The Patriots play the Seahawks this week in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX, with both teams sitting atop their divisions. Here are five things the Seahawks do well that could make getting a win this week tough for New England.
1. Shutting down quarterbacks
Tom Brady has been dominant so far this season, but if any team can slow him down, it could be Seattle. Led by high-profile defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, the defense has allowed the third-fewest points and third-fewest passing touchdowns. Teams are averaging just 234 passing yards per game against the Seahawks, while the Patriots are averaging 317 with Brady under center.
2. Slowing down running backs
The Seahawks have allowed 3.5 yards per carry to running backs, tied for fourth in the NFL. Big-name runners like Todd Gurley (19 carries, 51 yards) and Matt Forte (14 carries, 27 yards) have been unable to find room against Seattle; and this could mean trouble for the Patriots. With the exception of a dominant game against Pittsburgh, LeGarrette Blount has not put up big numbers since Tom Brady returned from suspension, rushing 49 times for 130 yards for an average of 2.7 yards per carry.
3. Russell Wilson’s accuracy
Wilson’s completion percentage of 66.7 percent is a top-10 mark in the league, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The QB has battled various injuries since the start of the year that have limited his ability to scramble out of the backfield. He’s rushed 28 times for 54 yards this season, an average of less than 7 rush yards per game (in past years he’s averaged as many as 53 rushing yards per game). With a major aspect of his game missing, Wilson has still been as accurate as ever, throwing just two interceptions all year. He’s thrown a pick on just 0.7 percent of his passes, a number lower than almost every QB in the league (with Tom Brady, of course, leading the way at 0.0 percent).
4. Pressuring quarterbacks
Seattle has 27 sacks on the season, just behind Buffalo and Denver for the league lead. Defensive ends Cliff Avril (9 sacks, third in NFL), Frank Clark (6.5) and Michael Bennett (3 sacks, and also happens to be Patriots TE Martellus Bennett’s brother), can wreak havoc when they get into the backfield. Simply put, Sunday night will be a test for the Patriots’ pass protection. This factor along with the talented secondary could put Brady’s interception-free season in jeopardy.
5. Fourth-quarter execution
The Patriots and Seahawks are second and third in the league in points allowed, so don’t expect a shootout. Patriots fans will be understandably confident in their team’s coaches and quarterback if it ends up being a close game in the fourth quarter. However, the Seahawks have been impressive in these situations this season. With the obvious exception of the tie against Arizona, Seahawks opponents haven’t been safe in the final quarter, even with a lead. A Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin touchdown with 31 seconds left in Week 1 sealed a win over Miami, and a 24-17 Falcons lead was overcome in the final four minutes. For the season, Wilson has completed 54 of 76 fourth-quarter passes, good for a 71 percent completion rate.