(Sports Network) - The NFL's No. 1 offense will meet its top defense on Sunday
when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit Pete Carroll's Seattle
New England is averaging an NFL-best 33 points and 439.4 yards per game this
season and the franchise is a gaudy 38-11 against NFC teams under head coach
In a matchup of two of the game's marquee quarterbacks a Sunday ago, it was
the Patriots' ground attack which proved to be the difference-maker. Second-
year running back Stevan Ridley rushed for a career-high 151 yards and one
touchdown, helping New England beat Peyton Manning the Denver Broncos, 31-21,
at Gillette Stadium.
Brady threw for 223 yards and a touchdown while Wes Welker finished with 104
receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass for New England, which has won two
in a row after a two-game-skid. That losing streak began with a setback in its
home opener to Arizona in Week 2 before the Patriots followed up a loss at
Baltimore by routing the Bills in Buffalo.
"It's a good win against a very good team," Brady said. "The Broncos have a
hell of a team in all three phases and I thought we really stood up to them,
so it's a good win for us."
Carroll will coaching against the franchise he once mentored in the late 1990s
and the biggest question surrounding him remains uneven rookie quarterback
Russell Wilson, who has been starting ahead of prized free agent acquisition
Flynn, who spent four seasons backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, made his
first career start against the Patriots when Rodgers was recuperating from a
concussion back in 2010 and was impressive, albeit in a 31-27 defeat.
Wilson, however, earned another start by piloting Seattle to a 16-12 road win
over Carolina in Week 5.
The Panthers' Cam Newton fumbled on Carolina's final possession in that one
and Seattle recovered, allowing the Seahawks to hold on.
Wilson, who completed 19-of-25 passes for a career-high 221 yards, overcame
two interceptions by throwing the go-ahead touchdown pass to Golden Tate late
in the third quarter for Seattle. Steven Hauschka converted field goals from
22, 36 and 44 yards in the victory.
"I think Russell really showed his strength as a football player and a
competitor," Carroll said. "There's been a lot of scrutiny about him and all
that stuff and he just hung tough."
The Patriots lead the all-time series 8-7 and have won the past two, including
a a 24-21 win in Seattle back on Dec. 7, 2008, which was the last time these
two teams met.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
It's obviously strength vs. strength in this one with the Pats' passing game
against perhaps the best secondary in football. New England creates a matchup
nightmare for most teams with its ability to dominate inside the seams with
Brady, who has tossed a touchdown in 37 consecutive games, throwing to Welker
and Rob Gronkowski.
Also, tight end Aaron Hernandez took part in a portion of New England's
Wednesday practice, an indication that the 2011 Pro Bowl honoree may be
nearing a return to game action. Hernandez was expected to be sidelined
between four-to-six weeks after incurring a low ankle sprain during the
Patriots' 20-18 loss to Arizona on Sept. 16, and has sat out the team's last
three games as a result. The third-year standout was back practicing on a
limited basis last Thursday, however, and was listed as a limited participant
again on Wednesday.
Also don't sleep on Ridley and New England's much-improved ground attack. The
Patriots' 165.4 rushing yards per game is third in the NFL and they have
actually run for more touchdowns (10) than Brady has thrown for this season
"We're getting a lot of nickel defense," Brady said. "When they put little
guys out there (in the secondary), we have to take advantage of it. I think
we're playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of
the game by running the football. We have to keep doing it. You can't just
throw it all day. You can't just run it all day. You have to be able to do
The Seahawks possess the best safety tandem in football in Kam Chancellor and
Earl Thomas. Lengthy corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman also figure
to give New England plenty of problems outside the numbers.
"They're fast. The secondary is big, fast. I would describe them as long,"
Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "They get their hands on a lot
of balls. Even though they're younger, I would say they have a lot of
experience playing together. They're all good tacklers."
The other side of the ball looks like a nightmare for Seattle, however. The
Seahawks are dead last in the NFL with just 163.0 passing yards a game so
expect Belichick to throw a number of different looks at Wilson in an effort
to force the rookie into a few big mistakes.
In his defense, Wilson has been much better at home this season, compiling a
2-0 mark with three touchdowns and no picks, along with a 105.8 passer rating.
Marshawn Lynch, who leads the NFC with 508 rushing yards, will be counted on
the move the chains and open up the kind of one-read, play action that young
quarterbacks can succeed at.
The Seahawks defense, which is allowing a league-low 258.6 yards per game and
is second in points allowed (14.0), will keep them in most games and this one
should be no different, although Ridley's emergence and New England's balance
will provide a very stiff test.
"I think it will be a great challenge for us this week against a defense
that's really, really playing well," McDaniels said.
Seattle, of course, is especially tough at notoriously noisy CenturyLink
Field. This season the Seahawks have stymied Dallas 27-7 at home on Sept. 16
and topped Green Bay, 14-12, just over a week later, albeit with the help of a
controversial touchdown call by the replacement referees on the last play of
"I think it might be the loudest stadium that we've been in and we're in a lot
of loud ones," Belichick said. "It's a huge home field advantage for them."
All that said, it's hard to imagine Wilson keeping up and this game will put
Carroll's decision to go with the rookie under an even brighter microscope
"I use it as fire," Wilson told the Seahawks' website when asked about his
critics. "I ignore the noise all the time, but at the same time I know that I
have to get better."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 24, Seahawks 23
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