by Mark Beauchamp, Contributing Writer and Loyal Patriots Fan
Last Sunday was the 13th edition of the rivalry pitting Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady against the illustrious Peyton Manning, but the first with Manning as a member of the Broncos.
With a few notable exceptions the Pats generally had their way vs. Manning and his previous employer the Indianapolis Colts, winning 8 of 12. The laundry was different for Manning on Sunday but Belichick and Brady once again came out on top over their worthy adversary. The win improved the Patriots record to 3-2 on the season and returned the team to their familiar perch atop the AFC East.
Brady and the New England offense looked well oiled in defeating Denver. Brady seemed in complete command after looking average, very average for weeks. Tommy Terrific completed 23 of 31 pass attempts for 223 yards and a touchdown and also added a rushing touchdown. The QB had plenty of help. The offensive line continues to impress and defy critics – making the case for Offensive Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia to defy the odds himself and end up in Canton someday (no I’m not shitting you, Pyle). Denver deployed a defensive strategy of nickel and dime packages featuring extra DB’s and smaller LB’s designed to cover the many passing options with which New England can attack. The Patriots answered by going no huddle and repeatedly running the rock down the throat of the smaller defensive alignment. Sophomore Running Back Stevan Ridley had a career best 151 rushing yards and a TD but had to sweat out a late lost fumble that jeopardized the win. Receiver Wes Welker had 13 grabs for 104 yards and a tuck and then fanned the flames regarding a possible rift with Belichick by saying after the game that “it’s kind of nice to stick it in Bill’s face once in a while, so this is definitely a good one.”
The balance on offense may once again have visions of a fourth Lombardi Trophy dancing in the heads of Pats fans, but equally encouraging is the continued emergence of the Ooze Don’t Lose Defense. Manning’s going to get his and he did completing 31 passes for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns. But the ball hawking Patriots D created key turnovers including Cornerback Sterling Moore punching the ball loose from Denver Receiver Demaryius Thomas after getting beat for a 43 yard completion on the opening drive. Defensive End Rob Ninkovich was all over the field with a key strip sack of Manning in the 3rd quarter and later causing a Willis McGahee fumble to seal the W. Linebacker Jerod Mayo continued his rise as a star in the league with 8 tackles including his own sack of Manning. The strong play of young Defensive Backs Tavon Wilson, Alfonzo Dennard and Ras-I Dowling was also an encouraging sign for the emerging Patriot defensive unit.
This week New England will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on Old Friend Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks. Every week is a challenge in the NFL where parity rules and Any Given Sunday is the truth. The challenge this week will include not only matching up against one of the top defenses in all of football, but also playing in perhaps the loudest stadium in the NFL at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
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The Seahawks enjoy perhaps the greatest home field advantage in the NFL but they bring plenty more to the party than just the 12th Man. Their defense is just plain good and the Seattle players on that side of the ball are frickin’ huge. The secondary – referred to as the Legion Of Boom – is big and physical led by playmaker Free Safety Earl Thomas. His partner at Strong Safety is Kam Chancellor who at 6-3 and 230 pounds is like having a linebacker in the secondary. They have big, strong players at Cornerback as well who like to jam receivers and disrupt plays at the line of scrimmage. They have a big and physical front seven that will be a huge test for the Patriots. Be prepared Pats fans – this defense is maybe the best you will see this year. Don’t be throwing the bean dip at the flat screen if Brady is on his ass or the offense goes three and out early – it’s gonna happen.
On the other hand Seattle has struggled to put points on the board so far this season. Coach Carroll decided to go with rookie QB Russell Wilson, the third-round draft choice out of Wisconsin. Wilson is a smart and athletic player but young QB’s typically have long days against Belichick. The Seahawks will no doubt rely heavily on a ground and pound attack led by resurgent Running Back Marshawn Lynch. The former Bill has been reborn in Seattle and over the past 14 games he’s been the most productive runner in the NFL (1,449 yards).
Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll will be especially jacked and pumped for this tilt. Coach Carroll was Head Coach in New England for three seasons from 1997-1999. Carroll is in the unenviable historical position of having replaced Bill Parcells and preceded Belichick as HC of NEP. Carroll led the Pats to a division title in 1997 and a playoff berth in 1998 but is generally if unfairly regarded as a failure here and he was fired after the 1999 season. Carroll landed back on his feet at USC as its head coach. and re-entered the ranks of the NFL in 2010 in his current position with the Seahawks. Carroll’s style has long been considered perhaps a better fit for the college game than the NFL but he seems to have found a niche in the collegiate like environment in Seattle.
Like every week in the NFL this is going to be a big one. I’ll be tailgating in the driveway cranking Nevermind and wondering if maybe Coach Belichick will take the team to the Jack In The Box where Kurt Cobain scored his last order of smack to get them in the Seattle groove.
F the Seahawks.
Go Pats Go.