By: Steve Balestrieri
When the New England Patriots take the field against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon the NFL’s #1 offense will take on the NFL’s #1 defense, so something has to give….right?
The key to beating Seattle is to remain balanced and that means running the football effectively. Seattle is allowing only 66.6 yards per game on defense so that doesn’t make sense right? Wrong. When the Patriots won their Super Bowls, they were among the most balanced teams in the league. And they are getting back to that this season. Check out Kerry Byrne’s great piece on the Pats running game here:
A glimpse at who the Seahawks have shut down says that many of the teams that they’ve faced have their issues about running the ball this season. This is not to suggest that the Seahawks aren’t a good team at stopping the run, point of fact they are. They’re very good, but it doesn’t mean you scrap the running game from the game plan ala the 2006 game against Minnesota on the road.
Some of the teams Seattle has faced this season and their team rushing average include: Arizona 63 ypg, Dallas 67 ypg, St. Louis 94 ypg, Green Bay 95 ypg, and Carolina 114 ypg. None of these teams possess a potent rushing game and lacking balance, played right into the strength of Seahawks defense, which was their pass rush. Green Bay was further behind the 8-ball as their passing game is designed to attack outside the numbers which is where Seattle is at their strongest.
That’s why New England must run the football this weekend, and do it effectively. Will they run for 250 again? No, not even close but they can find ways to run and run effectively. Tom Brady has been very effective at mixing things up and with all of the weapons in the passing game; Seattle can’t sell out by bringing too many players in the box to stop the run.
People are automatically assuming the Patriots won’t be able to run the ball this week, a word of advice….don’t assume that. Will they run at their strength, which is Red Bryant? Doubtful, but expect them to run at the sub-packages and right at Bruce Irvin who has been very disruptive in the passing game. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead will have to be decisive and make quick cuts as this defense is athletic and flows to the ball extremely well.
But we’ve seen this before, when the Patriots face a team that rushes the QB well, Brady will spread them out and try to find a seam in the defense. In 2012, that means as much running the ball as passing. Balance is the key, with effective running Seattle won’t be able to pin their ears back on every down and come rushing after Brady.
Effective running also means play action passing where Brady is deadly. The Patriots aren’t going to attack outside the numbers in the passing game, but the middle of the defense, especially the linebackers. If there is a weakness in Seattle’s defense, it’s there in the middle of the field. In the Patriots two losses this season, they were ineffective at running the ball, in their three wins, they were very effective. It will be a huge key this week again.
Much, too much has been made about the Patriots no-huddle offense and the crowd noise in Seattle. This week, I don’t expect either to be a large factor. The Patriots are a veteran team, used to playing in loud, hostile environments. They may get the odd false start penalty, but it won’t affect them much. Don’t look for a slew of no-huddle offense this week.
Like a scalpel it should be wielded carefully, and on the road the Patriots only average about 22% of their snaps in the no-huddle. I think it will only be used at times to throw the Seahawks off balance in their substitution mode.
Again the key for the Patriots is balance, balance, and more balance on offense. They will be the most balanced team Seattle has faced this season. And that is why the Patriots will win a tough game on the road this week. Patriots 27-17