When the Patriots game plan for an opponent they typically strive to do two things: take away (or at least neutralize) an opponent’s strength while the Pats are on defense, and on offense identify and exploit the opponent’s weakest link.
When Seattle has the ball the Pats game plan will be to stop, or at least limit Marshawn Lynch. The front seven must control the line of scrimmage, attacking and gang tackling Lynch. The Seattle running back has earned his ‘beast mode’ nickname this year, breaking tackles on his way to 508 rushing yards already this season, which ranks third in the NFL.
If Brandon Spikes and the Pats defense can limit Marshawn Lynch it will be very tough for Seattle to win
New England’s front seven has been fundamentally sound, wrapping up ball carriers and seldom allowing them to break tackles. Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love have done a good job in preventing running lanes from opening up while Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower have been solid against the run. For Seattle center Max Unger is expected to play but is banged up with a hip injury, RG John Moffitt is out with a knee injury, and RT Breno Giacomini was benched after committing two personal fouls last week. The Patriots have held opponents to a mere 3.4 yards per carry this year and are capable of winning these matchups.
Seattle ranks first in the league with an average drive starting on the 31.5 yard line. However, they don’t do much with that field position: they average just 27.45 yards per drive (26th in the NFL), .14 touchdowns per drive (28th), and only 4.7 yards per play (29th). As good as Lynch has been he’s only averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Limit Lynch and make Seattle one-dimensional.
For quarterback Russell Wilson to be effective he is going to need for Lynch to run the ball well. That would keep him from 3rd and longs, and it will also cause the Pats defense to honor the run on play action passes. I believe that the Patriots will be able to limit the Seattle running game enough that it will prevent the Seahawks from getting into favorable down and distance situations, leaving it up to Wilson to to make a play for a first down.
When the ball is in Russell Wilson’s hands it will be imperative that the Patriots keep him in the pocket. Chandler Jones will need to make sure he doesn’t rush past him and let him get by; look for he and all the other linemen to get their hands up and tip passes from the 5-11 Wilson, leading to an easy interception. When Wilson throws on third down he has converted just 37% of those plays for a first down. Wilson ranks 28th with an interception percentage of 4.8% and has thrown five picks in the last two games. As maligned as the Pats pass defense is, this plays right into their hands: they are second in the NFL with 14 turnovers. Make Seattle beat you with Wilson, Golden Tate and Sidney Rice.
When the Patriots have the ball they will be facing what is arguably the best defense they have seen this year. The last two weeks the pats have taken what opposing defenses have given them: the Bills and Broncos thought the best way to defend against the Pats offense was to primarily utilize a nickel defense, so the Patriots responded by running the ball over those smaller defenders. On Sunday the Pats should look to do the same; if Seattle is in a nickel then run the ball, if they are in their base defense then pass the ball.
When the Steelers beat the Patriots last year they used press coverage and were very physical with the Pats receivers. Look at the size of Seattle’s cornerbacks: Richard Sherman (6’3″, 195), Brandon Browner (6’4″, 221), Byron Maxwell (6’1″, 207) and Marcus Truffant (5’11”, 197) will look to aggressively disrupt the Patriots timing based pass routes; they’ll likely push the envelope to see how much they can get away with, backed by 70,000 assisting the officials with their calls. One way to counteract that is to put Wes Welker in motion, to help him get past that pressure. The other is to effectively run the ball, to cause those defensive backs to honor their responsibilities against the run. If Aaron Hernandez can play that would help immensely as well but I wouldn’t count on it. This is just a hunch, but I wouldn’t doubt that the information about him practicing and making the trip is nothing more than a well planned diversionary tactic put in place to make the Seattle coaching staff waste time game planning against him.
Running the ball against Seattle has been difficult for NFL teams this year; the Seahawks are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and 67 rushing yards per game. But on closer inspection I still think the Pats will be able to run on Seattle, though not to the extent they have done that in the last two games. Four of Seattle’s opponents rank 20th or below in rushing this year. Football Outsiders ranks all five of those teams at #22 or lower in run blocking. The Pats offensive line has been clicking on all cylinders as one cohesive unit in the run game recently, playing much better than they did early in the season. Seattle’s run defense is good enough to make some stops and force some punts, but they are not the second coming of the ’85 Chicago Bears. It is important that the Patriots remain committed to the run, even if/when they get stopped a couple of times.
Seattle DT Brandon Mebane is a load in the middle of the line, so the Pats would be better served to run outside. There has been much talk about Bruce Irvin and his 4.5 sacks, yet he only has five tackles total – which tells me those sacks are the only plays he has been in on all year. Run the ball right at Irvin and Chris Clemons. Not only should those running plays be effective, it will also slow down the pass rush (especially on play action passes), giving Tom Brady just enough extra time to complete his passes.
Controlling substitutions with the no-huddle offense is something that the Pats need to continue to do. Seattle is a team that likes to liberally substitute its players based on down and distance; by keeping a set of defenders on the field that will leave mismatches that the Patriots can take advantage of. The Pats should also keep them on their toes with some deep passes after the run has been established; it will keep seattle from crowding the line and the Seattle offense is anemic enough that even if the Pats do turn the ball over it is doubtful they can take advantage of it. Once the Pats take the lead watch out, because the Seahawks are not built to play in a shootout or come from behind to win.
Avoid negative plays, be patient with the running game, and don’t be predictable in the play calling. Force Seattle into poor down and distance situations and they’ll go three and out, and eventually turn the ball over.
Prediction: the Patriots grind out a 24-16 victory.
October 13 in Patriots history
October 13, 1961:
Larry Garron returns a kick 89 yards against the Houston Oilers to become the first player in Patriots franchise history to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
October 13, 1968:
Bob Dee becomes the first AFL player to have his uniform number retired, as the Pats retire his #89 during a game against the Oilers; the 2-2 Pats lose that game and finish 4-10. At the end of the season after firing Mike Holovak the team opts to hire Clive Rush as their new head coach rather than Chuck Noll, a decision that alters the history of both the Patriots and the Steelers.
October 13, 1985:
Playing in a Pats team record 111th consecutive start Raymond Clayborn returns an interception 27 yards to seal a 14-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills, for the only touchdown of Clayborn’s illustrious NFL career.
October 13, 1987:
The Patriots trade an eighth round draft pick to the Chicago Bears for QB Doug Flutie, unofficially marking the end of the Tony Eason
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October 13, 1965:
The Who recorded the iconic My Generation at Pye Studios in London. Roger Daltrey later said he stuttered the lyrics to get them to fit the music; some radio stations initially refused to play the song because they did not want to offend stutterers. (Political correctness apparently is not just a recent phenomenon).
The song was written by a then 20-year old Pete Townshend. Legend has it that Townshend wrote the song on a train he had take because his vehicle had been towed away: the song is said to have been inspired by Queen Elizabeth, who is alleged to have had Townshend’s 1935 Packard towed off a street in London because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighborhood.
‘My Generation’ was named the 11th greatest song by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value.
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