The final say: An in depth look at Super Bowl XLIX

Our in depth preview of Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. This game is going to come down to which team can shut down the opponents running game, while using their own running game to control the game.

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Super Bowl Sunday is finally here as the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots are getting ready to face each other in Glendale, Ariz. It will be a match-up of two really good defenses, two extremely good quarterbacks, and two of the smartest head coaches in the NFL. While the attention has been primarily directed on deflated footballs and how that impacts the passing game, this years Super Bowl is going to come down to the ability of each team to run the ball.

Doug Baldwin was the Seahawks leading receiver in 2014. (Courtesy of the Seattle Times)

Doug Baldwin was the Seahawks leading receiver in 2014. (Courtesy of the Seattle Times)

The Patriots offensive attack was predominately led by quarterback Tom Brady throughout the 2014 regular season. Brady threw touchdowns on 5.7% of his attempts during the regular season, while hardly ever turning the ball over — he tossed an interception on 1.5% of his passing attempts and fumbled the ball zero times. If the Seahawks are going to stop New England’s passing attack, they are going to need to generate pressure on Tom Brady to get him out of his rhythm, and force him to turn the ball over.

Seattle is also going to have to clog the gaps along the offensive line to take away any chance the Patriots have of running the ball. LeGarrett Blount has been an absolute monster in the playoffs for New England, especially in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Blount carried the ball 30 times for 148 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns; he was physical at the line of scrimmage and the Colts were unable to stop him. If the Seahawks are able to contain Blount, they still have to stop the rest of the Patriots running back committee. New England had four running backs with 50 or more carries this season, including three back with 80 or more.

It’s going to be important for the Seahawks defense to clog the gaps along the Patriots offensive line and get into the backfield to disrupt any rushing plays. The responsibility of getting into the backfield is going to come down to the linebacking core, in particular Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright. Meanwhile, the defensive line — in particular Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett — are going to have to clog the holes and prevent the running backs from getting past the line of scrimmage, if they get past the linebackers.

On the offensive side of the ball, Seattle is going to have to keep feeding Marshawn Lynch and let his physical running style take over the game. If the Seahawks can get Lynch going early, their offense will be able to open up the playbook and create a more dynamic attack; for example, opening up the read and zone option; once the Seahawks got the read option going against the Packers, their offense started scoring and the comeback was on. It’s going to be crucial for New England to stop Lynch, without leaving a lane open for quarterback Russell Wilson to take advantage of.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s going to be up to Vince Wilfork and Chandler Jones to shut down the Seahawks rushing attack. Jones in particular is going to have the crucial job of staying back on hand offs; if he collapses towards Lynch, then Wilson is going to keep the ball and take of running. Meanwhile, Wilfork is going to be going up against a battered, and struggling, center in Max Unger. If Wilfork can generate a ton of pressure on Unger and get him out of sorts, then the Seahawks offense is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Wilson’s passing capabilities will be secondary in this game, but will still be important. The third year quarterback has to be quicker with his reads against the Patriots, as they have a better pass rush than Green Bay. New England’s defense isn’t going to give him time to throw to his third read.

The biggest threat on New England’s offense is, obviously, tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski’s size and athleticism makes him nearly unstoppable, especially in the red zone, and it’s going to be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has schemed to help his defense contain the “Gronk”. If Seattle is able to contain him, then Brady will try to have to hit Julian Edleman or another one of his wideouts to dump the ball of too. And that would be huge for Seattle, especially in third and long situations.

Super Bowl XLIX prediction

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Score: 21-17

MVP: RB Marshawn Lynch

Super Bowl XLIX game time information

Time: 3:30 pm PT

Location: Glendale, Ariz.

TV: NBC

Radio: West Wood One network

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