Can the Seahawks handle the Patriots' tight ends? Can Seattle maintain possession? Some keys for the Seahawks heading into their game with the Patriots.
Everything about the Patriots’ offense revolves around quarterback Tom Brady, who at 39 appears as masterful as ever running an offense based around quick timing throws — he has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games since returning from a Deflate-gate-related suspension.
“Everything is timing with them,” said Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. “He’s getting the ball out as guys are breaking their routes off. They just have a great chemistry and timing going on for their offense.”
That Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly typically makes him hard to sack and Seattle players and coaches say the real key is to simply try to do anything to disrupt the timing of the Patriots’ pass plays. It’s too simplistic to just talk about the Patriots’ dink-and-dunk game, though. Brady is averaging a career-best 9.8 yards per pass attempt and has completed 57.1 percent of his passes throwing 20 yards or more downfield, trailing only Russell Wilson, who is at 60 percent.
Taking on the two-headed tight end monster
The Patriots made a big move in the offseason to bolster their offense by trading for tight end Martellus Bennett, the younger brother of Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett. The Pats have teamed him with perennial All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and feature maybe the best set of tight ends in the NFL.
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Bennett is second on the team with 31 receptions for 402 yards and Gronkowski has 22 catches for 484 yards in just six games, but with all but one catch and 11 yards in the past four games since Brady returned from his suspension.
Figure Seattle to try to pit safety Kam Chancellor — back after missing four games — on the tight ends as often as possible, as well as linebacker K.J. Wright Wright says the Seahawks expect the Patriots to really try to go to Gronkowski on third downs.
“On first and second down they use both of them and they spread it around to them,’’ Wright said. “Martellus gets some screens thrown his way and he gets a lot of deep balls, as well. But we match up well against them. We’ll play good team defense. Get it done.’’
A case of possession obsession
Football analysts have long debated how much time of possession matters — some good teams simply score really quickly and don’t need the ball much.But the Seahawks have always thrived on holding the ball — they have averaged 31 minutes or more three of the past four seasons ranking in the top 11 in the NFL in that stat three of the past four years as well (in 2013, when the Seahawks had their share of blowouts, they held the ball for 29 minutes, 57 seconds per game to rank 17th). But this year, as the offense has struggled, Seattle has had the ball for an average of just 28:12 per game, which ranks 25th in the NFL.
It’s been a particular issue the past three games as Seattle has held it just 28:39 (against Arizona in an overtime game that lasted 75 minutes), 23:48 at New Orleans and just 19:43 against Buffalo. Seattle has had trouble getting off the field on third down — the past three opponents have converted 31 of 53 third downs — while the Seahawks running game troubles have meant the offense has not been able to churn out time-killing drives the way Seattle has in the past.
Maybe moving C.J. Prosise into the starting lineup at tailback will give a boost to the running game against the Patriots. Regardless, somehow the Seahawks have to figure out how to keep the Patriots off the field as much as possible.