We perish because we know not… #TLENews
Super Sunday has arrived. As kickoff nears, let’s break down the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots by their individual units and see where each team might have an edge.
Quarterback: New England’s Tom Brady will go down as one of the greatest passers of all time, perhaps even the best ever given the big wins and gaudy numbers on his resume. But Seattle’s Russell Wilson might be the better player Sunday. When the pass rush gets to Brady, he’s generally on the turf in a heap. And he’s faced with the daunting task of facing a Seattle defense that allowed the fewest points, fewest total yards and fewest passing yards in 2014. Conversely, Wilson thrives making downfield throws while scrambling if he doesn’t take off outright (his 849 rushing yards paced all QBs in 2014). And consider Wilson’s playoff record, which is 6-1 (.857). Brady is 11-8 (.579) since the Patriots last won the Super Bowl after the 2004 season. (Slight) edge: Seahawks
Running back: LeGarrette Blount has done a nice job stabilizing the Patriots’ run game since he rejoined the team in November. His 148-yard, three-TD day in the AFC Championship Game helped springboard New England back to the Super Bowl. And keep an eye on Shane Vereen, a superior receiver who can run routes like a receiver, which could make him an essential part of Sunday’s gameplan. But Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch is the primary reason Seattle rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in 2014, and he usually saves his best performances for the brightest lights. And Lynch is even more effective because defenses have to honor the running threat Wilson poses. Edge: Seahawks
Wide receiver: No wideout in this game had a 1,000-yard season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make their presence felt. Though they bridle at being considered “pedestrian,” Seattle’s Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are steady, clutch, and do an excellent job finding windows once Wilson starts scrambling. They’re also excellent blockers. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell both fell just short of 1,000 yards in 2014 and complement each other nicely. Edelman is a next-gen Wes Welker on short routes while LaFell is a solid outside threat who also blocks very well. And Danny Amendola has become a bigger factor down the stretch for New England, particularly in the playoffs. Lynch and Vereen both do a great job out of the backfield. Edge: Patriots
Tight end: Seattle’s Luke Willson has stepped up nicely since taking over full time for injured Zach Miller this season. He’s caught three TDs in the last four games and separates better than most players at the position. But Patriots all-pro Rob Gronkowski was the best in the business this season, and his ability to get open against the Seattle defense could be the primary key to this Super Bowl’s outcome. And as much as Gronkowski is known for making tough catches, getting open in the red zone and trucking defensive backs, he’s also a quality blocker who can clear lanes for Blount. Edge: Patriots
Offensive line: Both units are greater than the sum of their parts, with Seahawks C Max Unger the only real standout of the bunch (and he was hurt much of the season). Unger has played just four games since Oct. 6, but that includes both playoff victories as he’s solidified the Seahawks’ line play. Lynch obviously appreciates what his front five does. And though Wilson has been sacked about 40 times per year since he entered the league in 2012, many can be attributed to his penchant for extending plays rather than throwing the ball away to avoid sacks. Rookie C Bryan Stork stabilized New England’s line after getting a Week 4 promotion to the starting lineup. But a knee injury forced him to miss the AFC Championship Game, and if he’s ineffective, the Seahawks line could dominate in the trenches. Brady was sacked fewer times this season than any year since 2009, but the Ravens consistently got to him in the divisional round of the playoffs. Edge: Seahawks
Defensive line: The biggest name here remains New England’s Vince Wilfork, who’s still an effective run plugger but hasn’t had a sack since 2012. The Patriots’ Rob Ninkovich can play from a two- or three-point stance and has a penchant for making big plays, while now healthy Chandler Jones can make noise off the edge. But the Seahawks are deeper and more talented, with versatile Michael Bennett one of their unsung stars. Look for him to attack all along the New England front. Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams will play most running downs while passing situations will convey more snaps to O’Brien Schofield and Cliff Avril, who was in Peyton Manning’s face all night in last year’s Super Bowl. Edge: Seahawks
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are budding stars, each flourishing after the loss of Patriots defensive leader Jerod Mayo early in the season. Both are excellent in all phases of the game with Hightower more likely to make the big hit while Collins can wow with his athleticism. On the other side, Seattle’s K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner are starting to get their due – Wagner even garnered a vote for league MVP this year. They’re every-down players who won’t blitz much but will clog the middle of the field as exceptional pass defenders. Bruce Irvin will hunt Brady on passing downs. And in reserve for the Seahawks? Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith. Edge: Seahawks
Cornerback: Seattle’s Richard Sherman and New England’s Darrelle Revis are probably the NFL’s top two corners in whatever order you place them. Both are intelligent, have excellent ball skills, play physically and will support the run as willing tacklers. Former Seahawk Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) is huge for the position and will have added motivation after missing last year’s Super Bowl while suspended. His replacement in Seattle, Byron Maxwell, will likely get a lot of work Sunday opposite Sherman. Edge: Patriots
Safety: Patriots Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung don’t get a lot of ink – especially compared to their Seattle counterparts – but are more than capable, McCourty a former Pro Bowl corner. Assuming Revis and Browner take care of business against the Seattle wideouts, the safeties should be free to roam elsewhere. But Seahawks Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are the best safety combo in the league, and their long-term legacy seems almost limitless. Thomas’ range will be a headache for Brady, while Chancellor is expected to frequently match up with Gronkowski in an anticipated clash of the titans. Chancellor’s thunderous hit on Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas in last year’s Super Bowl was a precursor to Denver’s demise. Edge: Seahawks
Special teams: New England K Stephen Gostkowski has been the league’s leading scorer three years running. Seahawks K Steven Hauschka has drilled 89% of his field goals since 2012. Neither is likely to let his team down. Ryan Allen and Jon Ryan are both excellent punters, but the Seahawks’ Ryan is also capable of making bonus plays with his arm and legs, which he showed in the NFC Championship Game. However New England should be able to take advantage in the return game. The departure of Percy Harvin left Seattle without a gamebreaker. Meanwhile, Edelman and Amendola are accomplished return men, and Seattle’s cover teams have struggled, especially on punts. Edge: Patriots
Coaching: New England’s Bill Belichick and Seattle’s Pete Carroll are both at the top of their profession, the former seeking a record-tying fourth Super Bowl ring as a coach, the latter trying to pull off the first repeat in a decade. Their outward approaches are a study in contrasts, but each brings a competitive fire and forward-looking approach that has established these teams as immediate and long-term contenders. Edge: Even
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
Who do you think will win?