Trigger warning: The Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl 49 blunder will be shown multiple times leading up to Sunday Night Football’s matchup with the New England Patriots. But, in a completely unbiased opinion, that storyline is odd; it’s tired, really.
The Patriots have moved on and now have former NFL MVP Cam Newton under center; Newton has faced the Seahawks countless times over his nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Seattle has also moved on and seemingly listened to the cohorts screaming ad nauseam to let Russell Wilson cook. Wilson, himself, lobbied to use more of an up-tempo offense earlier in games, and the point finally hit home in Week 1 when the Seahawks tied for the most passes on early downs.
As reported by The Athletic’s Mike Sando:
“The Seahawks passed 14 times in 21 plays on early downs in the first 28 minutes. That 67 percent rate tied for the highest by any team in Week 1. It tied for Seattle’s fourth-highest rate in 132 total games since Wilson became the starter in 2012. The Seattle game that ranks No. 3 during the Wilson era occurred during a Week 1 defeat at Denver two years ago.”
Alas. Wilson is cooking. Or he’s at least in the kitchen, preparing the meal.
This Week 2 contest will tell us more about the Seahawks then it will about the new-look Patriots. It’ll show us whether or not head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are really committed to a change in the offense that brought them early success in 2020. The Seahawks came away from Week 1 with a 38-25 win against the Atlanta Falcons. Wilson was near-perfect in his 322-yard, four-touchdown performance, and the rest of the offense was extremely efficient with the second-best offensive DVOA; Seattle (38.6%) finished behind the Baltimore Ravens (39.9%).
“The best part that really came off this offseason that was I think better than years past was our tempo,” Carroll said Monday on The Pete Carroll Show. “The tempo that we were able to maintain offensively and to limit the defense in terms of their timing to make adjustments, we did it a number of different ways and we worked really, really hard.”
The question still remains, will the Seahawks continue their up-tempo offense? Or will they regress against the genius that is Bill Belichick?
New England’s defense is much tougher than Atlanta’s. The Patriots like to disguise coverage, but they are also bringing a younger group missing some key playmakers. However, under the tutelage of Belichick, this young group cannot be counted out even if they’re facing one of the best passers in the league.
The Seahawks could be weary of their adjustment to pass early, and New England could bring out more of the run game—something Seattle has relied heavily on in the past, even when it doesn’t work. If the Seahawks can continue to utilize an up-tempo offense, it might throw the Patriots off their own game plan, which is even more likely now with this overall inexperienced group missing its leaders. New England had one of the best defensive units in 2019 thanks to Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy, but none of those players are suiting up this season. Hightower and Chung opted out of the 2020 season, citing health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, and Collins and Van Noy left during free agency. How Seattle executes Sunday will be a determining factor of whether or not this coaching staff is willing to give Wilson more control.
The Patriots and Seahawks will also be contenders in their respective conferences, no matter the changes made. However, Seattle can reclaim the NFC West with more outings like last week’s and that will only come if they pass early and often; the Seahawks executed 38 pass plays to 20 runs in Week 1.
While Wilson can create magic out of thin air, there won’t be a need to pull a rabbit out of his hat late in games if he’s allowed to establish himself—not the run—early. Week 2 will be telling for Seattle’s long-term plans.