I shared some initial thoughts on the Seahawks game against the Patriots earlier in the week. A few more things have bubbled up after thinking more about the game, and doing a little more studying.
East Coast Bias
Nobody is talking about the cross-country trip the Patriots are having to make. Seattle has to do it all the time, but this will only be the ninth game in fourteen seasons for the Patriots on the West Coast. Two of those games came in the season when Tom Brady was injured in 2008. Overall, the Pats are just 5-3 on their trips to this side of the country, and only 1-2 when facing a team that had a winning record heading into the game. Travel is tough for teams like Seattle that do it all the time. It is even tougher for teams that don’t do it.
Let It Rain
The weather forecast is looking pretty nasty. There was initially talk about a few showers, but that has now transitioned to a special weather statement that is predicting heavy showers in the afternoon and evening. There appears to be some wind coming with the rain. The Patriots are accustomed to playing in bad weather, but that is more about snow and cold. If the weather is as bad as the forecast is showing, neither team is likely to have much success passing the ball. Suffice it to say, that would change everything. Seattle can stop any running team in the NFL, especially when they can key on it. Much of the Pats running success has come out of shotgun formations, and often off of the no-huddle. They are not equipped to pound the ball down the Seahawks throat if they do not have the passing game to keep the defense honest.
Seattle would not be in much better shape offensively. They are certainly familiar with grinding it out in the running game, but the Pats are a far superior run defense than they are a pass defense. There figures to be plays to make in the passing game. One of the things John Schneider remarked about Russell Wilson when he drafted him was his abnormally large hands. Wilson’s ability to still succeed with play-action in bad weather could be a major factor. Then again, when have weather forecasters ever been right?
In the unlikely event that the Patriots are able to run their no-huddle offense in a raucous CenturyLink Field, one guy to watch is Jason Jones. One way to combat the substitution issue the no-huddle presents is to have Jones on the field more often. He can play inside, but can switch to outside if the Seahawks can’t get Bruce Irvin on the field. Red Bryant can flip inside to tackle in those situations. All this can happen without substitutions. Even if they decide to leave Jones inside, he is a two-way player that can provide pass rush and be disruptive against the run. Alan Branch would be the player I would expect to see fewer snaps if Gus Bradley decides to go this route.
One team comes into this game running a no-huddle offense with little dink and dunk passes and a college-influenced tempo. They have a suspect defense that gives up major chunks of yards, but has managed to get away with it because of their offense and because they have forced a few turnovers. That is what you call a finesse team. Yet, nobody would ever accuse Bill Belichick of being a finesse coach. The other team comes in with the top defense in the NFL, eschews the pass for a pounding run game, and has injured as many opposing defensive players as they have opposing offensive players. They are young, brash, and tough as nails. Pete Carroll is from California and shows emotion on the sidelines, so that somehow makes them less worthy of respect. Reality is defined by perception.