In the beginning of the 2014 NFL Season, 32 teams started off undefeated with the sole goal of winning the Super Bowl. After 17 weeks of football, 12 teams were left to compete in the NFL postseason for the chance to play in Super Bowl XLIX. When the dust settled, only two teams were remaining. Representing the AFC are the New England Patriots, past champions, led by the Belichick-Brady duo. On the other side, representing the NFC are the Seattle Seahawks, the defending world champions from Super Bowl XLVIII.
Amdist the whole debacle that is known as ‘DeflateGate,’ lost is the key thing that everybody should be paying attention to: The Xs and Os. Regardless of what the media hype is off the field, on the field is where the game is going to be won. Let’s take a look at each team, step by step, to see who is the ‘superior’ team in this Super Bowl matchup.
QB Comparison: Tom Brady vs. Russell Wilson.
It’s by far a landslide in this one on who has the advantage. Regardless of the outcome of recent events, Tom Brady is still the superior quarterback. The only advantage that Russell Wilson has is his speed/mobility. Wilson led all QBs in rushing this year with 849 yards and he can extend plays longer, avoiding defenders and allowing his receivers to get open. But unlike Wilson, Brady can easily read a defense, calling out the appropriate audible plays. Plus Brady can work an up-tempo offense, getting players to the line of scrimmage to run off a quick play before the defense can get fully set with substitutions.
RB Comparison: Pats RB vs. Seahawks RB (mainly Marshawn Lynch)
Okay, this is a no-brainer. You may love him, hate him, or just feel indifferent, but at the end of the day most teams would love to be able to hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. In the past 4 years with Seattle, Lynch has had rushed for 1,000+ yards and 10+ TDs each season. Not to mention his physical style of running can punish defenders and he’s been known as being difficult to be taken down. Patriots fans could boast they got that same type of running back in LaGarette Blount but Blount has a tendency to show up against slipshod run defenses (see past games against the Colts) and then disappear against decent running defenses. Shane Vareen is a good 3rd-down receiving back but he can’t run in between the tackles with the same power as a Marshawn Lynch. Patriots have good running backs with specialized roles, but by the end of the day you want to just put the ball in Seattle’s #24 and have him run with it.
Receiving Corp: Pats Receiving Corp vs. Seahawks Receiving Corp
Regardless the opinion of Seahawks DB Jeremy Layne, TE Rob Gronkowski is what makes the Patriots receiving corp so deadly. At 6’6’’, there is no real defensive back that can cover him. Opposing defensive coordinators tend to shift the attention to him more so, thus freeing up the likes of a Julian Edelman and Brandon Lafell to make big plays down the field. Not to mention that both of those receivers can obtain receiving yards through their own way (Edelman’s speed in the slot and Lafell’s down-the-field catching abilities.) On Seattle’s side, only WR Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse were able to break the 500 yard receiving mark this season (Baldwin with 825 and Kearse with 537) and TE Luke Wilson is little more than an emergency safety valve for Russell Wilson. Combined, they have a total of 7 receiving TDs for the entire regular season. Gronkowski alone has 11 receiving TDs. You can see where this is going to go.
Offensive Line Comparison: Pats O-Line vs. Seahawks O-Line
During the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots offensive line was influx. They had no chemistry, they kept allowing Brady to get repeatedly sacked (9 times for 51 yards lost and 3 lost fumbles). Then after an adjustment prior to week 5 of having the combo of Nate Soldier at LT, Dan Connolly at LG, rookie Bryan Stork at C, Ryan Wendell at RG, and Sebastian Vollmer at RT, the Pats O-Line allowed Tom Brady to be sacked just 13 times for 83 yards in 12 games. Compared to the Seahawks O-line that has allowed their quarterback to be sacked 42 times and has had members miss significant time due to injuries, it’s easy to see who has the advantage in this one.
Defensive Line Comparison: Pats Front 7 vs. Seahawks Front 7
It was a little tricky gauging both sides since they boasted some heavy hitters. But after careful reviewing, the Seahawks Front 7 stacks up way better against the Patriots Front 7. They are led by the likes of Michael Bennett (7.0 sacks) and Cliff Avril (5.0 sacks), two guys with speed and power on the edges with two behemoths defensive tackles (6’5’’ Kevin Williams & 6’7’’ Tony McDaniel) that can clog up the interior. Then you have a linebacker corp that the Patriots have not seen: one that can both stop the run and the pass with the likes of Bobby Wagner (104 tackles, 2.0 sacks & 3 passes defended), Bruce Irvin (37 tackles, 6.5 sacks & 3 pass defended), and K.J. Wright (107 tackles, 2.0 sacks & 4 pass defended).
