KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
LOCATION: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro Mass ( GilletteStadium.com )
TV: CBS, Dick Stockton, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth, Pam Oliver
RADIO: 104.1 WBCN-FM - BOSTON ( wbcn.com )
SERIES: 14th meeting. The Seahawks lead the series, 7-6. Seattle has won the last five, although the teams haven't played since Rick Mirer led Seattle to a 10-9 victory over the Drew Bledsoe-less Patriots in 1993.
Seahawks: offense 13th (9th rush, 16th pass); defense 6th (4th rush, 15th pass).
Patriots: offense 11th (12th rush, 13th pass); defense 10th (16th rush, 11th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: Can the Seahawks rebound from losing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead at home against St. Louis last Sunday? Getting off to a quick start is essential, and they have enough weapons to keep pace with the Patriots, but must take advantage when they put drives together. New England's defense has allowed just five touchdowns in their opponents' 16 red-zone possessions. Meanwhile, the Patriots offense has nine touchdowns in 15 trips inside the 20-yard line. QB Tom Brady is coming off one of his least productive games in the pros and is hampered by several injuries to his receivers. Seattle has a lot of depth in its secondary, so expect the Patriots to use less of their spread formations and rely more on RB Corey Dillon.
FAST FACTS: Seahawks: Have converted a league-low 14 third downs. Patriots: Opponents to date have a combined 5-14 record. Their next four opponents are a combined 14-4. ... QB Tom Brady has thrown just two interceptions in his past 10 home games.
PREDICTION: Patriots 24-23
- FS Ken Hamlin returned to practice Thursday. He remained listed as probable with a sore toe.
- P Tom Rouen missed practice again Thursday. He remained listed as questionable with a strained hamstring.
- DT Cedric Woodard missed practice again Thursday. He remained listed as questionable with a toe injury.
- DT Marcus Tubbs continued working with the No. 1 defense Thursday. Usual starting DT Cedric Woodard remained sidelined by a sore toe.
- LB Anthony Simmons missed practice again Thursday. He remained listed as probable with a shoulder injury.
- RT Chris Terry continues to have right shoulder problems. He was unable to finish practice Thursday. That left OL Floyd Womack to play RT with the No. 1 offense. RT Wayne Hunter also took some reps.
- S Rodney Harrison, who was an All Pro selection last year, is off to an even better start in 2004. Through four games last year, his first in the Patriots defense, Harrison had 31 tackles and four passes defensed. Through four games this season, Harrison has 34 tackles, but also has three sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed. He is familiar with the Seahawks and Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from his days playing in the AFC West for the Chargers before Seattle changed conferences. "He's gotten a lot better since I played against him," Harrison said of Hasselbeck. "Even then he was pretty accurate and a fierce competitor. He could scramble and he made smart decisions. That's important for us to take note of."
- RB Corey Dillon is a native of Seattle and likely hopes that this year's game against the Seahawks goes off better than last year's when he played for the Bengals. Dillon was in a car accident on his way to the stadium that day last Oct. 26 and was inactive for the game against his hometown team. Asked about that incident, he said, "Who cares? That's last year. I'm here to play ball. I'm just here playing with my teammates and trying to help the team win. That's what this is about." Dillon missed practice time in preparation for the Seahawks, but will likely play. "I feel good," he insisted. "We'll see what happens."
- WR Bethel Johnson is expected to be back in the lineup this week after being benched last week for the Miami game. Johnson claimed on Wednesday that he didn't know why he was benched, but backed off that remark on Thursday, saying that he did know, but had not wanted to talk about the situation publicly.
- RB Kevin Faulk should have an expanded role in the offense this week with his injured knee a week closer to 100 percent. Faulk is easily the best receiving back on the roster and with the Patriots down two wide receivers, his contributions in the passing game will be necessary. Faulk was second on the Patriots in receptions last year with 48 catches behind wideout Deion Branch.
