Oct 30, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez raises the Seattle Seahawks 12th man flag before the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

5 Keys to the Game: Week 6 – New England Patriots

It’s a grey, rainy fall day here in the great Northwest and we’re now two days away from what may be the most telling and important game of the season thus far. And it’s no cake-walk. Here comes Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots. Let’s have a look at a few things that could end up being the difference in Sunday’s big matchup.

1) A Lasting Impression

– “First impressions always last” they say. Well, here’s to creating a lasting one for Tom Brady, who has never played in Seattle in his 12 NFL Seasons (Matt Cassell was manning the post in the 2008 season when Brady was IR’d with a knee injury). While Brady has certainly played in hostile environments before, it’s even more crucial that the 12th Man be in full voice come Sunday as the Patriots look to utilize their hurry-up, Oregon-esque type offense. The inability to change plays at the line, and an overall sense of confusion will only help tilt the scale of momentum in the Seahawks favor. Even more-so, the Seahawks ability to force the Patriots to huddle, thus allowing them the ability to substitute in personnel packages, will be vital to their success.

2) Press Em’
– New England loves to utilize the middle of the field with Wes Welker and then push the boundary with its quick, yet powerful tight ends. They’re never really one to try and stretch the field, unless teams are willing to give them that. With Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman matched up on the likes of Deion Branch and Brandon Lloyd, it will be key that the Seahawks make it as difficult as possible for Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez to catch dump-off passes and run the field. This can be remedied with a good hard jam at the line of scrimmage. Marcus Trufant may be in for the fight of his life come Sunday, and the Seahawks will need him to show flashes of his old self to come out with the upper hand. Trufant’s ability to press Welker off is routes, and disturb the timing between he and Brady, will only make it more difficult for New England to get into any sort of rhythm offensively. As for Gronk, and Hernandez (it’s worth noting that both are on New England’s injury report. If that’s ever worth a shred of truth), look for Seattle to capitalize on its overall speed and reputation for nastiness to create mismatches and hesitation in what hopes to be some key opportunities for turnovers. Imagine a stumbling Gronkowski, after a good Wagner jam, breaking into his out-route as a streaking Earl Thomas snags a wet football out of the air and is gone for six.

3) Forget me Not!
– Ok. We all know New England looooves to throw the football. But let us not forget that the Patriots are also the 3rd leading RUSHING team in the NFL. While the aforementioned keys are in relation to the Pats passing offense, let’s not be forgetful of what Bolden and Ridley have been doing to its opponents on the ground this season. This goes back to Seattle’s ability to get their correct personnel groupings on the field, which ties back to the ‘Hawks forcing New England to huddle. It’s been said that the Patriots have simplified their calls at the line of scrimmage down to ONE word. This means that at no point between plays can the offensive package that is on the field for New England be able to hear ONE word out of Tom Brady’s mouth. Easy enough, yeah? Well, without risking the voices of 70,000 Blue Bloods and thus making for a very hushed Monday, this writer believes Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley, and Co. will implement a mix of the run/pass packages we’ve been seeing thus far into a more “base” package which can remain on the field for long periods of time. That means Bruce Irvin on run downs, and Red Bryant on pass downs. Thankfully, the ‘Hawks have great depth on the D-line. They will need every last body come Sunday.

4) Keeping Pace
– All week, not only my own, but a host of voices have discussed, dissected, and diluted the Seattle Seahawks quarterback situation. Is Russell Wilson the answer on a team that has so much in place? Should Matt Flynn be given his shot? In the past weeks, we’ve watched this young talent grow, albeit slowly, but certainly he’s grown. Now, does this growth translate to the Seahawks sticking to their guns and gutting out victory after victory with Wilson at the helm? While stock in men’s hair color may certainly be at a quarterly high, it doesn’t change the fact the ‘Hawks are 3-2. Some say, “We would be 5-0 with Flynn”. And others, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While I can realize both arguments, my ultimate litmus test will be this game right here. Can the Seahawks keep pace with the high-flying Patriots? If their feisty, hard-as-nails defense tires and New England drops a couple TD’s, can the Seahawks offense keep pace? Most would emphatically say no. But not Russell Wilson. Not Pete Carroll. No No. They’re singing a different tune. Maybe this Sunday the choir will be harmonious and bellow out an offensive masterpiece that emulates “Joyful Joyful”. If they can’t keep up, and Wilson continues to struggle on 3rd down, then, well, the song may change altogether. And the Matt Flynn choir may be asked to step in…

5) Bring the Rain!
– As I’m certain most readers know by now, Fall in Seattle is officially here. Which means rain, rain, with a slight chance of RAIN. And not the Skittle Reign we all know and love. But the good ole’ fashioned 52 degrees, can’t –even-tell-it’s-raining-because-I’m-so-dang-used-to-it RAIN. This is Seattle. And while we see the cruise ships sail off to their home ports on the horizon, and the last of the summer tourist run under their fleeing umbrellas to catch the last flight home, New England is coming to town. On Sunday, under the drizzle and sweat from the sky, the 12th Man will bask in its long lost friend. The ‘Wolf Grey’ in their new uniforms will match the weeping sky as the true feeling that has been so familiar, so close, but seemed so far away comes home to us. Football is back in Seattle. And on Sunday, against the best offense in the NFL, this writer says, let it pour my friends. Let it pour.

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Tags: Aaron Hernandez Bobby Wagner Brandon Browner Brandon Lloyd Deion Branch Marcus Trufant NFL Richard Sherman Rob Gronkowski Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks Tom Brady Wes Welker

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