Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Brandon LaFell (19) during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Super Bowl XLIX is just days away, and it feels like there hasn’t been a chance to discuss the actual game yet. The last 10+ days have been dominated by deflated footballs, crotch grabs and media silliness.
It is time for that to end, and to help us turn the page and move on to actual football, I enlisted some help. Rick Keeler of Foxboroblog.com was nice enough to give up his views of the game from the Patriots pontiff view.
1. Lets get this over with: How is Deflategate being viewed by Patriots fans? Do you think it’ll have any influence on the Super Bowl?
When you talk to Patriots’ fans about Deflategate, you get the sense that the fanbase would be fine with the punishment by the NFL if the team is found guilty of intentionally cheating. However, the fanbase is also not happy with all the leaks in the investigation and that the Ted Wells led investigation could take a few weeks before completing. The sad part of this is New England dominated that second half against the Colts with the footballs at its regular inflation (28-0). It was a good sign to see owner Robert Kraft speak in Arizona on Monday and support Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, whose character has taken a huge hit in the court of public opinion over the last week or so.
As for the game itself, I don’t think it will distract the Patriots from trying to achieve their ultimate goal. This is a team that had its rough start, but was able to mentally bounce back after that Chiefs debacle. While this is a different case, New England has the leaders in that locker room to not make this influence their play in the game. While I don’t see the us vs. the world mentality, the Patriots will at least have some extra motivation in this one.
2. When Seattle pulled off that miracle come-back in the NFC Championship game, what were your thoughts on the Super Bowl matchup? Would you rather has seen Seattle or Green Bay come out of the NFC?
When I first looked at this matchup, I thought this was perfect for the Super Bowl because the Patriots and Seahawks have been the best teams in the NFL for the last two months or so. I would have rather seen the Seahawks personally because I like what the saying is: To be the champ, you have to beat the champ.
I was impressed with the Seahawks’s comeback against the Packers. They never got away from their strength, which is Marshawn Lynch and the running game. Plus, Russell Wilson’s play in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime was impressive in terms of not being phased by throwing four interceptions in the game. At first glance, some thought this was like Seattle-Denver last season in New Jersey, but the Patriots have the defense this time around that they didn’t have in their last two Super Bowl losses. I expect this to be an instant classic that reflects that these are the two best teams in the National Football League.
3. Russell Wilson has a way of dismantling defenses if they let him use his legs. In your opinion, do the Patriots have the speed in their front seven to keep Wilson contained?
I thought that Bill Belichick said it best on Tuesday at Media Day when he said you have to treat Russell Wilson like he’s a running back. The Patriots have had their struggles with mobile quarterbacks over the years. They are not a team that is going to get much pressure on the quarterback. However, I did like the way Rob Ninkovich played in the AFC Championship Game. Ninkovich had a couple good plays on Andrew Luck including deflecting a pass away when the tight end got open on a roll out.
If the Patriots can stay disciplined on defense and stop Marshawn Lynch first, then Wilson’s run game can be held to a minimum by putting the Seahawks in more third and long situations. However, if “Beast Mode” goes off, Wilson’s running dynamic is another issue that Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will have to prepare for. For this matchup, New England’s linebacking trio of Ninkovich, Don’t’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins will need to do their job on Sunday.
4. LeGarrette Blount played a big role in the AFC Championship game, but he wasn’t even on the roster for most of the season. Do you think he’ll be a big part of the game plan again in the Super Bowl, or will Belichick dust off one of the other backs on the roster?
One of the keys for the Patriots win this game is going to be to establish the run game. Seattle has one of the best, if not the best run defense in the NFL. New England can’t have Tom Brady throw the football 50-55 times and expect to take home the Super Bowl. Blount has done a great job in New England during the two seasons he’s been with the team in terms of breaking tackles and hanging onto the football.
I would expect a little bit of Jonas Gray/Brandon Bolden and maybe bits and pieces of Shane Vereen in the passing game. That being said, the Patriots need more of a power run game in order to win this Super Bowl and Blount provides that element up the middle. If Blount can’t get going on the ground, Seattle does have the great ability to defend the pass. Plus, keep in mind, as great as Tom Brady has been this season, he has thrown an interception in seven of his last nine games. Josh McDaniels, New England’s offensive coordinator, needs to find that right balance to have success vs. this Seattle D.
5. Where do you see the Patriots having the biggest advantage in this game? Where will they have the most trouble matching up against the Seahawks?
To me, the Patriots’ biggest advantage is in the secondary. While Seattle does have talented receivers in Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, New England has the two cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner that could win the matchups on the outside. Russell Wilson throws some of the best deep passes in the game, but Revis and Browner have done a great job this season of limiting the big play.
The addition of Revis has made this Patriots’ defense one step better this year as opposed to past Pats’ defenses that have made this point. He also makes other players in the secondary better such as cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Devin McCourty.
As far as the Seahawks’ edge, I think its on the defensive line. The Patriots’ offensive line has gone thru many ups and downs this season and who knows which O-Line will show up to Glendale on Sunday. Now, center Bryan Stork is expected to play this Sunday after a knee injury caused him to miss the AFC Championship. The rookie from Florida State has had a huge impact on that unit because he keeps the best five O-Lineman on the field. Otherwise, New England’s O-Line takes a big hit with players like Marcus Cannon and Josh Kline protecting Brady.
If Seattle can repeatedly take Brady out of his comfort zone with their constant pass rush, New England will have a tough time establishing their rhythm and tempo on offense.
6. Give me a prediction for the game. How do you think the game will play out?
As I mentioned before, I expect this to be a great game with two teams that seem to be evenly matched on paper. The key for me in this game will be which defense can force turnovers and more importantly, which offense can turn those turnovers into touchdowns, something the Packers didn’t do in the NFC Championship Game. It should be a low-scoring game, so those red zone opportunities will be huge.
I expect Marshawn Lynch to have some success running the football, but these are two defenses that don’t seem to give up any points in the fourth quarter. If Lynch has a great game, Seattle will hoist the Lombardi Trophy. However, I expect Rob Gronkowski to make some plays against Kam Chancellor and company that will keep a couple Patriots’ drives alive.
Like all of the five previous Super Bowls that Tom Brady played, I expect this game to be close, but its Brady that gets the ball last to set up a late scoring drive that decides this game.
PATRIOTS 23 SEAHAWKS 20