Hello and welcome to another edition of the Beej Knows Best. This is the final edition before we head into the crucial offseason period, and what a Super Bowl matchup we have. Although the AFC squad enters after much speculation and scandal, and the NFC squad enters after barely squeaking out a victory in one of the greatest playoff comebacks in NFL history, it’s fair to say that this matchup is the marquee one that league officials were probably hoping for. In this edition, I will break down New England’s and Seattle’s offenses and defenses, and give my pick for which will end up victorious. What I’m really saying is, hand this to your clueless boyfriend or girlfriend, and, although they will be slightly confused when the referee starts performing “interpretive dance,” they will absolutely understand the subtleties of the Seattle offensive scheme.
Seattle’s offense begins and ends with someone who is their spiritual and locker room leader, but not someone who will put up the big stats and blow you away. Quarterback Russell Wilson did everything short of handing the ball over to the Green Bay defense until about five minutes left in the NFC Championship game. However, that performance was an aberration, rather than a trend. Wilson has been very careful with the ball over the past two seasons, throwing 46 touchdowns compared to only 16 interceptions. Last season, the Seahawks led the league at only .071 turnovers per drive. Although that touchdown number is low, it is a representation of how methodical the Seahawks play. They attack with running back Marshawn Lynch, and wear down a defense throughout the 60 minutes. When necessary, they will use Wilson’s legs to roll out in play-action to convert on third downs. Finally, when the defense tries to load up in the box to eliminate the run or the short pass, Wilson looks deep to find wide receiver Doug Baldwin streaking down the sideline. Seattle ranked third in average time of possession per drive at 3:01 minutes; which is exactly how Head Coach Pete Carroll wants to draw things up.
New England plays similarly on offense in the sense that it is a methodical attack, however they use the pass to open up the run. Although they don’t have a game breaker at wide receiver, guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola create space for quarterback Tom Brady to complete short passes and extend drives. The best playmaker is tight end Rob Gronkowski, and he has put up an MVP caliber season yet again. His ability to stretch the defense, present a matchup nightmare and open up the rest of the field for his teammates allows the Patriots to have subpar players at the wide-out spots. Once Brady has successfully picked apart the defense through the air, Head Coach Bill Belichick uses running backs Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, or Jonas Grey to attack on the ground. When clicking all full, there is no defense that can stop them.
The Seahawks success is based upon how well their defense can obliterate an offensive game plan, and I believe that each player’s ability to do its respective job at a high level is what creates this absolute success. On the defensive line, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril at the ends provide such substantial pressure, which allows Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn to drop six or seven men into coverage. At the linebacker position, Bruce Irvin provides support as an exception pass rusher, while K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner are two of the best coverage linebackers as well as run stoppers in the NFL. Their absolute strength resides with their secondary. Although cornerback Richard Sherman makes the headlines, and deservedly so, the Seahawks’ best players are Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at the safety spots. Seattle has the best defense in the league, and their ability to stop the run, rush the quarterback, stop plays in the midfield with their linebackers and prevent the deep ball with their ball-hawking safeties and cornerbacks hints that New England will need a perfect Brady to carve them apart.
Belichick and the Patriots had an all-star offseason, turning their weakness into an absolute strength by signing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. At the defensive line, Vince Wilfork is playing at an All-Pro level, and Rob Ninkovich and Jamie Collins are leading an underrated linebacker corps. In previous years, Belichick has relied on trickery, such as playing wide receivers in the nickel package, or has just relied on the offense to score so many points that the defense couldn’t possibly blow the game. However, in this season, with Revis reverting back to his Jets days, Belichick has been able to draw up very creative pass rushing schemes that create forced passes, which allows the linebackers to prey and intercept. One red flag to note here is that Browner is expected to perform similarly to Revis, despite him being a lesser cornerback. This leads to many pass interference calls and, if the Seahawks can exploit their former player, this could be a game-changer.
Overall, the outcome of the Super Bowl is quite significant. If the Patriots win, Brady will be 4-2 in Super Bowls throughout his career, and would essentially polish-off his resume for being definitively one of the greatest five quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. On the other side, if Russell Wilson can win for the second year in a row, the conversation immediately will shift to whether or not it is necessary to have a superstar stat-sheet-busting quarterback to win in this league. Teams would potentially even change their drafting strategy; they might prefer to focus on their defense, offensive line and running backs. I think that New England finally has the perfect team, and after facing significant turbulence in the beginning of the season, has hit the right rhythm. Although the Seahawks’ miraculous win will go down in the pantheon of great NFL games, looking deeper I see a flawed offensive squad that barely squeaked out victory to make it to the ultimate stage. I could see Brady playing flawlessly, Wilson making a few mistakes and the Patriots defense slamming the door on any sort of last-minute comebacks.
Although it pains me to say this, I guess I’m saying Rex Ryan in Buffalo and Todd Bowles for my beloved Jets will have yet another Belichick ring to kiss.
New England 27, Seattle 17