W2W4: New England Patriots (7-1) vs Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1)
By Hal Bent
New England Patriots Rushing Defense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense
The Seattle Seahawks had one of the most impressive rushing attacks the past few seasons with Marshawn Lynch. This season an inexperienced offensive line and injuries at running back and to quarterback Russell Wilson have slowed their momentum. Last week the Seahawks managed just 33 yards on the ground against the Bills.
The Seahawks have not rushed for over 100 yards since week three against San Francisco. Their only other game this season topping 100 yards (as a team) was week one against Miami.
Christine Michael has led the rushing attack with 447 yards on 112 carries and a 4.0 yards per rush average. However, last week against Buffalo he managed just one yard on five carries and is questionable to even play on Sunday. The Seahawks already have Rawls listed as out with a shin injury and may have to use untested rookie C.J. Prosise.
Prosise–a third round draft pick–has played just four games and has 30 yards on nine carries for his career. At this time, it looks likely he will get the starting nod. Prosise was expected to be the third down/receiving back but the only other healthy running back is fellow rookie Alex Collins. Prosise is not a “pound it between the tackles” back like Lynch was but he is quick, a very good receiver, and has big play potential.
As noted earlier, the Seahawks have not run with a hobbled Russell Wilson and he has just 54 yards rushing on 28 carries over eight games. The Seahawks have made their bread-and-butter on offense by running the ball but right now they are ranked 30th in league with just 603 yards in eight games.
Without Wilson able to run the read option and punish teams that overcommit to the pass rush, Seattle has hardly looked like the same offense.
PATRIOTS RUN BLOCKERS NEED TO BE STRONG
As the Seahawks try to run the ball against New England, the Patriots will have some significant turnover in the middle of the defense. As noted, linebacker Jamie Collins was traded to Cleveland and rookie sixth round draft pick Elandon Roberts, newcomer Kyle Van Noy, and perhaps even Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin will now get a chance to step in and pick up the slack.
Roberts is not a great coverage linebacker coming out of Houston as a rookie, but he has the quickness to eventually fill that role. Despite his lack of size, Roberts’ strength is plugging the middle against the run. Roberts was on the field in place of Collins against Buffalo prior to the bye week and will be counted upon to help keep Seattle from getting on track in the running game.
To let Roberts and Dont’a Hightower take advantage of their athleticism and shut down the Seattle rushing game they need the big guys up front to win their one-on-one battles with the Seahawks’ offensive linemen. Second year defensive tackle Malcom Brown and veteran Alan Branch have done most of the unheralded work inside tying up the linemen.
The Patriots will need Long, Sheard, and Ninkovich setting the edge on the outside and funnelling the running back to the linebackers. If the Patriots can keep Seattle one-dimensional it should help New England slow down the Seahawks offense.