NFL-SUPER BOWL XLIX PREVIEW
Push is coming to shove a hot Patriots offense in the form of a Seattle defense that wants to cement a legacy in all-time great historical accomplishments. New England could be described as the unstoppable force to the Seahawks' metaphorical immovable object, meeting in a game dripping with intensity that is sure to be memorable. Sending Bill Belichick's team home disappointed and angry a year after a dominating dispatch of a record-setting Peyton Manning would be a most impressive way to convince cynics of their effectiveness. However, the Pats will wish to remain the last team to win repeat Lombardi trophies and this is a core bunch that does not take well to losing. Knowing the personalities of these particular individuals and the awkward fact that the New England franchise has lost in their last two Super Bowl appearances only accumulates the combustion that could potentially occur despite the stability of both compounds in this reaction.
The build up to this game will surely be romanticized ad nauseam by ESPN, your friends, social media and internet bloggers and message boarders like myself but why the hell not? This is a fantastic meeting of stable organizations with very different strengths and weaknesses. There is already mutual animosity between central figures Tom Brady and Richard Sherman from a Pats loss in Seattle during the 2012 campaign. Even if Brady wants to polish off his best political smile for the hounds on Media day we all know deep down how badly he wants to best the Legion of Boom. Sherman has a banged up, hyper-extended elbow but optimistically, he can return to full health by kickoff and free safety Earl Thomas is also gimpy from the NFC Championship Game.
Luckily, the other members of the secondary, CB Byron Maxwell & the emerging Jeremy Lane bring physicality, length and intensity to their defense of hopeful wide receivers. Not to mention the best strong safety in the NFL, Kam Chancellor roaming all over the field and instilling terror into playmakers. Lest us not forget the impact Chancellor had in last year's Super Bowl blowout against the Broncos' highest ranking offense in NFL history. This guy is a game-changer and an absolute stud of the position.
With all the ridiculous controversy already surrounding the game's teams regarding the Patriots' ethics with "Deflate-Gate" in the AFC Championship Game and a fine or Seahawks tailback Marshawn and his second infamously awesome "hold my nads" endzone jump, no doubt the cunningly sly national media will contrive and continue to assault a horse's cadaver to the point of pulp. Media Day should be paradoxically lame and interesting at the same time. Prefabricated political jargon from Brady, Edelman, Revis and Belichick may be offset by some color commentary of THE GRONK.
If the Patriots can run the ball effectively again with LaGarette Blount and wear out the Seahawks strong group up front consisting of pass rushers Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bryan Schofield the athletic Bruce Irvin and the big dogs up front- defensive lineman Kevin Williams & Tony McDaniels. It will be interesting to see how the Seattle LBs Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright and reigning Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith will cover Rob Gronkowski over the top. Surely Chancellor will be matched up to watch The Gronk but that only leaves the quick slant timing routes more available for Pats receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola working the slot. Belichick will want his QB and passing game to get into a fast rhythm to offset a tenacious Seattle defense and to avoid what happened to Peyton and Denver last season.
The last Super Bowl in ARI was one for the ages. Will this one come close or surpass it?
What is there left to say about Russell Wilson that hasn't been said? He's not the type of QB that will torch defenses throughout the game, especially with his receivers being a very 'meh' unit (although Baldwin and Kearse are certainly capable of big plays) but he is the type to channel his intangibles to make HUGE game-winning plays as evidenced last week against Green Bay. One on the money ball delivered in OT on third down kept the drive alive for an even more clutch and precise touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. The guy has seemingly frozen water through his circulatory system. Can he do enough to topple a New England team traditionally effective at stopping the opponent?
The Beast, Marshawn Lynch had a Hall Of Fame TD run last time his squad lined up in Glendale at University of Phoenix Stadium. Although it may not have even been the best of his career, most running backs can only dream of having such a top scoring play. Number 24 is the lynch pin (get it?) that holds the wheels and suspension of this offense, despite how smart Wilson plays. He will need to get to the second level consistently on this Patriots defense, a unit which played far better versus Luck and the Colts than their previous win. The New England road stoppers are a vital part of this game, in their play calling and discipline. This side of the ball marches out great athletes like OLB Jamie Collins and FS Devin McCourty. Cornerback Brandon Browner will face his former team which could be a great advantage for a tall, rangy defensive back who faced these receivers continuously in practice just a season ago.
Darrelle Revis already has a well-established reputation as one of the most technically sound DBs in the game. He will need to conquer and roam Revis Island to live up to the contracts he has signed, especially in the game of his life. A fan favorite, Vince Wilfork is still a massive body at the nose of the defensive line and DE Rob Ninkovich is just a playoff, bring your lunch pail to work kid of player. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower has massive responsibilities in not only containing Marshawn but keeping tabs on a shifty diesel like him AND making sound movements to thwart the upstart speedy TE Luke Willson could prove to be more than a tall order. The Patriots SS Patrick Chung is merely a passable player so if they are susceptible to big plays, it may come on his side of coverage. The Seahawks solid offensive line, including Pro Bowl caliber players LT Russell Okung and a healthy Max Unger at center should be an interesting collision of experience and talent and something to keep an eye on.
Pete Carroll has a marvelous job the past couple seasons in accordance with GM John Schneider's well-built roster and the work Dan Quinn has done to display one of the NFL's greatest ever defenses of all-time. They are battle-tested and have escaped many close calls in their playoff runs together with clutch plays.
However, knowing the intensity and genius that Bill Belichick brings to the game of football, I cannot see this franchise losing three Super Bowls in a row. Call it the law of averages, call it just fierce, old fashioned competitiveness but I believe the Pats present some match ups issues, particularly with some of their defensive players. I can't see this one being too high scoring and look for some key defensive plays by either team to set up some points. Ultimately, I see Brady hoisting his fourth Lombardi trophy after a valiant effort from Seattle and making a stronger case as one of the best to ever sling a pigskin, despite its air pressure.
ROC Prediction- Seattle Seahawks...20 New England Patriots...24
Seattle X-Factors.....offense- Luke Willson....defense- Jeremy Lane
New England X-Factors.....offense- Brandon LaFell.....defense-Jamie Collins