There have been a lot of stories about Russell Wilson and Seattle’s offense and how they will have to play better to beat New England. But I think the game will really be decided when New England’s offense is on the field against Seattle’s defense. Because if Brady has a good game, even Seattle’s vaunted defense could be in trouble. My focus here is on the pocket, Brady’s pocket that is. Tom Brady was drafted in a late round because on one thing, he is SLOW. Really slow. That translates into limited mobility on the field. He is a pure pocket passer and not a serious threat to run around and make yards with his feet.
So this begs the obvious question; how does the Seahawk defense put pressure on Brady? This is an interesting problem. Brady isn’t one to sit around in the pocket and wait for the pressure. He gets rid of the ball fast. If he has time he can hit receivers on medium to long routes. Seattle can shut those routes down most of the time. So Brady will be looking for quicker passes over the middle, inside the hash marks. For this he has two world class tight ends who make their living 5 or 10 yards at a time. New England is a disciplined team. They can do that all day long, mistake free, every series. And if Seattle’s defense starts hanging out in the middle trying to stop those short passes, Brady can burn them on the outside with his wide receivers. They also have a decent running game which is designed to open up with the help of multiple tight end sets.
In my estimation, Seattle’s job will be to force things outside to the wide receivers. That’s right, I said OUTSIDE. This is a choice between the lesser of two evils, short quick plays or longer plays that take time to develop. They need to shut down the quick over the middle passes to the tight ends. Period. That is the Patriots bread and butter and they wear down defenses with it. Seattle has to stop that tactic. With the short, quick passes unavailable, Brady will have to wait in the pocket for his wide receivers to get open downfield. When Brady holds the ball for too long, his completion rate goes way down…if there is pressure.
Enter Bruce Irvin. He needs to have not just a good game, but a GREAT game. Same with Chris Clemons. If either of them can get a paw on Brady they will spoil his comfort level in the pocket, causing his accuracy to suffer. Accuracy is important if you’re trying to hit a streaking wide receiver in single coverage. This is what Seattle did to a much more mobile Aaron Rogers. Without Rogers-like mobility, Brady will look like a giraffe in a hanging lamp store if he’s constantly getting hurried. Seattle’s defensive backs are the strength of the team. If Brady’s passes are just slightly off target, the best thing he can hope for is an incompletion.
Well, there it is. The Seahawks game plan in a nutshell. Or I could be completely wrong. We may see Russell Wilson be given the keys to the playbook and go wild for 400+ yards on a mediocre Patriots defense, thereby keeping Brady and friends off the field. Hawks fans can only hope. Wilson and the Seattle offense did look better last week, making 50% of their third downs. Still, their red zone performance was about what we’ve seen all year long. Ok, I think this second scenario is pretty unlikely, but it’s still fun to wildly fantasize about…oh…maybe…two touchdowns??? Yeah I know; the Seahawks D had better show up big time!