Over the past two years the Seattle Seahawks have had the best defense in the league. Last year in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks faced one of the best offenses in league history and they completely shut them down. Last Sunday the Green Bay Packers came in with the best scoring offense in the league. Even though they forced the Seahawks into five turnovers and had great starting field position all game, they only managed 22 points. If NFL MVPs and Super Bowl winning quarterbacks only played against the Seattle Defense, they would lose their jobs. Individual games from the past two years are shown below:
The average QBR of 40.7 would have ranked 27th in the league. The average passer rating of 71.8 would have been 32nd. Derek Carr territory! Tom Brady hasn’t faced the Seahawks in the last two years, but attacking the Hawks downfield will not be their best option. Before we examine how the New England Patriots will match up with the Seahawks, let’s look at how the Patriots attacked the weaknesses of other defenses.
On Sunday night New England stuck to the same game plan they have used against the Indianapolis Colts with similar results. They used a power running game featuring LeGarrette Blount and six offensive linemen. Blount ran the ball 30 times for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns, and as a team the Patriots ran the ball 40 times for 177 yards. Besides the jersey numbers, the team barely resembled their offense from a week ago.
The Baltimore Ravens had a stingy front 7 that gave up 88.3 rushing yards per game (4th fewest in the NFL) and hadn’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in their last 27 games. The Patriots didn’t bother testing them. They had 13 carries for 14 yards, and Brady did not hand the ball off in the 2nd half. Blount, who dominated the Colts, had 3 carries for 1 yard in that game! Instead, the Patriots attacked the depleted Baltimore secondary.
The Ravens started seven cornerbacks this season due to injuries or poor play, and went through four safeties. Before the Ravens signed him, Rashaan Melvin was out of football for five weeks and on two practice squads this season. The Patriots found the weak link and threw at Melvin again and again. Brady completed 12-15 passes for 224 yards, and two touchdowns targeting Melvin’s receiver. Brady threw the ball 50 times for a career postseason high 367 yards.
Back in week 11 against the Colts, Jonas Gray carried the ball 37 times for 201 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Cameron Fleming played 37 snaps as they used six offensive linemen to overpower the front seven of the Colts. However, the following week the Pats played the best run defense in football, the Detroit Lions.
The Lions had the best run defense in football, surrendering 69.3 yards per game on 3.2 yards per carry. The Patriots scraped the run game and attacked downfield. Brady completed 38 out of 53 attempts for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Until that point, Detroit had given up the fewest points per game in the NFL and the Patriots put up 34 on them.
Again, in week 5 New England faced the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals that had allowed a NFL-low 11 points per game. New England scored 43 points. The Bengals were unable to match up with the tight ends of the Patriots. Tim Wright had one of his best games of the season with 5 catches, 85 yards, and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski had his best game of the season up to that point.
In Super Bowl 49, the Patriots will face the Seahawks defense, who allowed a NFL-low 14.9 points per game during the regular season. How do the Patriots attack the league’s best defense? Honestly, nobody knows what Bill Belichick has up his sleeve, but if somebody can break this defense it’s the most versatile offense in the league.
3 Ways the New England Patriots Offense can win this game
1. The power running game. Although the Seahawks ranked 3rd in the NFL allowing 81.5 rushing yards per game, they’re vulnerable. In two of their losses this season, the Seahawks were beaten by the run game. The Dallas Cowboys ran the ball 36 times for 162 yards and a 4.5 average in their week 6 30-23 victory. The Patriots don’t have the offensive line the Cowboys do, but they can do damage with their six offensive linemen sets. In week 11, the Seahawks lost 24-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs in a similar fashion. The Chiefs carried the ball 30 times for 190 yards, and a 6.3 average. Depending on their opponent, the Patriots have shown they can commit to the running game. It may be their best chance to win this football game.
2. Use the best tight end in football. The Seahawks pass defense is incredible as shown above, but they had their struggles against tight ends. In the Seahawks loss against the San Diego in week 2, Antonio Gates caught 7 balls for 96 yards, and 3 touchdowns. According to Footballoutsiders, the Seahawks ranked 18th in DVOA against TEs. They don’t give up a lot of yardage to tight ends, only 41.4, but struggle containing them in the red zone. K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor will spend a lot of time on Gronkowski, but won’t be able to match up one-on-one. If the Patriots decide to feature two tight ends, Tim Wright should be able to take advantage of his matchup on the other side.
3. Win time of possession. When the Chargers won, they controlled the ball for 42 minutes and 15 seconds. In the Dallas win, they controlled the ball for 37 minutes and 39 seconds. The Patriots goal is not to keep the ball away from the Seattle offense, but to wear down their defense. As the Hawks get more tired, their pass rush will be less effective and that could open up the passing attack. If the Pats commit to the run game, and utilize the short passing game to move the chains, they can control possession.
The Patriots greatest strength is their ability to retool their offense based on the matchup. How will Belichick attack the “legion of boom”? I can’t wait to find out.