Like Poetry In Motion’s Super Bowl Preview
In what will hopefully be a Super Bowl for the ages, the New England Patriots go up against the defending champs in the Seattle Seahawks. The best teams from each conference are going to battle in a war of which includes freaks, geniuses, and legends. Legacies are built and torn down in games like these, so we at Like Poetry in M o t i o n . . . decided to break down the game for you and offer up our own predictions. Ben Rappaport, perhaps the biggest Patriots fan currently living in PA, will give the three key factors on what the Pats need to do to win, while Alex Bell will explain what Seattle has to accomplish to claim a W. So let’s get after it . . .
Why the New England Patriots will win | Ben Rappaport
We have all been here before as a fan. Your favorite team out of every professional sport with your favorite athlete of all time both about to compete in perhaps the biggest game in the franchise’s history. Wait that hasn’t happened to you? Shit… well stay with me anyway. I have liked the New England Patriots since I was six which is about the earliest any child really takes any interest in professional sports. Being born in 1995, when I was six it also happened to be the year the Patriots won their first ever Super Bowl. Go figure huh. Well I don’t remember a lot of that game (again I was six), but I do remember watching it with my dad, staying up much later than usual, and seeing the look in his eye after Adam Vinatieri kicked the game winner. Up until that point my dad probably thought he would never see another Boston championship, with the Celtics in turmoil after the Rick Pitino era, the Bruins being talentless, and the Red Sox being well… the Red Sox. So he was ecstatic, being from Massachusetts and all, he finally had hope for a team. That hope is contagious, and so is that sort of love for something. Many people ask why I root for the Pats (and the other Boston teams) even though for most of my life I’ve lived in Pennsylvania. The answer is because at that moment when that football went through those uprights in 2002 I formed a connection with my dad that is something that has never wavered ever despite our conflicting view points on a lot of different things. It brought us closer together. And that is something that is important. Of course what happens next is some what of hitting the sports lottery. Boston of course became the most winningest city in all of sports for the next century. The Pats of course being the most successful, winning two more Super Bowls, going to two others, and easily being the best franchise in the NFL for the last 15 years. So yeah, reason number one of why I love the Patriots the most out of all the sports teams I support: it started my love of sports and helped to solidify a special connection I have with my father. Alright cool. Everyone still with me? Okay on to the next point.
Alright so reason number two and probably a lot more obvious of a reason… The Patriots have my favorite athlete of all time on their team. Sure did I love watching Zdeno Chara knock the shit out of people for the Bruins and Paul Pierce sinking dagger threes and Big Papi hitting clutch home runs? Of course! But there is no one that rivals Tom Brady. Nobody… Tom Brady is that legend everyone dreams of having on their team. He is the perfect role model and someone that I try and replicate in my day to day life. You might think that is a funny sentiment since of course I have never met him. How would I know wether or not he is really that good of a guy? Well there was one moment when I was at a Patriots game I saw him walking back into the tunnel from warming up. Brady isn’t really the type to interact with fans before a big game. He is usually zoned in and focusing on every detail of the job he is about to do. But this time as he was walking past the fans he stopped and bent down and smiled at a little boy maybe five or six years old who was wearing a TB12 jersey. He bent down to get to his level, smiled at him, and gave the kid a huge high five. It was a very surreal moment for everyone watching it. He couldn’t have done a more perfect thing in that moment. My life would be different if it wasn’t for Brady and not in the ways you would think. Sure the championships and the winning are nice, but more so Tom Brady has taught me so much about life in general. I’ve modeled a lot of my life after him, his intensity, his competitiveness, his integrity. Everything that culminates into him being who he is, I’ve taken bits of that and put into myself. Watching him these last 15 years is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. The way he handles himself in front of the media, the way he takes care of his family and handles being a superstar… It all just is unlike anyone else. Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL. I use to want… no need people to realize that. However, after all this bullshit about deflated footballs I have come to a decision where I don’t give a fuck what people think about him. Tom Brady doesn’t care, so why should I? His play speaks for himself and more than that his actions off the field offer up a much better view of how amazing a person he is than any words I could possibly say about him. He is and forever will be my favorite athlete ever.
