What are you most looking forward when it comes to Super Bowl XLIX? Is it the intrigue of all the extra-curriculars surround the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots leading up to the “big game”? Is it what Katy Perry will wear at halftime and how little of it there will be? Or maybe even what surprise guest appearances there will be on said halftime show (not that anyone can make Katy Perry sound great)? Or is it because after the game, James Spader and The Blacklist is returning before settling into a primetime Thursday night spot?
I’d choose the last question. Reddington is a bad ass. But on to the game. Anyone that said they thought the Pats would be in the Super Bowl after the first couple games of the season is lying. There were Patriots fans ready to throw in the towel with how poorly the O-line was blocking and there were even grumblings about whether Tom Brady had lost it. There’s no doubt he’s on the downside of his career. But he’s not in “Brett Favre-I-Want-To-Keep-Playing-For-No-Reason Territory”. And the Seahawks even had their own bout with uncertainty. It wasn’t until a 5-4 record woke them up as potential teams to steamroll through the last month of the season.
But we’ve seen remarkable performances by guys on both sidelines. Russell Wilson didn’t blow anyone away with his stats, but his on-field leadership and intangibles are what make him so tough to beat. And while no Seattle wide receiver had stellar numbers, the loss of Golden Tate was supposed to be a big one (and he proved to be a real talent in Detroit this season). Even the defense took its lumps working through different rough patches and injuries. Russell Okung was out in spots and yet Marshawn Lynch still reached Beast Mode despite all the worries that he couldn’t sustain the wear and tear of such heavy usage in the ground game.
And just when you think the Patriots have no one to throw to, they go out and pick up Brandon LaFell. All he did was become a legit threat with solid hands and a vastly improved route-running technique. While the running backs might not have been the most consistent fantasy guys, they brought great effort and good numbers to a team that was struggling early on. So many different guys came in and out of the lineup to eventually find a guy (LeGarrette Blount) who started the season on a different team only to get kicked off (for being a dick and a sore loser).
This game will come down to execution. Have we seen every wrinkle in Bill Bellichick’s master plan? Look for the Patriots to follow suit and throw away from Richard Sherman and instead go to whoever is matched up with Byron Maxwell. The run game will be mixed in some, likely with some screen and hitch passes to utilize the shiftiness of Patriot receivers and to better account for defense secondary of Seattle. Don’t be surprised to see a few big downfield throws to change things up. But Rob Gronkowski will be seeing a heavy workload on Sunday. If he doesn’t have a big game, then New England will need LaFell to step up and make plays as Edelman and Amendola are possession receivers that typically run shorter routes.
Look for plenty of blitzes from the defensive secondary of New England to offset the shortcomings they may have at those positions. Limiting the run game is very important and it starts with Vince Wilfork up front. The Pats should be able to get turnovers in this one, it just depends on what they are able to do with them.
The Seahawks game plan is simple. Hand it off to Marshawn Lynch, throw it deep every so often but get it to Doug Baldwin if in trouble, slow down the Patriot passing game, and try to dictate the pace and the clock. Seattle proved that they can fall behind by a wide margin and come back to win playing against a good offensive team when they beat the Green Bay Packers a little under two weeks ago. Still, they want to avoid those situations if they can. And that all starts with calling a meticulous and concise game on the ground.
Seattle will bring plenty of pressure on defense while leaning on their secondary to make big plays and scare the Patriots away from coming across the middle of the field. If they can push around Blount then they will be more than halfway to achieving a repeat. Much like last year’s Super Bowl, look for the Seattle linebackers to make the biggest impression upon the final score. Also, special teams may be as unlikely a source of points as any but the talent is there to thrive.
Seahawks 31, Patriots 24