RENTON — The Seahawks know Cam Newton well.
So, too, do they know the Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots well.
But Newton and Belichick together in New England forging a new era for the Patriots without Tom Brady?
The Seahawks will spend this week trying to figure out how that’ll look as they prepare for a visit from New England on Sunday night.
The Seahawks got at least a good snapshot when the Patriots beat Miami 21-11 behind an offense that ran the ball more than any other in the NFL in Week 1 — 42 rushes to only 19 passes, a 66.7% run-pass ratio.
Last year, in Brady’s final season in New England, the Patriots ran it only 40% of the time.
“You can see them, they’ve shifted their focus on how they ran their offense in the first game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said via Zoom on Wednesday.
Indeed, while employing Newton’s prodigious running skills — he’s third all-time in NFL history in rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,881 — the Patriots ran for 217 yards, more than they had in any game last season.
Newton, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason to replace Brady, had 75 rushing yards on 15 carries along with two touchdowns, showing he has shaken off injuries that hampered him the last few years in Carolina.
As detailed by Pro Football Talk, seven of his carries were on designed runs while six others came when he had the option to run or hand off and chose to keep the ball. Another was a scramble and the other a kneel-down. Newton picked up eight first downs on his runs.
But that came in a game the Patriots had in control from early in the third quarter, and Belichick undoubtedly did what he could to keep some things in reserve for the trip to Seattle.
Carroll said he thinks the Patriots may show a lot more diversity against the Seahawks saying, “They adapt as well to their opponents as anybody in the game.”
“They can do anything in the second game,” Carroll said. “I leave it wide open to coach Belichick. What you saw is a feature of the quarterback. Cam ran the ball (15) times in the game. We got to see what they do this time around. There’s not enough games for us in their new thinking to know what to expect here. We’ll have to adapt at game time.”
The Patriots running Newton a bunch wasn’t a surprise given his talents and history.
Still, Belichick’s coaching prowess is on display, Carroll said, as the Patriots were able to install a vastly different offense in a season with no on-field offseason program and with Newton not signing until June 28.
“It’s really an indication of Bill’s ability to use his talent,” Carroll said. “This was not the same offense that you’ve seen in years past and they’ve obviously done a lot of work to tailor it and make sure he’s a big part of it and they’re using their personnel really well.”
The Seahawks at least know they have a pretty good history containing Newton. They played against him eight times with the Panthers, with a 6-2 record (including playoffs).
According to Pro Football Reference, Newton has rushed for 249 yards in his career against the Seahawks on 64 carries, 31 yards per game and 3.8 per carry. Each number is down a bit from Newton’s career averages of 38.7 rushing yards per game and 5.1 per carry.
But Carroll said reviewing Carolina tape will only go so far.
“It wasn’t exactly the same,” Carroll said of how the Pats used Newton. “We’ve seen Cam run every play that you could run over all these years. There’s a wide variety of things that he does and can do. … They’ve got a lot of stuff I know that they haven’t shown — couldn’t show it all in one game. We have to be ready for a very wide spectrum of offensive style. It’s a difficult preparation in that regard.”
The Seahawks’ preparation this week certainly is different than last week, when they had to contend with an Atlanta passing attack that threw for 450 yards and essentially gave up on the run after falling behind early (the Falcons finished with 21 carries, half what the Patriots had).
What hasn’t changed is Newton’s size — at 6 feet 5 inches and 245 pounds, he has long been one of the NFL’s most imposing quarterbacks.
“If you don’t tackle him, he falls forward for like 5 yards,” said middle linebacker Wagner via Zoom on Wednesday. “So we’ll have to be ready.”
But Wagner predicted the Seahawks will be.
“It’s kind of like a challenge of who can be tougher,” Wagner said. “When somebody wants to run 42 times it’s really a test of your will. And I feel like I like our will.”