So yeah, that is how the love of the Pats started, but now let us start on the main event of this piece. The big game tomorrow in Glendale, Arizona, takes us back to the scene of the crime of perhaps the worst loss in Patriots history. I won’t say much about that day but let’s just say 12 year old Ben cried himself to sleep that night. This Pats team is different. Armed with a 100% healthy Gronkowski and perhaps the most dominant defense since the 2004 championship team, we (I say “we” because when you watch and care as much as the Patriots as I do you are basically a part of the team) are primed and ready to lift our 4th Lombardi Trophy. Of course if we are going to succeed with this mission we need to accomplish three things:
I. Contain the Read Option (and the Seattle rushing attack in general)
Seattle is lead by
God quarterback Russell Wilson who has mastered the art of the read option. The read option is a play designed as a misdirection offensive play call that has the quarterback read the defense in the middle of the play and usually has him make the conscience choice of handing it off or keeping it himself. You see it a lot in the younger quarterbacks that are dangerous with their legs and are able to distract a defense more so than the traditional slower QBs. Russell Wilson is especially good at the read option, perhaps the best at it in all of the NFL. Coming off a season when he rushed for 849 yards and combined with the scariest running back in the league, Marshawn Lynch, containing this double headed monster of a running attack is the first key to locking down the Seattle offense. Stopping the run is especially important since it is the main component in Seahawks offensive game plan. They don’t have any star power at wide receivers to begin with but in this game that weakness will especially be exploited when going up against one of the best secondaries in all of football lead by none other but Darrelle Revis. Look to see them establish the run early, and if New England can stop that, it will be a tough day for Wilson and company.
II. Tom Brady must play flawless
Tom Brady is now 37 years old. He is still regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the league but even a gigantic homer like me can admit he is dropping off a tad bit. He can’t throw the deep ball like he did in 2007 and his accuracy has dropped a tad bit. We are sure he will miss at least one key throw a game and it’s not a secret on how to make him play a bad game. In order to win Brady and the Pats are going to have to play about as flawless as they ever have. They’re going to have to make the smart football passing plays and avoid the turnovers that Seattle is known for getting at key moments. This may seem like a blatantly obvious point but the Pats are going to live and die on Tom Brady’s arm. The New England line needs to show up and give Brady enough time for him to make his reads. Roughing up Brady is a known strategy to beat him so look for the Seahawks to throw the pressure at him and try to get him rattled just like the Giants did in the last two New England Super Bowls. We are going to need to see perhaps the best game of Tom’s career if New England hopes to come out on top.
III. New England needs to play all their cards
In every playoff game this season New England has shown the NFL plays that haven’t been seen in a very long time if ever. Wether it is ineligible receiver trickery or old school trick plays, the Pats have outsmarted every team they have come up against in the Playoffs. In this game don’t be surprised to see some more of the same. Bill Belichick loves taking away what the opponent does best on offense and capitalizing on the weaknesses of the opposing defense. A tricky thing to do in this game because the Seattle D has almost zero weaknesses. Look for New England to come out with a 3 or four tight end set to establish the run game early and to open up room against the physical defense for the smaller Pat’s receivers. Everyone knows about Gronk and how much of an unstoppable force he is, but look for Tim Wright, another very athletic Pat’s tight end (same type of receiver as that Aaron Hernandez guy), to be involved today. New England will most likely offer up Brandon LaFell as a sacrifice to Richard Sherman’s side, so hopefully that opens up some room for guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to attack the slower Seattle corners. Seattle is 18th in DVOA against running back (according to Football Outsiders) passes so Shane Vereen will also be a heavy asset for the Patriot’s offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have more of those ineligible receiver trick plays with lots of tight ends and get Vereen involved heavily in the passing game. All in all, the Pat’s are going to be throwing the kitchen sink at Seattle and really the genius of Belichick is going to have to pull out all the stops. Anything is in play for this game so we will see what happens.
