight end catergory, we also have Rob Gronkowski, one of the most effective athletes in the game. I believe it is near impossible for Seattle to control all of these players.
In addition to the game itself, there has also been a lot of media surrounding deflate-gate. After watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick for years, I see two men that are driven by adversity. After spygate in 2007, the Patriots went on to the Super Bowl after an 16-0 season. In 2013 they had the Hernandez scandal, where they went on to a 12-4 season, ending as the number 2 seed in the AFC. After being told they were finished, their dynasty was over in week 3 of the regular 2014 season, they went on to finish the season with a 12-4 record and a chance at the Super Bowl. No matter the adversirty, this team finds a way to win. They play well with a chip on their shoulder, being called the underdogs. They have more than a championship on the line Sunday. To the people outside of Patriots' Nation, they have a reputation to uphold. They are not cheaters. They are champions. Deflate-gate has added gasoline to the fire and the competitors I know and love that are Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, won't let anything get in their way. They are the true definition of a team - giving up personal acclaim and money to be part of a formula created by their coach - all to win. This is their moment. It's not just about a ring. It's about how they leave their legacy.
When the dust settles on Sunday, at 11 PM, the Patriots will be the last team standing in the NFL. People will still say they cheated. People will hate what we have created here in New England - a selfless, mentally tough organization. It will be a hard fought, well-played battle between the Seahawks and the Patriots. Between the Patriots many offensive and defensive weapons, as well as its more prepared coach and its reputation to uphold, to Seattles inability to stop both Gronk and the run game, I believe the final score will be Patriots 30, Seahawks 21.