Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Super Bowl XLIX Preview: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

By Ryan Donovan

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Editor’s note: Ryan Donovan is a correspondent for the Collegian and offered his analysis and insight into Super Bowl XLIX. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Collegian.

The New England Patriots will take on the defending champion Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIX.

The match up pits football’s most dominant team over the last 15 years (New England) against the NFC’s newest powerhouse in the Seahawks. Seattle throttled the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl last year, while the Patriots haven’t won since 2004. The stakes are high and everything is on the line in the most anticipated game of the year.

Road to Arizona: How Each Team Got to Glendale

New England Patriots

The Patriots began the season at 2-2, which alarmed fans and created a media uproar as many analysts — most notably ESPN’s Trent Dilfer — speculated that winning days in New England were over. There was talk the reign of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick was finally over as their offense failed to score points and lacked continuity while the defense struggled to stop big plays and failed to get off of the field on third down.

There were even talks of Brady retiring or becoming a back-up.

Looking back at the beginning of the season, there was reason for concern, but now it’s almost laughable to have doubted arguably the NFL’s greatest quarterback and coach duo. In the blink of an eye, the Patriots were the dominant team again, not only in the AFC, but the entire NFL, finishing with a record of 12-4, capturing the No.1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The turning point of the season was after a Monday night embarrassment where the Patriots were eviscerated on national television by the Kansas City Chiefs. After the game, Belichick was asked numerous questions about how he and his team would handle the loss, and his response was a simple: “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

For the Patriots, this became a rallying call, as they finished the remainder of the season 10-2, beating four playoff teams and dominating like the Patriots of old. After their first-round bye in the playoffs, the Patriots took on the Baltimore Ravens at home, a team that had troubled New England in their playoff past.

Led by a brilliant performance from Tom Brady, New England beat Baltimore in a thrilling game, 35-31 despite trailing by as many as 14 points.

In the AFC Championship game the following week, the Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts in a rainy day at Gillette Stadium. The game was never in doubt as the Patriots massacred the Andrew Luck led Colts, 45-7.
Controversy has surrounded the game involving the pressure of the footballs used by the Patriots as it was discovered that numerous footballs were deflated below regulation air pressure, but nonetheless, the Patriots will travel to Arizona for their sixth Super Bowl appearance in fifteen years.

Seattle Seahawks

Similarly, Seattle started the season in an underwhelming manner, opening the season at 3-3. But the Seahawks responded following an uninspired loss to the St. Louis Rams, finishing with a 12-4 record behind strong play by Russell Wilson.

An injury-riddled defense at the beginning of the season allowed for teams to expose Seattle, but once it got healthy, it was easy to see that the Seahawks defense of old was back in action, controlling offenses with its speed and tenacity.

Offensively, Wilson made plays with both his arm and his legs. It also helped to have one of the top running backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for over 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Once the Seahawks started to roll, they were considered the most dangerous team in the NFL and a Super Bowl favorite. They faced the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional round after a first-round bye and controlled most of the game, and forced Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into two costly interceptions, one a pick-six by safety Kam Chancellor.

Still, the game was close until the fourth quarter where the Seahawks finished off the Panthers in convincing fashion, outscoring Carolina 17-7 in the final frame to win 30-17.

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Seattle moved on to the NFC Championship versus the Green Bay Packers the following week. It didn’t look good for Seattle, as Wilson had his worst performance as a starting NFL quarterback, throwing four interceptions. Seattle trailed 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter but the Packers couldn’t put the Seahawks away. A gutsy call by head coach Pete Carroll to fake a field goal resulted in a Gary Gilliam touchdown, the Packers botched an onside kick and Wilson found the magic he had displayed all year, leading a touchdown drive behind the tough running of Lynch. Seattle forced overtime and after winning the overtime coin toss, the Seahawks struck quickly, as Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard strike to clinch the NFC and a Super Bowl berth.

Breakdown and Analysis:

Patriots O vs Seahawks D

There’s a reason Tom Brady has the most playoff wins in NFL history, but he’ll have to play one of his very best games to beat the Seahawks and their feared defense, who statistically led the league with the least amount of yards allowed per game.

In the trenches, I think the matchups will be a wash. Although the Seahawks have a tough defensive line led by defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, the Patriots have finally found a working formula for them upfront that has allowed for one of the league’s top offenses and kept Brady healthy for the season, anchored by center Bryan Stork, who returned to practice this week.

Green Bay ran the ball successfully with Eddie Lacy in the NFC Championship which shows some promise for Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, a similar type back to Lacy who has a big frame and a lot of raw toughness.

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The key matchup in this game, however, will be the Seahawks secondary versus the Patriots receivers. Chancellor will most likely battle All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. Chancellor’s combination of size and toughness could slow down Gronkowski, who is considered by many to be the best tight end in football. In all likelihood, Richard Sherman will line-up across from Brady’s favorite target, Julian Edelman, and will try to eliminate that connection, especially on third down where Edelman provides Brady a trusty safety valve.

Safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner round out the playmakers for the Seahawks defense. The Seahawks have a stingy defense, particularly in the red zone, but the Patriots are all too familiar with putting up points on the board and I fully expect to see Brady slinging the ball all over the field.

Watch out for Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell, who has been quiet recently, but could potentially see an increase in targets with the matchups that Gronkowski and Edelman create. A revitalized Danny Amendola, who has shown up just in time for the playoffs, could also see some touches for New England.

Seahawks O vs Patriots D

Can the Patriots stop Lynch? That will be the difference in the game for me. Lynch has lived up to his “Beast Mode” nickname this season and one could expect the workload to fall predominantly on his shoulders. Wilson won’t be able to throw the ball consistently with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner on the outside for the Patriots, especially with his lack of elite weapons.

New England’s Jamie Collins has also emerged as one of the best linebackers in the league, displaying his versatility in coverage and against the run. He’ll be counted on to make plays from sideline to sideline.

Although the Patriots defensive line doesn’t record many sacks, they are very disciplined and play gap-control football, wearing down opponents led by nose tackle, Vince Wilfork. You can imagine that the Patriots game plan will revolve around stopping Lynch and containing Wilson.

The Seahawks will move the ball, but similar to their own defense, they will have their hands full as the Patriots are one of the top-rated teams in the league when it comes to red zone defense.

Special Teams

Stephen Gostkowski for the Patriots and Steven Hauschka for the Seahawks have missed a combined eight field goals between the two this season and given the opportunity, they are almost automatic. This game could very well be decided by the feet of these Pro Bowlers and with each team possessing tenacious red zone defenses, it will be crucial for them to seize their opportunities. The edge should go the Patriots with both their coverage and return abilities with superior weapons compared to the Seahawks, but Seattle rarely makes mistakes. Field position is imperative to putting points on the board and controlling the tempo of the game.

X-Factors

Patriots: Jamie Collins

Between stopping Lynch and covering wide outs/tight ends, Collins has a big role and could prove to be the difference in the game, especially if he can create turnovers.

Seahawks: Kam Chancellor

Can he cover Gronkowski? If not, the Seahawks could be in trouble.

Prediction

Patriots 24, Seahawks 21

Ryan Donovan can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Rpdonovan10.

1 Comment

One Response to “Super Bowl XLIX Preview: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks”

  1. Charles T Donovan "63" on February 2nd, 2015 10:12 am

    This young reporter has inherited the skills of his great grand-father,Ed Scannell, long time sports editor of The Worcester Telegram and Gazette… go Ryan

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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