Seattle’s 3 Keys: What the Hawks Need to do to Emerge Victorious | Alex Bell
While Ben has expressed his affinity for Boston sports, mainly the Pats, I bring a little bit of a different bias and lens to this game. To be quite honest with you, I almost boycotted this year’s playoffs all together because my Birds absolutely crumbled in the latter half of the season. I detested the thought that Philly could perform so admirably in their match against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and then subsequently that the L in the three weeks that followed. Sure, two of those losses came to eventual playoff teams, one being the NFC’s Super Bowl representative, but Philly was in control of their own destiny, and to put it frankly, they choked. Needless to say, I really didn’t have the warm fuzzies about the NFL postseason this year. Regardless, I couldn’t withstand from following the entire ordeal, and I certainly can’t complain with the matchup that we’ve got on tap for this evening.
Being a Philly fan and all, I don’t necessarily have a horse in this race. Nevertheless, both teams have certain ties that beckon my allegiance. On Seattle’s side, I can’t help but root for the Legion of Boom’s scariest enforcer Kam “Bam Bam” Chancellor. He’s also a member of Virginia Tech’s long list of professional defensive back products (D-Block, what up!?), so I can’t help but root for him. Kam set the tone of last year’s Super Bowl when he lit up up Demaryius Thomas across the middle early in the contest, and I’m sure he and the rest of that harrowing Hawks defense will be licking their chops to get after Brady and the boys tonight.
As for the Pats allegiance, I’d be remiss if I didn’t root for a guy that I had the pleasure of playing with, if only for a week. During the summer going into my freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to play with a former high school rival of mine, Duron Harmon. Duron played for Caesar Rodney High School in Dover, and I went to Milford, a school twenty minutes south. With CR being in the same conference as us, I had always had a skewed perception on the school in general. You know how rivalries are. Throughout your entire involvement in them, you’re told that you’re supposed to feel a certain type of what about a specific team because they’re the “enemy.” Luckily I had the opportunity to put those notions to rest when four of my Milford teammates and I got paired up with Duron and four of high CR teammates for the 2009 DFRC Blue Gold All Star game being held at the University of Delaware. Throughout the week I came to the realization that though a rivalry existed between our teams during our high school careers, we were all very similar human beings at the end of the day with similar goals and values.
There’s no doubt that I’ll be pulling for Duron to put on for Delaware athletes everywhere, both former and current, during tonight’s big game. He came up huge with an interception to seal the deal versus Joe Flacco and the Ravens in the divisional round, and I wish him good luck tonight as that Pats D tries to shut down Beast Mode and the rest of that Seattle offense. Without further ado though, lets take a peek at the three things Seattle’s got to make happen if they want to end up world champions out in the desert tonight . . .
I. Be about that zone read action, boss!
It’s no secret as to what Seattle’s offense has been predicated on all season long. The Hawks have utilized a misdirection oriented spread attack that exemplifies the attributes that exist across their offensive personnel. We all know that Russell Wilson isn’t the biggest quarterback in the league, so Seattle head coach Pete Caroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have developed a system around around Wilson and Seattle
media martyr running back Marshawn Lynch. The pair have proved to be quite successful over the course of this season, attributing for a whopping 78% of Seattle’s rushing offense. The Seattle run game was tops in the league this season, averaging 172.6 rushing yards per game, and more than 5 yards per carry. No team but Seattle averaged over 5 ypc this year, and much of Seattle’s successful ground attack this year was due to their zone read running game.
