The Seattle Seahawks are looking to become the first team in 10 years to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Tom Brady and the red-hot New England Patriots stand in their way.
While the Hawks were crawling and scratching their way through one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history, the Pats were embarrassing Indianapolis, steamrolling the Colts both on the ground and through the air.
Any way you shake it, Russell Wilson and co. have got their work cut out for them if they wish to repeat.
Here are five keys to getting the job done in Phoenix.
Keep it close and keep it clean
The Hawks can ill afford to go down 16-zip like they did in the NFC Championship against the Packers.
Let’s face it, along with Russell Wilson magic, poor special teams play by Green Bay and bullshit luck, the Seahawks were able to mount their historic come-from-behind win much in part because the Packers’ defense just isn’t that good.
New England is a far more balanced club, with a coach that won’t make the same questionable decisions that will haunt Mike McCarthy over the off-season.
Whether the game turns out to be a defensive battle or a shoot-out, Seattle mustn’t fall behind by more than a touchdown and a field goal or Brady will go for the jugular. Keeping it close means that Russell Wilson needs to avoid forcing bad throws that convert into Patriots interceptions.
Toss 4 more INTs and Russell will be crying a different sort of post-game tears.
— David Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) January 20, 2015
Lynch, Lynch, Lynch…and more Lynch
Last year Seattle dominated the Super Bowl while Marshawn Lynch put up pedestrian numbers (15 carries for 39 yards) – this time around a sub 50-yard performance won’t fly.
Pete Carroll can’t simply dial up another trifecta of safety, pick six and kick return touchdown into the game-plan, so he’ll need Beast Mode to grind the clock and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines.
Don’t be surprised to see Darrell Bevell get Lynch heavily involved in the passing game as well. The Patriots secondary boasts two of the league’s top man-to-man coverage guys in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, so if Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse struggle to get open down field Marshawn will need pick up the slack on swing passes and wheel routes.
In 2014 Lynch led all running backs in touchdowns (13 rushing, 4 receiving) but should he find the end zone the Super Bowl, don’t expect to see his signature scoring celebration.
Marshawn has already shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for ‘saying hello to his little friend’ but the league has warned that any further crotch grabbing will be accompanied by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
It seems a bit hypocritical to me, considering how much time Roger Goodell spends with both hands on his dick – but hey, in today’s No Fun League, ‘obscene’ gestures are a no-no with a capital N.
As if a football stadium is such a dainty, family-friendly environment. Watch out, the drunk guy two seats over just puked on your shoe.
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) January 25, 2015
Force Tom Brady to beat you
It may sound counterintuitive, but if the Seahawks hope to cool the Patriots’ scorching hot offense they’ll need to put the pressure on Brady by limiting LaGarrette Blount in the run game.
In New England’s four losses this season their leading rusher averaged just 46 yards. Even the greatest quarterbacks of all time need some semblance of balance to keep the defense on their toes.
Speaking of the blueprint for beating an elite signal caller, here it is: No quarterback, no matter how good he is, can throw the ball if he’s lying on his back.
Neither Seattle nor New England boast particularly notable pass protection, so expect Dan Quinn to send Bruce Irvin after the quarterback often. And if Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett can effectively pressure Brady with a standard 4-man rush, they might just force Tom into making a bad throw or two and give the Legion of Boom interception opportunities.
Seattle has just 3.0 sacks this post-season, at the very least they’ll need to flush Brady out of his comfort zone, aka, the pocket.
Kam on Gronk
The best player in the Seattle secondary by a long shot is Earl Thomas III, but it seems as though all we ever hear about is this guy:
That’s not a slight on Richard Sherman – it’s just the reality that #25 is a machine for boosting television ratings. As the meme says, you can only hate him for so long before you begin to respect him, and dare I say, start to like him.
On Super Bowl Sunday, however, the true hero of the LOB might very well be Kam Chancellor. In all likelihood he’ll be put in charge of covering Rob Gronkowski in most scenarios. Gronkowski, of course, is Tom Brady’s favorite target, particularly in the red zone.
Successfully keeping Gronk out of the end zone increases the Seahawks’ chances of winning tenfold, as covering TEs is Seattle’s lone weakness in pass defense. The Hawks allowed just 17 passing touchdowns all season long, but 11 of those went to tight ends.
Be prepared for Belichick’s trickery
In New England’s divisional match-up against Baltimore they employed a bevy of trick plays meant to confuse the defense into not knowing who is or isn’t pass eligible.
After the game John Harbaugh of the Ravens called the tactic cheating; Tom Brady called it football.
Without a doubt the Pats will attempt something similar in the season’s final game and Seattle will need to be ready for it. After all, the Seahawks fell for a number of trick plays in an early season loss to the St. Louis Rams.
This was, however, prior to the return of Bobby Wagner.
Since getting their star MLB back from injury the Hawks are (8-0). With Wagner on the field gimmick plays just don’t hold the same weight, but that doesn’t mean Belichick won’t give them a go.
#Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner says Patriots eligible/ineligible moves work on tired teams. Said, “we never get tired.”
— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) January 22, 2015
The ‘Who do you hate less?’ Bowl
According to Vegas sports books the odds for this year’s big game are even-Steven.
Should the line hold up, Super Bowl XLIX would be the first “pick ’em” game in the history of the NFL.
Just like presidential elections, which offer voters a choice between two crappy out-of-touch leaders, many pigskin fans across the globe are torn as to which team they should root for (or against) on February 1st.
Brash, trash-talking loudmouths? Or cheaters?
The Patriots and the Seahawks are two of the most disliked teams right now in the National Football League – but even haters have got to admit this is one hell of a match-up on paper.
Personally, as a lifelong Hawks fan, I’m lovin’ it.
I grew up hating John Elway and Marcus Allen simply because my Seahawks didn’t have an answer for their greatness. Now that the tables have turned it makes me as giddy as a schoolgirl that folks who have never set foot in Seattle are seething with anger against the 12th Man.
They hate Richard Sherman. They hate Pete Carroll. They probably hate Starbucks, Boeing and Microsoft, too. It’s brilliant.
They hate us. They really hate us. We’ve arrived.
Of course anti-Patriots sentiment is as old as Mr. Smithers – compounded by Tom Brady’s super-hot supermodel wife and charming dimples where the rest of us have a swath of dried-up chipotle mayonnaise.
So for all you butt-hurt fans out there, enjoy the game!
I hate the Seattle Seahawks. With every bone in my body. Every vein. Every hair on my head. Every bit of my blood. I hate them. I really do.
— Jon Roser (@Jon_Roser) January 19, 2015
Man I hate the #Patriots so much.
— Dan Clark (@DC_TBLDaily) January 21, 2015
I hate the Seahawks I hate the Seahawks I hate the Seahawks I hate the Seahawks I hate the Seahawks
— madds (@maddie_morehead) January 18, 2015
we don’t hate you because you win, we hate you because you’re a bunch of cheating dirtbags #patriots
— Scott Salmon (@ScottSalmon48) January 21, 2015
the hate is already flowing strong this week…. for both the Seahawks and Patriots. Maybe two most hated teams in the NFL?
— Danny Kelly XLIX (@FieldGulls) January 19, 2015
Oh, and my prediction.
The Seahawks win and I will have too much to drink. Peace out. #GoHawks
(For proof of my unbiased reporting, find the keys to a Patriots victory right here.)