Because the Seattle Seahawks are a good football team, waking up in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Sunday Morning actually feels better than their last nine minutes of play that broke so many hearts a week ago. The reality of a game lost in seconds lingers like a hangover that fades slowly, but with high doses of Excedrin. For many fans, this week has been lived in a Kurt Cobain state of mind.
But there’s something powerful that also sustains Seattle for this critical game. Back-to-back road wins in Tampa and New Orleans set Seattle up for approaching the Patriots with the kind of resolve that they have not known in recent years. Then there are performers who, from last week’s effort, now bolster the entire team’s morale. Two examples have caught the interest of NFL scouts and statisticians alike: Ken Lucas, with three interceptions, holds a tie for the league lead. Shaun Alexander also shares the NFL lead with seven touchdowns while listed fourth in the NFC in rushing yards at 382. Confidence gets results.
Reputation alone will not win football games, but in light of excellent play for 52 out of 60 minutes of football last week, we know that Seattle has turned enough heads in New England to cause them to prepare for the most balanced team the Patriots have faced this season. The Seahawks have the moxie face them on their own turf.
As if to be in denial about last Sunday’s measuring stick, Darrell Jackson was, shall we say, upbeat about their chances of handling the Patriots. The Seahawks’ leading wide receiver was asked on a local radio interview about the streak that the 4-0 Patriots are enjoying at Gillette Stadium --19 consecutive home victories and an NFL-record. Jackson not only minimized the importance of their home field accomplishment, he attempted to put the significance of the champions themselves into perspective when asked why the Patriots are so good. Jackson came very close to saying that Seattle is as good or better. At risk of sounding over-confident, he very likely intended to take away some of the mystique and dominance exuded by the invincible Patriots.
Mike Holmgren, out of respect for Belichick, commented at a recent press conference that, where most opposing coaches are fairly consistent from week-to-week after studying 4-week tendencies, his opponent is able to change things up in ways that few coaches in the league can do.
Don’t expect Holmgren to respond with over-compensation on one aspect of the offense. "We're going to try and stay balanced. Any time you become one-dimensional against anyone you're asking for it. I think we have a balanced attack on offense...The only thing that restricts us at times is probably me,” Holmgren admitted.
That confession rings true for fans who see Holmgren as too conservative. There’s no question that Alexander’s running game was working in the first three quarters of last week’s game, albeit in the context of the pass-to-run offense. On the last series of the 4th quarter, Holmgren called for throwing plays instead of trying to kill the clock on the run. Since he succeeded in passing for a first down on that series, he had Hass throw even more. How could that be restricting the offense?
On the defensive side of the ball, Rhodes took serious risks with zone-blitz set-ups. A sell-out blitz on the final play in OT had Marc Bulger throwing to McDonald over seven rushers for a 52 yard play. It took under two seconds from the snap of the ball to Bulger’s throw to a slot receiver covered only by the safety.
By all indicators, reality does not dictate a swing to conservative football. A balanced attack is the best dose of reality the Seahawks can bring at a time when they have been eating and breathing reality all week. Their confidence is the foundation for such an attack. In many ways, this is unprecedented in Seattle’s three decade history, where in the past, heart-breaking losses automatically fueled more losses.
Losing to a division opponent does not make life any easier for Seattle, but in the long run, this could turn out to be an open window to a bright opportunity. Mostly out-playing high caliber NFC opponents recently, there’s great potential for an upset of the AFC’s highest caliber team.
For New England, coming off a 24-10 win over the Miami Dolphins boosts their confidence going into this game. They are currently ranked 11th on offense and 10th on defense and will showcase players known in every living room in America.
Tom Brady, the MVP in two of the past three Super Bowls and awarded the "best quarterback in the league" title will try to take advantage of a young Seattle secondary. Tedy Bruschi, a talented leader will work with fellow linebacker Willie McGinest to stop Shaun Alexander on the defensive front, anchored by tackle Richard Seymour. The ever-present Ty Law will be lurking in the backfield and wreaking havoc for receivers.
Both teams bring a unique confidence to this game due to their recent successes and outstanding personnel. Seattle’s confidence is tempered by their share of difficult trials and testings, so that the strange environment of Gillette Stadium may not be so strange. The Patriots offense will not be any faster than the Rams nor the intensity of the environment any more ominous than Tampa.
At least three out of four
experts figure that Seattle will lose this game. That changes the psychology
of it all. Had Seattle won their game last week, they would have been under
pressure to maintain a standard of perfection. That particular standard, and
the pressure to go with it now rests on the shoulders of New England Patriots.
Don Christensen writes for Seahawks.NET. You can reach him at email@example.com.