Super Bowl 2015: New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks: Three Key Questions

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Question One: What happens when the unstoppable force on offense faces off against the “Legion of Boom” on defense?

Jan 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) celebrates his second quarter interception with Bobby Wagner (54) and Kam Chancellor (31) against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For New England to win the 2015 Super Bowl, they first will have to move the ball against the Seattle Seahawks ferocious defense. For all the talk about deceptive formations run by the Patriots, New England tends to be pretty simple-minded depending on who is in the backfield: they run the ball with LeGarrette Blount on the field and the throw the ball with Shane Vereen on the field. Per Mike Clay at, “the team has called pass on 87 percent of Vereen’s snaps since its Week 10 bye” and against Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game “New England called a run on 33 of Blount’s 42 snaps.”


What makes New England dangerous is that they can adapt their game-plan from game to game, half to half, quarter to quarter, or between drives even. Whatever offensive game plan the team comes up with in preparation can be tossed aside if it does not work and the team is diverse enough to switch on the fly. This is important because most teams are unable to find balance on offense against the Seahawks defense due to playing from behind most of the game.


One key to beating Seattle has been running the football. The Seahawks have allowed teams to top 100 yards rushing six times in 2014. They lost four of those six games. Having balance against Seattle allows teams to extend drives and not have to depend on turnovers to create points. Seattle gave up 20 or more first downs in a game during the regular season and Seattle was lost three of the five games (one win was Denver in week three in overtime at home). Of course, Seattle has not lost a game or allowed 20 first in a game in the regular season since week eleven against the Kansas City Chiefs (all statistics are from unless otherwise noted).


Seattle’s defense thrives off of creating turnovers. For New England’s offense, limiting turnovers is a large part what drives the offense. The Patriots had just 13 turnovers in 16 regular season games and 5 of them were in their week one and four losses to Miami and Kansas City. Working the short interior passing game allows for ball-control and extended drives for the Patriots. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski in place at tight end, the Seahawks will have their hands full trying to slow Gronkowski with their safeties (particularly Kam Chancellor), linebackers (Bobby Wagner), and cornerbacks (Byron Maxwell or Richard Sherman could be in coverage when the tight end aligns outside.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs back a punt against Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Andy Studebaker (58) during the fourth quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have a diverse group of wide receivers that can create matchup problems. Julian Edelman will line-up outside or in the slot but usually to Richard Sherman’s side as the All-Pro cornerback lines up on the defensive left side 90% of the time. That would put Brandon LaFell in coverage against Byron Maxwell. Maxwell is solid, but clearly a step down from Sherman. He has been targeted at times as Green Bay and Denver early in the season attacked him repeatedly. If New England can get LaFell a few receptions early against Maxwell they can potentially get the Seahawks defense out of their comfort zone.


The game plan for the Patriots is simple: mix in positive running plays, pick-up key completions on third down, and put together extended drives to wear down the Seahawks defense and bring out LeGarrette Blount late to run the ball and finish the game. The problem is that execution of the plan is difficult. The Seattle secondary tackles well and limits completions while creating key turnovers. The linebackers are athletic and make big plays in the running and passing game. The pass rush can be ferocious and force the offense out of rhythm like it did last year in the Super Bowl against Denver.