- DL Jarvis Green has not been productive for the Patriots so far in 2004. Green finished last year with 19 tackles and two sacks before emerging in the AFC Championship Game with six tackles and three sacks. In the offseason Green spoke of carrying that performance over into 2004, but through four games, Green has just four tackles in substantial playing time. He has played mostly when the defense switches to a 4-3 look in which he subs in for inside linebacker Ted Johnson. The Patriots have struggled to stop the run out of that front.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
The Seahawks are mostly downplaying the Patriots' record 19-game winning streak. RB Shaun Alexander was particularly dismissive when asked whether "19" played into his thinking this week.
"I think that was Joe Montana's number when he was in Kansas City,"
Alexander said. "I could care less.
"I think we want to go out there and be a Super Bowl team, and New England
is in the way, so we have got to go play."
The Seahawks have enough to think about without concerning themselves with
the streak. Besides, Seattle has very little experience with long periods of
The longest win streak in Seahawks history lasted only eight games, and that
was 20 years ago. The next-longest streak was a six-gamer that spanned the 2002
and 2003 seasons. This is a franchise that didn't even win two in a row until
the latter stages of its second season.
Coach Mike Holmgren was part of the 49ers' 18-game streak in 1989 and 1990.
"At the time, I don't remember much talk about one more game and we'd
have the new streak," Holmgren said. "Maybe since free agency started
and there seems to be more parity, a record like this takes on more significance.
"But any way you slice it, it's an unbelievable thing they've done. I
just don't remember that as being a big deal in those days. It certainly is
According to Holmgren, the Patriots aren't feeling much extra pressure to keep the streak going.
"It's a little like Tiger Woods winning a Grand Slam (in golf), but he does it over two seasons," Holmgren said. "If they're getting up there in a season and start challenging the Miami Dolphins' record, then I think everyone will probably get a little tense about that."
The Patriots hit a transition point last year when they went from a bruised
and battered team to one that realized that it could win despite a long injury
list that threatened to destroy their season early on. With the likes of Ted Washington, Rosevelt Colvin and Ted Johnson missing from the defense, the Patriots
won an early October 38-30 shootout over the highly regarded Titans in what
was the first of 19 straight wins.
When New England hosts Seattle -a similarly formidable club - this Sunday,
it's the injury-depleted offense that may need a healthy defensive unit to pick
up the slack much the way the offense did last year in that game against Tennessee.
Starting running back Corey Dillon and top wide receivers Deion Branch and
Troy Brown all missed practice time this week and Dillon is likely the only
one of the trio with a chance to play. While the defense will need to play its
best game of the year, quarterback Tom Brady won't concede anything. He expects
to produce regardless of injuries.
"Those other guys are all going to need to step in there and play well,"
Brady said. "David Givens is going to have to step it up. David Patten
is going to have to. I'm going to have to play a lot better too. The running
backs are going to have to pull the extra load because when you lose Troy Brown
and Deion Branch, you are losing a significant part of your offense.
"We all have to pick up a little bit of the load that they left behind.
I'm very confident in those guys. They can all do it. David (Givens) and David
Patten have done it. Dan Graham is going to have to do it. That is just the
way that it has to be. As we move further along into the season, every team
is going to have depleted players. The depth of the team really shows."
Graham might be the player to watch this week because of matchups. Seattle's
corners should match up favorably with Givens and Patten, but if Graham can
draw coverage from a linebacker or man coverage from a safety, he could have
an edge. He leads the Patriots with five touchdown catches, but other than Week
1 when he caught seven passes against the Colts, Graham has been quiet outside
the red zone. Brady will be counting on his big tight end, whom he calls Graham-bo,
"He's doing a really good job of getting open and finding the holes,"
Brady said. "On the goal line, it was a good job he did last week by trying
to fight the guy who was trying to hold him and get off of him and get open.
If you throw it to him, he catches it. Dan has done a great job. Christian (Fauria)
has done a great job when he is in there. Our tight ends have been a really
good position this year."
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