Who would have thought after week four that the Patriots would be here now? The Pats team that limped out of KC looked nothing like the one that’s in Arizona today. Like Halloween candy, long gone are the trades and cuts that were the conversation of weeks zero through five. The talk of Brady being washed up and speculation that it was already Jimmy G time had been carved up along with the Thanksgiving turkey, and by Christmas the topic of conversation was who should be MVP Gronk or Tommy? The ghosts of playoffs past were exorcized in January’s New Years party and all that’s left is taking care of February and brining home the roses and Lombardi. Here are my Keys to the Pats doing just that.
Ground and Pound: I know how daunting the Seahawks run defense has been over the course of the season, but over the past two weeks they have been giving up serious real-estate to both the Panthers (132) and the Packers (135). When this game is over, I want the Seattle Fans to replace the nightmare of Bo Jackson with Day Terrors of LeGarrette Blount. Use heavy run sets – two and even three TE formations. Run Blount between the tackles and to the edge. Force this Seattle defense to respect this aspect of the Patriots game. Get Blount running down hill and open up play action.
Win the Turnover Battle: you knew this was coming – it’s not your first rodeo.
Tank Sherman: Richard Sherman reminds me of the old NHL slot hockey game. You know, the one your dad or granddad had when they were kids. Metal hockey players on a rink that just move up and down the ice in a single line and cant move out of their slots. People like to say Sherman cuts the field by a third, well that’s foolish – he takes away 10 square yards around him. Yes, throwing into that is foolish, but the way you combat it is with go-routes. Time and again I want to see whoever Bill decides to put on Sherman (see Sherman doesn’t get put on anyone) run Go’s. Remove him from the equation and throw the ball underneath his coverage.
Bunch Up: The Seahawks like to jam receivers at the line. The way to battle this is with motion and bunching your receiver groups. Get Gronk moving into stack looks so he can move freely and Tom can either hit him in the seams or use the confusion of the stack to find LaFell, Amendola and Edelman on slants to move the chains.
Contain Wilson: Russell Wilson will make thirty yards out of nothing faster than I can misspell Mike Francesca. If you allow him out of the pocket he will kill you with his legs. If you give up on your coverage to stop him, he will make you pay with his touch. What the Pats need to do is rush a four-man front, keeping Wilson in front of them and eliminating his escape to the outside. Pick their spots to blitz Collins and Hightower and force him to throw the ball where the Patriots are strongest.
Leash the Beast: Yeah, easier said than done. It’s paramount the Patriots stop Marshawn Lynch at the point of contact this Sunday. Putting eight in the box on early downs and letting Jamie Collins spy Lynch can get the party started but Patrick Chung and the rest of the minions need to gang tackle Lynch and keep him from busting this game open in 6 seconds …or less.
MVP: Forget about it. Don’t try to be the hero. Let the game come to you and don’t force the issue. “Do your Job” and don’t worry about the other guys.
FLM: Fast, Lose and Mean. This is the attitude I want to see from this Patriots Team on both sides of the ball. From the moment they come out of the tunnel until the final gun it is them against the world, play that way.
That’s it folks. My last set of keys for the season. I’ve sure had a lot of fun writing them and I want to thank you all for coming back week after week. Will Bill listen to me? Probably not, but as long as he is hoisting that trophy Sunday night…who cares?
Follow/Give Me Grief on twitter @Tmurph207