Patriots vs. Seahawks: How they match up

Patriots pass offense vs. Seahawks pass defense

Not a good matchup for the Patriots. The Seahawks get a good pass rush with four players and can drop seven into coverage, allowing the “Legion of Boom” secondary to work its magic. Receiver Brandon LaFell is big and physical, and will have better luck against corner Byron Maxwell than wideout Julian Edelman will against All-Pro Richard Sherman. The most dangerous receiving weapon, and Seattle’s biggest defensive challenge, is tight end Rob Gronkowski. He’ll see a lot of big, thumping safety Kam Chancellor, with the fleet Earl Thomas patrolling the back end. EDGE: Seahawks

Patriots run offense vs. Seahawks run defense

The Patriots will try to ground and pound with back LeGarrette Blount to test Seattle’s defensive front and set up the play-action passing game for Tom Brady, who does that as well as any quarterback in the NFL. Instead of trying to spread the field and throw 50-plus times as they did against Baltimore, watch for the Patriots to use a lot of double-tight-end formations and muscle out the yards. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is key for Seattle in stopping the run, as is linebacker Bobby Wagner, especially when they move Michael Bennett inside. Seattle is smaller up front than most teams, but quicker and more agile too. EDGE: Seahawks

Seahawks pass offense vs. Patriots pass defense

Just like the Patriots, the Seahawks use their running game to set up the play-action passing. That means running between the tackles with Marshawn Lynch, and it’s usually highly effective. In the Green Bay game, Lynch ran for 30 yards in the first half, and 127 in the second. The Seahawks have run for at least 100 yards in 11 consecutive games, tied for the second-longest such streak in club history. The Patriots, anchored by 325-pound Vince Wilfork in the middle, were ranked ninth against the run this season. Their corners are so good, the Patriots can commit more bodies to stopping the run. EDGE: Seahawks

Special teams

Bill Belichick got his start as a special teams coach with the Baltimore Colts in 1975, and he puts a ton of focus on the “hidden yardage.” His special-teams unit has had an excellent season, particularly when it comes to blocking kicks. Stephen Gostkowski made all but two field goals this season and led the league in scoring with 156 points. Led by Pro Bowl special-teamer Matthew Slater, the Patriots have airtight coverage units, and punt returner Edelman was second in the league (11.96 yards per return). The Seahawks are solid but not spectacular on special teams, though they had two pivotal plays in the win over the Packers — a fake field goal for a touchdown, and a successful onside kick. EDGE: Patriots

Coaching

This one is splitting hairs, because Belichick will wind up in the Hall of Fame, and Pete Carroll could be headed to Canton, too, considering how his first five seasons with the Seahawks have gone. Both lifted their teams off the mat this season, when the Patriots started 2-2 and the Seahawks 3-3.Belichick just passed the legendary Tom Landry to pick up his 21st postseason victory, an NFL record. Belichick just passed the legendary Tom Landry to pick up his 21st postseason victory, an NFL record. additional challenge Belichick faces not allowing the “Deflate-gate” situation to sidetrack his team. EDGE: Patriots

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The Seahawks should be able to run on New England, and if they can get about 200 yards passing and maybe a couple of touchdowns — and no turnovers — from Wilson, they’ll be in good shape. Watch for them to go after Browner because they know his weaknesses. If Browner gets his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage, he can reroute them, but he’s vulnerable on comebacks and double moves. Brady is so good, and he’s going to get his yards underneath. The Seahawks are focused on not giving up the big play or letting anyone get behind their defense. New England will nickel-and-dime with its passing game, and the key for Seattle is to make sure those drives end in field goals, not touchdowns.

SEAHAWKS 28, PATRIOTS 23

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Patriots you should know

Jamie Collins

Linebacker

A second-year standout, Collins is a versatile linchpin to New England’s defense. He’s 6 feet 3 and is fast enough to cover running backs out of the backfield. When the Patriots do blitz, it’s often Collins they’ll send.

Brandon Browner

Cornerback

Browner played for Seattle last season but missed the Super Bowl while serving a suspension for violating the banned substances policy. He’s strong , can rough up receivers, and is a sure-tackling bookend to fellow corner Darrelle Revis.

Brandon LaFell

Receiver

A former No. 2 receiver in Carolina, the 6-3, 210-pound LaFell is a big target. He finished the regular season with 74 catches and seven touchdowns, both career highs. He and Rob Gronkowski are New England’s biggest receiving threats.

 

Patriots who must come through

Tom Brady

Quarterback

Brady will be playing in his sixth Super Bowl — the most of any starting quarterback in league history — but it’s been a decade since he lifted the Lombardi Trophy. He threw six touchdown passes in two playoff games this postseason.

Rob Gronkowski

Tight end

“Gronk” is the NFL’s most dangerous tight end, one whose size (6-6, 265) and strength make him a nightmare to cover. When he and Brady get on track, the Patriots tend to pull away from teams.

Darrelle Revis

Cornerback

Revis has rediscovered his excellence in New England, and made first team All-Pro. Quarterbacks are wary about throwing his way, and he can make big plays when they test him. Is he the best corner in the game, or is it Seattle’s Richard Sherman?

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Seahawks you should know

Cliff Avril

Defensive end

The Seahawks look to Avril to bring pressure off the edge. He only had five sacks during the regular season, but had a team-high 20 quarterback hits, and picked up a sack in each of the postseason games.

Luke Willson

Tight end

Willson, who grew up in Ontario, Canada, is a de facto receiver who has the speed to make explosive plays, among them an 80-yard touchdown against Arizona in Week 16. He’s dropped a handful of catchable balls, too.

Jermaine Kearse

Receiver

Kearse scored the deciding touchdown in the NFC Championship game after four passes thrown his way were intercepted. He tends to come up big in the biggest games. With Russell Wilson looking his way, Kearse will make some plays in this one.

 

Seahawks who must come through

Russell Wilson

Quarterback

Wilson had a career-high four interceptions in the NFC Championship game but came through at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime. He needs to bounce back strong, and make some plays with his feet.

Marshawn Lynch

Running back

As “Beast Mode” goes, so go the Seahawks. He came alive in the second half against Green Bay, and needs to keep that momentum rolling. His running sets up the play-action passing game.

Bobby Wagner

Linebacker

One of the best middle linebackers in the game, Wagner made All-Pro even though he missed five games because of a toe injury. If defensive tackle Kevin Williams can keep blockers off him, Wagner will be free to make plays.

 

Facts and figures

Participants: New England Patriots (AFC) and Seattle Seahawks (NFC). It’s the eighth appearance for the Patriots (3-4) and third for Seattle (1-1). Seattle will be the home team and wear blue. New England will wear white.

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; (71,228).

Kickoff: Today, 3:30 p.m. PST.

On the air: TV — By NBC-TV (Channel 4 in Los Angeles) to more than 200 stations throughout the United States; Radio — Westwood One Radio (570 in Los Angeles) to 600 stations within the United States. Armed Forces Television will also provide broadcast to 175 countries throughout the world. (Pregame begins at 10 a.m. on Channel 4).

Player earnings: Winners: $97,000 per man. Losers: $49,000.

Overtime rules: Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regular game and a coin toss to decide which team receives the ball first, play will continue by 15-minute periods. The teams will change goals between each period; there will be a two-minute warning. If the team that receives the kickoff scores a touchdown, it wins. If the team scores a field goal, the other team gets an opportunity to score or it loses. If that team scores a touchdown, it wins. If the score is tied after both teams have a possession, the next score wins.

Super Bowl 50: Feb. 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.

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