There’s a lot to love about the matchup between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. Choosing a winner at CenturyLink Field is a tricky business, but there are three things each team needs to get right in Week 2.
Here are the keys for both, starting with the Patriots:
Have Phillips spy Wilson
Belichick knows how much of a problem Seattle’s dual-threat quarterback can be:
He’s a tremendous player. Obviously, a tremendous person. He’s just really good at everything. You have to defend the whole field with him. Very dangerous in the pocket, out of the pocket, great deep ball passer, has excellent vision, super competitive, hard to tackle. I mean, he’s a great football player and there’s nobody I have more respect – I mean, I respect a lot of players, all the players really but he is certainly at the top of the list of people we compete against. He’s really tough.
The key to containing Wilson will be keeping eyes on him. Fortunately, the Pats have an ideal player for the task, safety Adrian Phillips.
He was acquired from the Los Angeles Chargers to replace Patrick Chung, who opted out because of Covid-19. Phillips didn’t disappoint in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, showcasing the recognition skills Belichick coveted.
Belichick says that the #Patriots used to watch Adrian Phillips against opponents they were playing against when he was with the #Chargers to see how he recognized plays so quickly. Looking for the tells that Phillips was keying on. Praising his experience and smarts.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) September 15, 2020
New England used Phillips as a linebacker in a big nickel package, one of Belichick’s go-to defensive fronts. Phillips can handle himself against the run, but his real value is the wrinkle he adds to the Patriots’ coverage schemes.
The Pats are all about man coverage on the back end. It means defensive backs turn away from the quarterback, a risky strategy against somebody as mobile as Wilson, who often produces his best throws on the move.
Phillips can be a robber underneath, the way he was against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins.
— NFL (@NFL) September 13, 2020
Keeping eyes on Wilson will mean avoiding the big plays he makes in both phases once he escapes the pocket.
Get J.J. Taylor more involved
There was a lot to like about the way J.J. Taylor ran the ball last week. The undrafted rookie lugged the rock as though he was in a bad mood.
Taylor wasn’t afraid to mix it between the tackles and usually dragged the first Dolphins defender for an extra yard or two. The only problem was Taylor had a mere four carries.
J.J. Taylor consistently ran like this during training camp. He's shifty, has really good balance and a low center of gravity. Once he got past some early ball control issues, it looked like this type of performance would be possible.
— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 13, 2020
Getting him the ball more often will be the key to loosening up Seattle’s zone coverage. Taylor can run the Seahawks out of their familiar 3-deep look and force Carroll to add more defenders to the box, leaving room behind for Newton to exploit off play action.
Identify where Adams is
Knowing where Jamal Adams is will be Cam Newton’s most important job pre-snap. Adams lived on the line against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, proving a destructive force against both the run and the pass.
The safety blitzed 11 times and registered two tackles for loss. Adams will be Seattle’s best weapon against New England’s run-heavy offense.
#Seahawks — Watching safety Jamal Adams.
Played with a sense of urgency in Week 1. Speed to the ball. Driving top-down on routes. Pressures.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 14, 2020
Playing Adams so close to the line also creates opportunities for Carroll to disguise coverage. Having him bail late can turn single-high coverage into 2-deep, or else Adams can be used to double inside routes, like the shallow crossing patterns Julian Edelman consistently gashes defenses with.
The Patriots know Adams well from his days with AFC East rival the New York Jets, so expect Belichick to have a specific plan for the chief playmaker on Seattle’s defense.
That takes care of what the Pats need to do. Turn the page to find how the Seahawks can win…