As Ben alluded to earlier, the zone read is an offensive concept that is relatively new to the NFL, but offensive gurus like Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer have turned it into such a revolutionary threat that the professional game couldn’t abstain from the zone read option game any longer. Seattle’s zone read attack opens up their offense to a multitude of other options, but without a successful ground attack, the Hawks will find it hard to pass on New England’s defensive secondary, a group that has continued to fine tune and perfect things during this playoff stretch. If Seattle is able to run the ball this evening with Lynch and Wilson, we could see a Seattle offense start to get into a rhythm with their play action pass game. Russ has struggled against good secondaries all season, but if New England is forced take a few DB’s off the field in an attempt to stuff the box, we could see the young quarterback afforded with an opportunity to get outside the pocket and make some plays either with his feet, or through the air.
II. Stop the Gronk
At the beginning of the season, the Pats offense struggled to get into a groove, the main contributing factor to that being that New England’s superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn’t fully healthy after another offseason full of surgery and rehab, this time to repair an ACL and MCL that he tore in a 2013 game against the Cleveland Browns. The Gronker didn’t really get it going until week five of this season’s campaign, a game against the Bengals in which he touched 100 yards for the first time of the season. After the game against Cincy, it seemed as though the Pats’ main offensive threat was fully healthy and more importantly fully acclimated back into the New England offense. Since that contest, New England has only lost one game, and Gronk has accumulated 1,113 yards and 10 touchdowns. Obviously, the former Arizona product is Brady’s main target, and Seattle is going to have to find an answer for him if they want to shut down the New England arial assault.
Luckily for Seattle, they’re equipped with elite defensive weapons littered across all three phases of their starting unit. The defensive line is lead by defensive end Michael Bennett, the linebackers by third year man Bobby Wagner, and the entire LOB is behind it all, sitting in zone coverage and ready to swoop in for either the big hit or the big pick. Stopping Gronk will be one of the main goals for Seattle this evening, and each man on the Seattle defense needs to play their 1/11th to ensure the Hawks can get it done. Bennett and the rest of the Seattle line need to get a solid pass rush this evening so Brady doesn’t have time to sit back and progress through his reads. As for the linebackers, it’s going to be important for them to get their hands on Gronk once he begins his route. If Gronk’s able to get a free release this evening, Brady will be certain to look his way, early and often.
As for the Seattle secondary, it’ll be their job to cover Gronkowski over the top. I don’t anticipate Seattle trying to assign one particular guy to cover Gronk, so the Hawks defensive backs need to cover their respective portion of the field when the New England tight end heads their way. Seattle could potentially bring Chancellor up in the box to chip and cover Gronk on intermediate routes along with Wagner and the other LB’s, while Seattle’s other safety Earl Thomas can assist with the tight end’s longer patterns. Either way, Gronk has done a great job to keep things going with Brady all season, so the Hawks will no doubt have their hands full with this monumental task of a tight end.
III. Conquer the trenches against New England’s offensive line
Not only is Seattle’s defense the best in the league, but in the grand scheme of things, these Hawks defenders comprise a defensive unit that could go down as one of the best ever. Undeniably, games on the gridiron are won and lost in the trenches, so the responsibility that the Seattle defensive line is shouldering this evening could be the biggest responsibility of all. In the four games that Brady and the Pats have lost this year, Tom the Terrific was sacked 3.5 on average. In New England’s twelve wins this season? 1.2 sacks. New England’s receiving corps isn’t as threatening as it was in 2007 when they went to the Super Bowl with The Freak in their arsenal, but if Seattle wants to give themselves the best shot at winning tonight, they need to get pressure on Brady as often as possible. If given time, he’ll be able to find a way to move the Pats offense down the field. LaFell, Amendola, and Edelman aren’t really big play threats, but Brady has built a solid rapport with that group over the course of this season, and the aforementioned Gronk monster is a matchup nightmare in the passing game. Guys like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin need to make it a priority this evening to get to Brady early and often, as a consistent pass rush will ensure that New England will have to rely more on their running game than they probably would like to.
