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article imageOp-Ed: Seattle, New England to meet in Arizona — Super Bowl XLIX

By Vincent Gerace     Jan 19, 2015 in Sports
The Seahawks and Patriots meet in Arizona to decide who will be crowned Super Bowl 49 Champion. Tom Brady looks for his fourth world championship in his sixth trip to the big show while the Seahawks try to remain champs for at least one more year.
The stage is set, Super Bowl XLIX (49) will match up one of the greatest dynasties of the modern era, the New England Patriots, against the defending World Champion Seattle Seahawks. A great defense versus a great quarterback. A sound, discipline defense versus a young gun slinger with the athleticism to match, and two bruising running backs reminiscent of the days of Larry Csonka. The stoic Bill Belichick versus the young in spirit Pete Carroll. The hype for this one writes itself.
Putting said hype aside for a moment, let’s take a look at the match-up this game presents. On one side of the ball, we see three-time world champion, Six-time American Football Conference Champion Tom Brady, a man with more playoff wins (20) than any other quarterback in history. His counter part is Russell Wilson, a young third year veteran with one Lombardi to his name already and a playoff win percentage of .857, best of any true starter ever.
Both teams went into the playoffs in their respective conference with a number 1 seed and, as expected, moved through their opponents as such. Both showing the grit to win close ones, like the Patriots 35-31 victory against Baltimore in the divisional round or Seattle’s overtime thrill ride against Green Bay ending in a 28-22 mark this past Sunday. Both handed out blowouts: Seattle in the divisional round to Carolina, a 31-17 thumping, that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate, and a Championship weekend beat down by the Pats against young star Andrew Luck’s Colts, 45-7. So we have two number ones, with identical 12-4 records, both of whom have shown the ability and grit to sneak one out in the closing moments and the big brother mindset to lay on an absolute beat down. Things look pretty even at this point.
There is one other thing that both these teams have in common. In the regular season they both played the Green Bay Packers who were, after these two champions, arguably considered the best team in the playoffs. Since this is the case it is only fair to look at how each of these squads played against this quality “like opponent.”
When Tom Brady and the boys squared off against Aaron Rodgers' Packers it resulted in a loss for New England in a closely contested affair in which Green Bay came away with a 26-21 victory. In this very contest the future Hall of Fame signal caller, Brady, completed 22 passes out of 35 attempts for 245 yards and tossed in two touchdowns. However, that was the vast majority of New England’s offensive production as they only amassed 320 yards of total offense, a stat that I am sure the “Legion of Boom” defense in Seattle believes they can improve on. Speaking of defense, New England’s gave up a whopping 478 yards to the Pack, 130 coming on the ground, where Seattle prides itself when speaking of offensive production. This 130 yards came on 29 carries for Green Bay resulting in a 4.48 yards per carry average. One can’t expect to win when practically giving up a first down every two handoffs.
Comparatively the Seahawks put on a winning display against the Packers in route to a 36-16 victory, of course in reference to their regular season match-up against a healthy Aaron Rodgers, not the more recent playoff victory. The ever-steady Russell Wilson orchestrated a performance of 19 completions out of 28 for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. Let’s quickly note that the two touchdowns is the same that Brady accounted for against Green Bay, however, in Brady’s favor he threw for considerably more yards but Wilson did edge him in completion percentage (67.8 to 62.8) with yards per completion going slightly to Brady (11 to 10). All this being considered, Wilson put up comparable, and better numbers in some cases, to Brady against the same foe when asked to do less as the Seahawks running game, lead by Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch himself, accounted for 207 yards. The defense that Seattle brings to the table only allowed 16 points against the offense, lead by one of the best quarterbacks in the game today. Ten less than their Super Bowl counter parts but also about 14 less than the Packers’ regular season average of 30.2. That 16 points came somewhere in the 255 yards the ‘Hawks allowed Green Bay, another nod to Seattle over New England.
Against this regular season, shared foe Seattle seems to have a clear edge and for good reason. The ‘Hawks bring a very physical brand of ball to the fore front and look to invoke their will on opponents week in and week out. They never make this more evident then on a big stage against a team of great quality, and I don’t know why this year’s crowning game would be any different. New England, on the other hand started their dynasty and ever present title contention with physicality and toughness but seem to have gotten away form that in their latter playoff runs as they focus on a more pass oriented game plan these days driven by receivers getting wide open on crossing and rub route concepts. And wide open receivers is something football’s best secondary won’t allow. The Patriots have even involved formation and alignment in an effort to get guys wide open, and it has worked as lining up with four lineman has resulted in defensive confusion as well as throwing the ball to a tackle for touchdown. This is however, on film now in back to back weeks for Seattle to prepare for and it seems unlikely for the disciplined Seahawks to fall asleep against it. Though New England always makes a great showing in games with something on the line, Brady and Belichick haven’t touched the Lombard since beating the Philadelphia Eagles a decade ago in Super Bowl XXXIX.
So, who’s got the edge?
Offensive Passing: New England. Tom Brady is an all timer, and one called on to make it happen, and he usually delivers. At the moment he is the superior signal caller to Wilson but I believe that margin is closer than most and Wilson’s lack of stats are often a result of leading in the fourth quarter and a better ground game in Lynch than most qb’s have.
Offensive Rushing: Seattle. Who can argue with “Beast Mode.” It seems like if there’s a playoff game Lynch is making a great run in it. The Patriots ground game has improved since the resigning of LaGarrett Blount but it still isn’t where the ‘Hawks rushing attack is. I bet we hear this a lot in the big one “Lynch, left,” and “Lynch right.”
Defensive Passing: Seattle. A lot make the argument that Seattle talks too much about their defense, this can especially be said for the backfield. I disagree, I think they talk just the right amount, even though that’s a lot you can’t argue with a team that gives up only 185.6 passing yards a game and just 17 passing scores all year, that in conjunction with 13 interceptions makes this an easy choice. New England does have 3 more picks on the year ,but I have to believe it’s because teams choose to pass more against them which helps account for them giving up 239.8 yard a game in the air.
Defensive Rushing: Seattle. Plain and simple, your not the number one defense in the league if you can’t stop the run.
Special Teams: Seattle, This one was back and forth, and having an automatic kicker in Steven Gastowski, like New England does had me leaning their way at first. However, with two good teams field position becomes all that more important, and with the punt being the only play where a team is expected to gain 40 yards I have to go with the ‘Hawks. Their punt coverage unit is, and has been great all year long and allows their defense a big cushion to play in front of.
Overall I look for a close game, and I can see the Seahawks throwing early. Establishing the run game early is often used to set up the pass, I see the flip working much in their favor. Tossing the ball early and often will spread the defense and create big gaps for Lynch to gallop through later on in the game. I don't think Seattle will hesitate to do this though Russell Wilson is coming off of a 4 interception game. His smart, ball security minded play won’t allow that twice in a row. I also believe the Seattle defense will shut down the Patriots offense, which has made plays do to a fair contribution of smoke and mirrors this post-season, not that it’s not entertaining.
New England will come ready to play and keep it close for most of the game but frankly, I don’t think they are as good as the defending world champs who will carry that title in 2015 as well.
Prediction: Seattle 27, New England 17.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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