The Seattle Seahawks undoubtedly possess the best defense in the NFL. Their rushing attack also happens to be the best in the league by a fairly wide margin. While the Seahawks’ defense and running game have them one game away from defending their Super Bowl XLVIII title, it’s the performance of their unheralded passing attack that may be the deciding factor against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
The matchup between Seattle’s top-ranked defense, and New England’s top-ranked offense looks like one for the ages. The Seahawks gave up a mere 267 yards of offense and 15.9 points per game during the regular season, whereas the Patriots racked up 366 yards of offense and scored 29.3 points per game during the regular season. Both sides will surely have their moments throughout the game, but it would be mildly surprising if either side dominates the other.
The matchup between Seattle’s offense and New England’s defense is far less flashy. Seattle relies heavily on their ground game, which averaged 173 yards per game during the regular season, and they have had their struggles when they’ve been forced to beat teams through the air. The strength of New England’s defense lays in defending the run. They gave up only 104 yards per game on the ground during the regular season – the ninth best total in the league. Their passing defense wasn’t nearly as effective having given up 240 yards through the air during the regular season despite having arguably the best cornerback duo in the game.
In the NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers may have laid out the blueprint for the rest of the league on how to limit the offensive success of the Seattle Seahawks. For most of the game, the Packers’ defense kept Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson inside of the pocket, something that the third-year signal caller is still clearly not totally comfortable with. Through four quarters, Wilson had completed 12 out of 27 pass attempts for 164 yards and four interceptions. Behind a huge game out of running back Marshawn Lynch and their defensive and special teams units, the Seahawks remarkably overcame Wilson’s dreadful performance.
Yes, Wilson made a big-time throw from the pocket on his game-winning touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse in overtime. But, including that throw, you could count the number of effective throws Wilson made from the pocket in that game on one hand. This is something Bill Belichick and the Patriots are sure to take note of.
Arizona Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson recently said that Seattle’s wide receivers are an underrated group. Peterson’s comments may have been inspired by the post-game rant of Doug Baldwin, but there is no doubting that the Seahawks wideouts will need to prove him right for their team to have a chance at repeating as Super Bowl champs.
Assuming the Patriots take the same approach against the Seahawks offense that the Packers did last Sunday, the performance of Seattle’s passing attack may be the deciding factor in Super Bowl XLIX. With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner at cornerback, the Patriots have the luxury of leaving their corners on an island against nearly every wide receiver in the league. This will free up their safeties and linebackers to focus on slowing down Marshawn Lynch and keeping Russell Wilson in the pocket.
Seattle only had two receivers accumulate 500 or more receiving yards during the regular season, and none of their pass-catchers are the type of player who will cause defensive coordinators to have nightmares. With that being said, they have the opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong on the biggest stage in professional sports by leading their team to a second-straight Super Bowl title.