Speaking of the New England running game, Seattle could potentially have their hands full with that area of the Pats offense as well. New England’s rushing attack was dealt a harsh hand this season, as they traded offensive guard Logan Mankins to help relieve Gronk’s early seasons struggles, and they eventually lost Stevan Ridley to a season ending injury. In classic Belichick fashion, the Pats employed a RB-by-committee approach throughout most of the season, rotating a group that consisted of Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray, and sometimes even Brandon Bolden. Oddly enough, New England was able to re-acquire former running back LeGarrette Blount after Blount’s short stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers burned out, and Blount has been a valuable asset to the New England running game since rejoining the Patriot way. Blount proved to be the knockout punch for the Pats in the AFC championship game, and if Seattle’s pass rush is effective tonight, Blount will assuredly get the bulk of the carries. Seattle’s defense has held their opponents to 81.5 rushing yards per game this season, and if they’re able to stuff New England to a similar total, it’ll go a long way in ensuring they’re able to deflate the Patriots offensive efforts.
Final Predictions —
Alex Bell: Ultimately, it should be no surprise that I think this game will come down to the war in the trenches. As stated, Seattle’s got one of the greatest defenses of all time, and I doubt that Tom the Terrific will have enough time to consistently deliver the ball to his receivers. If that’s the case, I don’t think New England’s running attack is enough to make them Super Bowl champions. On the other side of the spectrum, Seattle’s got to have success running the football. If the Wilson/Beast Mode running game tandem gets the workload they deserve this evening, I think Seattle’s defense will do their job well enough so that the Hawks will repeat as Super Bowl champs. If Seattle does get the job done, and my MVP prediction does come true, I sincerely cannot wait to watch the post game ceremonies. Let’s hope Super Bowl 49 is one for the ages.
Final Score | Seattle Seahawks – 24 New England Patriots – 18
MVP | Marshawn Lynch
Ben Rappaport: A great game that will hopefully go down as an instant classic for everyone who watches it. I believe that New England’s rushing attack won’t be strong enough to get past Seattle. I don’t think Brady will have a perfect game. Seattle’s best thing they do on offense is what the Pat’s do the worst which is stop the run. The Patriot’s elite secondary will be wasted lining up against mediocre receivers and Lynch will be running in full Beast Mode. Belichick might have used up all his tricks in that Raven’s game and really we are just going to play a normal game… So all in all I’m going with Seattle. As much as that breaks my heart.
Final Score | Seattle Seahawks – 19 New England Patriots – 17
MVP | Russell Wilson
LOL gotcha… Real prediction time… Everyone is counting out the Pats… Everyone. According to SportsBook.com the line has shifted to Seattle favored by 1. I’ve talked to numerous people who really know a lot about football and they all think Seattle is winning in a close game. Not me. Nope. It could be because I’m a gigantic homer (yes, this is true) but I’ve sat through seven years of watching the Patriots having a mediocre defense and relying on that beautiful right arm of Tom Brady. Not this year though. This year we have a real defense. It is going to be a no fly zone when Wilson takes the field tonight, and we are going to depend on our corner’s to stop their receivers in one one coverage and we are gonna stack the box in order to stop the unstoppable run game that is Beast Mode. We have one of the most athletic linebackers in Jaimie Collins to spy Wilson. Their offense is simply not good enough to beat us. And on the other side of the ball, the way to beat Brady is a pass rush which is the worst part about the 2014 Seahawks. The Legion of Boom is scary, especially Kam Chancellor, but the short change of direction routes the Pats receivers are the best at will help to free up Brady’s short yardage throwing offense. And then there is Gronk… He’s about to pick anyone trying to stop him “and throw him out of the club.” The Pats are in full “EFF You Mode” after deflategate, they’ve accepted the “us against the world” mentality. They are ready to cement their legacy and take down the champs. Let’s do this.
Final Score | Seattle Seahawks – 16 New England Patriots – 24
MVP | Tom Brady