Seahawks And Patriots Clash In Super Bowl XLIX

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Seattle Defensive Backs Go For Second Straight

By John Ventola 

Last season’s drive to Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII victory featured balanced offense and physical, intimidating defense. While the Seahawks offensive production was consistent, led by steady quarterback Russell Wilson and 1,200-yard rusher Marshawn Lynch, it was the hard-hitting defense that was the team’s hallmark. This year Pete Carroll’s team has basically followed the same script, overcoming a subpar performance by Wilson to rally to a comeback overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC title game.

The Seahawks, figuring they dodged the major roadblock to a repeat world title, come into Super Bowl XLIX exuding confidence, and showcasing the brashness they have become famous for over the past few seasons. The past two weeks have featured cocky Seahawks players trying to better teammates with outlandish comments. Lynch, meanwhile, has reverted to repeating the same answer to every question posed by reporters. “I am here so I do not get fined”. The Seahawks are, indeed, a bunch of unusual, eccentric birds!

Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell have combined with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam

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Sherman And Mates Can Dictate Pace Of Game

Chancellor to use a super aggressive approach to defensive back play. They grab, bump, and basically mug wide receivers as they try to get off the line of scrimmage to run their routes. Their techniques made a shambles of last year’s Super Bowl matchup with Denver, and were mainly responsible for putting the clamps on Peyton Manning and the high scoring Broncos. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will have to be at their very best early in Sunday’s game because the Seahawks secondary puts more pressure on the football than the mysterious Patriots ballboy. Seattle plays the pressure game, even with new defensive penalty rules implemented this year. New rules brought about because of Seattle’s style of play in 2013.

Professional football has always been a sport where a winner is emulated. Great success breeds copycats, and the Seahawks lopsided win over Denver, 43-8, did just that. The defensive play of their secondary last year led other NFL teams to seek out tall, physical defensive backs that would fit into their own version of the bump and grab scheme. Where speed and quick reaction reflexes use to be the key measurements in evaluating professional defensive backs, football braintrusts are now looking for those qualities plus height, physicality, and super aggressive attitudes.

Bump and run techniques have been used by defensive backs for decades, but the current Seattle players raised the bar during last season’s title run, bumping, hugging, and mugging opposing offensive players at the line. The DBs inch up to the line of scrimmage and immediately bump the receiver on the snap of the ball hoping to throw the receiver off his intended route while maintaining coverage should he himself be outmaneuvered. The toughest part of the technique is not being able to touch or grab the receiver on any pass attempt past five yards from the line of scrimmage.

Seattle’s group of Sherman, Maxwell, Thomas, and Chancellor is talented, and last year they were willing to push the NFL rulebook and put the burden on officiating crews. While they were whistled for some

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Seahawks Defenders Forced League Rules Changes

infractions, they took pride in their in your face physical play and did not shy away from media reports emphasizing their physicality following last year’s NFC championship game and Super Bowl XLVIII. Sherman and Maxwell were lockdown cornerbacks and Thomas and Chancellor patrolled their safety areas with fast closing speed. This year has been more of the same.

In a way, it has been fun to watch their cohesiveness, but sometimes, at least to this writer, it looks like it is more about the intimidation than making plays. Their flamboyant jawing and bravado on almost every play really has no place in the game. There is a difference between being physical and aggressive, and being classless in playing the intimidation game. Peyton Manning’s receiving corps in the Super Bowl (Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas) all but disappeared on him, never getting into their routes, never developing any rhythm with Manning until Demaryius Thomas caught a number of short passes after the game was out of reach. The Broncos went into the game as the league’s No. 1 rated offensive team of 2013 and, after giving up an early safety, were never in the contest.

Sherman, a one-time wide receiver at Stanford who was later converted to defensive back by the Cardinal, is the leader and main spokesman of the group. Unbelievably, he was drafted in the fifth round out of college, and has used his unique approach to the game to get into the heads of some of the game’s best quarterbacks and receivers. He is the main orchestrator and chief enforcer of the organized mayhem that occurs in each Seahawks game.

Brady and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick should take some pages out of Green Bay’s playbook for the Super

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Brady Will Have To Implement Quick Short Passes

Bowl. The Packers used Eddie Lacy and a short, conservative passing game to drive to the Seahawks red zone three times early in their game. They came away with only six points (Sherman intercepted a longer pass in the end zone), and it came back to haunt them, but Seattle was penalized on a couple of plays for illegal contact, and showed they could be run on in the early going.

If Brady and running back LeGarrette Blount follow the Packers plan successfully, and the Patriots get touchdowns instead of field goals, New England might have a chance. Throw in successful Gronkowski catches across the middle, and the possibility of success would escalate. Anticipating that Wilson might repeat another four-interception game would be far-fetched, so having the Patriot defense ready to hold down Wilson and Lynch from exploding might be the best course of defensive strategy. Bend, but do not break.

If any of the three offensive strategies, or the defensive strategy, fail to prove productive and show weakness, it could be a long day for the Patriots.

The NFL has recently enjoyed a nice stretch of popular offensive football. The Offensive Era has proven to be a big success, both financially and fanwise. To have its top offensive team shut down in such a manner during last year’s Super Bowl demanded immediate scrutiny. Even if it was the top defensive team in the league, the schemes and techniques used had to be examined. After careful review, the NFL began notifying all teams during the 2014 off-season that a new emphasis on penalties called at the line of scrimmage would be implemented. Defensive holding, past interference, and illegal contact, would each be monitored more closely in the 2014 season. Again, while the whistle blew for a number of illegal contact and defensive holding penalties against the Seahawks this year, Seattle still took the opposition’s receiving corps out of most games.

The Seahawks players made necessary adjustments to avoid having flags fly in their faces. They were more cognizant of the place on the field where they used their hands, but they still played physical football, forcing officials to enforce the new league rules.

In 1978, the NFL made some adjustments to help on the offensive side of the ball. The five-yard rule was added to the rules, giving receivers a chance to shake their defenders and allowing them a opportunity to move without being held once they were five yards downfield. Additionally, offensive linemen were allowed to extend their arms and use their hands when blocking. The two new rules helped receivers, and also helped with the protection of the quarterback. Consequently, wide-open games featuring top- notch quarterbacks and speedy, acrobatic receivers were in style from the late ‘70s until last year.

The new defensive rules for this season were put in place to give receivers more liberty in their movements. Seattle’s defensive back group knows how to push—-players, officials, and rules. They could be responsible for a second consecutive NFL Championship heading to the Far West.

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