How will Sunday's matchup vs Seattle compare to Super Bowl XLIX?
The last time the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks met back on February 1st, 2015 a very memorable game took place, to say the least. While we are a full season and a half removed from that game, the personal on both sides is still relatively similar, so how will the offensive and defensive game plans compare to Super Bowl 49?
Defensively, the biggest difference is who they're facing in the backfield. For starters, Russell Wilson has been battered with injuries all season and still hasn't looked like himself to any point thus far in 2016. Wilson's mobility wasn't a huge factor in the 2014 Super Bowl, outside of the 30 second touchdown drive to close out the first half. If you remember that drive, Wilson escaped the arms of recently traded LB Jamie Collins in what would have been a 5 yard loss, and turned it into a huge 15 yard gain. Although Wilson's mobility wasn't utilized too often, it was still something the New England defenders had to respect, preventing them from consistently rushing the passer.
While Wilson has been gimpy as of late, I don't expect New England to change their approach from that game too much. So, sure, he has been slowed down, but Wilson is still far more mobile than most NFL QB's, and I would assume New England's edge rushers will play with the same strategy on Sunday night as they've played with all season long; set the edge and keep everything in front of them.
The second difference in the offensive backfield is, in my eyes, the biggest difference heading into Sunday's game. That being the absence of Marshawn Lynch. While Christine Michael has been running the ball very affectively so far this season, Seattle cannot lean on him to win a game they way they could with Marshawn Lynch. Lynch carried the ball 24 times for 102 yards and found the endzone once back in 2014, and in retrospect, probably should have found it twice, but lets thank the good lord that didn't happen.
Offensively, not much has changed for New England. Brady is still under center and his favorite targets in that game, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gonkowski are all still around. Now replace Brandon Lafell with Chris Hogan and throw in Martellus Bennett, and that makes it an even better group of wideouts.
Super Bowl 49 was a game that was dominated by Julian Edelman, specifically in the second half. Edelman hauled in 9 passes for 109 yards and the game winning tocuhdown. While Edelman did line up all over the field, most of his catches came by exposing the Seahawks number four corner at the time Therold Simon who replaced the injured Jeremy Lane. I expect to see more Edelman vs Richard Sherman this time around, but Edelman's ability to play inside and out should limit the times he and Sherman face off.
Another thing to keep an eye on this week is the status of RB Dion Lewis. It was Shane Vereen who caught 11 passes out of the backfield in the Super Bowl, but although he's gone New England should not worry about replacing that as role as they will certainly have at least one pass catching back available in James White, and possibly two if Lewis is good to go.
On the topic of running backs, New England has been far more committed to running the football thus far in 2016 as they were the last time they met. Despite the fact that Blount was coming off an incredible performance in the AFC Championship game, he only carried the ball 14 times for a mere 40 yards on Super Bowl Sunday. But through the first nine weeks of 2016, Blount ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing yards and leads the league with 9 rushing touchdowns. I would guess that New England will try to establish a consistent running game vs Seattle on sunday, especially given that Seattle could be without star defensive linemen Michael Bennett, who was a problem for New England the last time they met.