Not to mention they have the reigning Super Bowl XLVIII MVP, LB Malcom Smith, providing a boost off the bench to fill in wherever he is needed. Patriots have guys like NT Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle, Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones coming off the edge, and LB Jamie Collins who is a linebacker that can also play like a cornerback. But it’s hard to argue against a front 7 that was ranked first in points allowed (15.9 ppg), first in total yards allowed (267.1 ypg), third against the run (81.5 ypg), and can combine speed, power, and toughness all in one package.
Secondary Comparison: Pats Secondary vs. Seahawks Secondary
This could be closer than you think. Both have shutdown corners that could take away one side of the field (CB Darelle Revis with the Pats and CB Richard Sherman with the Seahawks). Both teams have a big, physical cornerback playing on the opposite side of their shutdown corner (6’4’’ CB Brandon Browner for the Pats and 6’0’’ CB Byron Maxwell for the Seahawks). Finally both teams have a strong safety that could not only cover but also lay out the big hits whenever it is called upon (Devin McCourty for the Pats and Earl Thomas for the Seahawks). Both also have similar numbers in key defensive secondary categories such as pass defended (67 for Seahawks and 64 for Pats) and interceptions (16 for Pats and 13 for Seahawks).
Yet by the end of the day, the Seattle secondary puts more fear into their opponents because of their size, speed, and ability to shut down the opposition. They were instrumental in Seattle’s ranking of first in pass defense this past season (185.6 ypg) and even had two interceptions returned for touchdowns as well. If they were able to shut down the Broncos’ high-octane passing attack in Super Bowl XLVIII, they could give Tom Brady and his receivers a run for their money in Super Bowl XLIX.
Special Teams: Pats Special Teams vs. Seahawks Special Teams
It can go either way at this point. In punt returns, the Patriots were ranked in the Top 10 for punt return yards (5th with 431 yards) and in punt return averages (10th with 10.9 ypr). Seattle on the other hand, ranked 19th in punt return yards (with 252 yards) and 25th in punt return averages (7.0 ypr). On kickoffs, the Patriots ranked 26th in yards (693 yards) and 21st in kickoff return averages (22.4 ypr). Flipping over to the Seahawks, they ranked 17th in kickoff return yard (820 yards) but 30th in kickoff return average (21.0 ypr). In kicking, Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski lead the league with 35 made field goals, tied for 4th for field goal attempted (37), was 2nd in field goal conversion (96.8%), was 5th in the league for PATS attempts (51) and makes (51), and was tied for lead league in PATs with a perfect 100% conversion rate.
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka ended up 5th with 31 field goals made, was actually tied with Gostkowski for 4th in field goals attempted (37), was 17th in field goal conversion (83.8%), was tied for 11th in PAT attempts (41) and makes (41), and again was tied with Gostkowski for lead league in PAT conversion rates (100%). In punting, Pats Punter Ryan Allen was tied 24th in punts (67), ranked 24th for punting yards (3060), tied for 12th in punting average (45.7) and in net average (39.9). Seahawks punter Jon Ryan was tied for 26th in punts (62), tied for 28th in punting yards (2688), was 26th in punting average (43.4), and 27th in net average (37.3)
Coaching: Bill Belichick vs. Pete Carroll
You may hate either Bill or Pete with a passion, but they are proven winners in their own ways. However most of Carroll’s winning ways came from his time in college with the USC Trojans. Though Carroll had won Super Bowl XLVIII last year, which was only his first ever Super Bowl appearance in the 21 years he’s been a coach in the NFL (both as a defensive coordinator and a head coach). Belichick, on the other hand, has had 7 appearances in the Super Bowl (2 as defensive coordinator for the NY Giants and 5 as a head coach of the Patriots) and has been a part of 5 winning teams. Can’t argue with experience.
But after you look at both teams, after you study all the statistics that are out there, one thing still remains: They still need to play the game. Super Bowls are not won on paper, they are won on the field. But sometimes the tale of the tape can provide an idea of how things will go down. Hopefully it’ll be a close, competitive, and clean game. The battle with be hard fought, many will rise to the occasion while others will falter. But when the final whistle is heard, only one team will walk away as world champions.
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