Three keys for New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks on SNF

Russell Wilson on the field.
Will Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks to a SNF win? Photo by CBS Sports.

Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson. Bill Belichick vs. Pete Carroll. Stephon Gilmore vs. DK Metcalf.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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