A review of how the Patriots and Seahawks have changed in the two years since they played in the Super Bowl as the Patriots prepare for another one while Seattle stays home.
Two years ago Wednesday, the Seahawks and Patriots faced off in Super Bowl XLIX.
I’ll assume you know how it ended.
I’ll also assume you know that the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl, facing Atlanta Sunday, while the Seahawks are on the sidelines, for the second straight year having lost in the divisional playoffs after winning 10 regular season games.
That the Seahawks were able to go to New England on Nov. 13 and beat the Patriots shows that things haven’t necessarily changed all that much between the two teams.
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And the Seahawks’ view of it is that maybe if Earl Thomas hadn’t gotten hurt, and C.J. Prosise and Tyler Lockett as well, they might be right back there facing the Patriots again.
That the Patriots got back to the Super Bowl while Seattle fell short, though, makes it tempting to wonder if there is something New England has done differently or better than the Seahawks since that time.
An examination of the rosters of the two teams, however, shows a fairly similar amount of change since then, and in a lot of the same places (as well as stability in one critical place — quarterback).
Each, in fact, had/has exactly 23 players remaining on what was their last 53-man roster of this season from what was their 53-man roster from the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks have more starters — 12 if you don’t include Earl Thomas, 13 if you do; the Patriots nine if you don’t include the injured Rob Gronkowski and 10 if you do.
Another interesting area where two teams have had similar turnover is the offensive line — each has/had just one starter left on their current roster from the Super Bowl.
For Seattle, it’s Justin Britt, who started at right tackle in 2014 and is now at center. For the Patriots, it’s left tackle Nate Solder.
Seattle since traded center Max Unger and saw guards J.R. Sweezy and James Carpenter and left tackle Russell Okung leave in free agency.
For the Patriots, center/guard Dan Connolly retired while Bryan Stork was traded, Ryan Wendell released and Sebastian Vollmer is out this season with an injury.
The Patriots have filled those holes similarly to Seattle —- with mid-to-late round picks or undrafted free agents.
New England’s other listed offensive line starters for Sunday are left guard Joe Thuney (third round in 2015), center David Andrews (undrafted free agent in 2015), right guard Shaq Mason (fourth round in 2015) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (fifth round in 2011).
Due mostly to Thuney’s roughly $10 million salary, the Patriots rank 20th in offensive line spending at just over $21 million total — Seattle was last at $6.4 million with backup Bradley Sowell ending the season as the team’s highest-paid offensive lineman at $1 million.
The turnover in the offensive line and the loss for now of Gronkowski means the Patriots will probably start just four players on offense who started against Seattle two years ago. But one of those is the most vital of all, quarterback Tom Brady. Seattle, meanwhile, has just five offensive starters remaining from that game — Britt, QB Russell Wilson, tight end Luke Willson (who started with Zach Miller sidelined) and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin.
Seattle has eight defensive starters remaining while the Patriots have just five, with New England most notably having replaced both of its veteran cornerbacks from that game — Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
With help from NESN, here’s a look at New England’s lineup then and now:
2014 Patriot Offense: QB Tom Brady; RBs James Develin, Shane Vereen; WRs Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell; TE Rob Gronkowski; OLs Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Sebestian Vollmer.
2016 Patriot Offense: QB Brady; RBs LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis; TE Martellus Bennett; WRs Edelman, Chris Hogan; OLs Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon.
2014 Patriot Defense: DLs Rob Ninkovich, Sealver Siliga, Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones; LBs Jamie Collins, Akeem Ayers, Don’t’a Hightower; CBs Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner; Safeties Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty.
2016 Patriot Defense: DLs Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown; LBs Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin; CBs Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan; Safeties Chung, McCourty.
And here is Seattle’s.
2014 Seahawks Offense: QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch, FB Will Tukuafu, WRs Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, TE Luke Willson, OLs Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy, Max Unger, James Carpenter, Justin Britt.
2016 Seahawks Offense: Wilson, RB Thomas Rawls, FB Marcel Reece, WRs Baldwin, Kearse, Tyler Lockett, OLs Garry Gilliam, Germaine Ifedi, Britt, Mark Glowinski, George Fant.
2014 Seahawks Defense: DLs Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, Cliff Avril; LBs Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin; CBs Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell; Safeties Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas.
2016 Seahawks Defense: DLs Avril, Bennett, McDaniel, Ahtyba Rubin; LBs Wagner, Wright, Mike Morgan; CBs Sherman, DeShawn Shead; Safeties Chancellor and Thomas (with Steven Terrell filling in when Thomas was injured).
So is there a lesson therein? Maybe to reinforce how much change there is in any NFL roster from one (or two) season to the next, the value of a quarterback and a proven coaching staff/scheme, and maybe as well the often-slim margin (generally manifested most in a key injury or two) between good and great in any given year.