The New England Patriots busted out their old-school with a twist game plan again on last Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, MA to defeat the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos 31 to 21. Displaying balance on offense with a power running game rearing its head and bringing back wistful memories of Corey Dillon while the offense works out the kinks with a visibly hobbled tight end Rob Gronkowski and without multi-faceted weapon tight end Aaron Hernandez, the defense worked on mixing in rush defense and a mix of coverage and pressure to hold a Peyton Manning led offense that went off last week putting up 37 points on the Oakland Raiders. It was a solid, though not spectacular, effort against a good team with a hall of fame quarterback by a Patriots team with injuries on both offense and defense and still executed the game plan.
This should shut up the WEEIdiots who shout on Boston talk radio about how "the Patriots can't beat a good team" or "the Patriots never beat a good quarterback". The Patriots don't make the schedule, they just play it. This week they travel to Seattle for an intriguing match-up with the resurgent Seattle Seahawks and Pete "Pumped and Jacked" Carroll out at "Random Corporate Logo" Field where, unlike the laid-back Foxborough Fans, crowd noise affects the game and gives the Seahawks a legitimate home field advantage. Between the return of Pistol Pete and the hurry-up offense of New England versus the top-rated defense of Seattle, this week offers a number of intriguing match-ups. Here I will examine three of the most important ones that the Patriots face on Sunday afternoon against the Seahawks:
- The Patriots hurry-up offense versus the crowd noise in Seattle:
- The Patriots use the hurry-up to limit defensive substitutions and control the tempo and match-ups on the field. Denver's defense seemed surprised by the hurry-up, and despite practicing a mile-high all week and purportedly having an advantage in conditioning, they spent too much time catching their breath with hands on hips and not in position to play defense. So, therefore, Bill Belichick being Bill Belichick, the offense will huddle-up and run out of traditional sets with Seattle expecting hurry-ups and gadgets, right?
- The crowd noise matters when the Patriots are inside the 20s. Controlling field position, scoring early and often, and running the ball effectively will keep the crowd in their seats and quiet. Falling behind early, losing the field position battle, stupid turn-overs, three and outs on offense, and allowing big plays while on defense will have the Seattle crowd pumped and jacked like Coach Carroll and having a significant effect on the game.
- The Patriots Run Defense versus Marshawn "The Beast" Lynch:
- The Patriots defense actually may have an advantage this week, with a stout run defense anchored by defensive tackles "Big" Vince Wilfork and Kyle "Feel the" Love, and linebackers Jerod "Pass the" Mayo and Brandon "Homophobe/Porn Star" Spikes. This is 1970's football when Seattle has the ball: Big running back lining up and smashing into big linemen and backers. The Patriots are likely going to play more base defense with deep safeties against Seattle and try to take away Marshawn Lynch from the game plan and force rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to make a lot of short completions to Sidney Rice and Golden Tate and try to put together 10 to 12 play scoring drives to try and keep up with the explosive New England offense.
- Seattle's Attacking Defense versus Tom Brady:
- Seattle, in the tradition of the Pete Carroll defenses, get after the quarterback. The Seahawks have four defensive end that they rotate in and out of the game to keep them fresh and attack opposing quarterbacks off the edge. With a second year left tackle in Nate Solder (what ever happened to all the talk about him being over-matched in training camp and the preseason?) and a dinged-up Sebastian Vollmer on the right side, the Patriots offensive line needs to again be ready for a defense with their ears pinned back and ready to attack. Seattle brings starters Chris Clemons and impressive rookie Bruce Irvin (a combined ten sacks already this season) off the edge and bring pressure up the gut with Patriots free-agent target this off-season Red Bryant.
- The Patriots offense needs to run screen passes (to backs, receivers, and event the tight-ends), run the ball often and effectively, and use the play-action to attack the Seahawks defense and keep them off-balance and off quarterback Tom Brady. If the Patriots can run out of their base set with two-headed rushing attack of running backs Steven Ridley and Brandon Bolden (Stevod Ridden? Branven Bolley?) and have dynamic tight-ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski healthy and effective as blockers and receivers in the game-plan, it goes a long way to negating the pass rush. Add in wide receivers Wes Welker running over the middle of the field, Brandon Lloyd outside the numbers, and Deion Branch in clutch third-down situations, and the Patriots get to test their "Beat the Giants" offense that was the subject of the off-season make-over to start being able to beat teams like the New York Giants who can get pressure without blitzing.
PREDICTION: It won't be easy to win on the road, but expect the Patriots offense to click and the defense to slow down Marshawn Lynch and allow the Patriots to run away in the second half and a 31-17 win.