By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bill Belichick and his coaching staff will keep the Patriots competitive in all of their games. They will rarely beat themselves. But they’ll face their biggest challenges when Belichick and Cam Newton face a coach-quarterback duo that can measure up to their level of preparation and execution.
Enter Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. The Patriots and Seahawks’ Week 2 matchup is fascinating, and not necessarily because it’s the latest “rematch” of Super Bowl XLIX, arguably the greatest game in NFL history. It’s because for Belichick and Newton, it’s their first major test and one of the biggest they’ll face all season.
Carroll will forever be mocked for calling “Halo” at the goal line instead of handing the football to Marshawn Lynch. He’s loose and boisterous, the polar opposite of Belichick in terms of his public personality. But Carroll’s goofy bluster belies a knack for identifying talent, building relationships with players, and putting them in position to succeed on the field.
But in Belichick, he certainly meets his match in that department.
“Well, there’s a marvelous consistency,” said Carroll about Belichick’s coaching. “That’s as obvious as a statement that you can make. But to be consistent like that, you know, you’ve got to have, you know, your, mentality and your approach really, really nailed. He does. He knows exactly how he wants to do it. He does it regardless of what the circumstances are, he’s going to bring his team to game time and they’re going play you know, Patriots football. I think just a little bit deeper into it, he’s a very, very good game planner.
“He does a great job of assessing his own talent and utilizing it and assessing his opponents’ talent and tries to take advantage of it. It’s been something that’s been very characteristic of his coaching on both sides of the football for a long time. And that’s just kind of who he is.”
Belichick returned the favor during his opening remarks on Thursday.
“When you look at the consistency that they’ve had out there, it’s very. very impressive,” said Belichick on the Seahawks. “They’ve turned over quite a bit of their team, their personnel, from when we saw them in 2014, even 2016, especially defensively. But they continue to be impressive in every area, as they were last week on the road in Atlanta. That was a very strong performance. Pete’s obviously a guy that believes in what he does, as he should. He’s had tremendous success with it. I really admire the consistency that Pete’s shown throughout the course of his career. I really admire what he did at USC and then brought that to Seattle. Pete’s done a tremendous job out there, and his philosophy is evident every time you turn on the film. The energy, the passion, the toughness, the consistency, the mental toughness that the team has is very, very impressive.
“We know how tough it’s going to be out there. It’s always tough against those guys. Doesn’t matter where it is, could be in a parking lot or wherever the game is. They compete extremely hard on every down, from snap to whistle for 60 minutes. I have a ton of respect for the Seahawks, for Pete, for Russell Wilson, and the entire program out there. We know we’re going to have to be at our best on Sunday.”
On top of being more competent than the vast majority of NFL coaches, Carroll has arguably the NFL’s best quarterback at his disposal. Wilson is perhaps the only signal-caller who could even be debated with Patrick Mahomes as to the most dangerous passing threat in the league. He has a much tougher test in front of him than he faced last week against the porous Falcons secondary, but the same can be said for the Patriots defense after intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick twice in Week 1.
Belichick knows how Carroll’s Cover-3 scheme works at this point. The question is whether he has enough talent on offense to exploit it. And for Carroll, the question is whether his end-of-game situational management will be up to par with Belichick, and not bring back memories of that one play.
Patriots-Seahawks Week 2 Storylines
Strength vs. Strength
The Patriots have an elite secondary, but they’re going up against an outstanding group of pass-catchers. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf can be measured up against any 1-2 punch in the league at wide receiver. They added veteran Pro-Bowl tight end Greg Olsen to the mix in the offseason, and he should be a nice test for the Patriots’ Joejuan Williams.
It will be interesting to see who gets who in man-to-man coverage. Stephon Gilmore can keep up with Lockett’s route-running, but his speed and aggressiveness may make him a better matchup for Metcalf. J.C. Jackson will be something of an X-factor. But besides the two head coaches, this positional battle is the clear marquee matchup of the game.
On The Run
The Seahawks may have the personnel to give the new-look Patriots offense more problems than they got last Sunday. Jamal Adams is one of the most dynamic safeties in the NFL and an excellent run defender. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright remain one of the league’s best linebacker duos. Nose tackle Poona Ford is an absolute tank at 5-foot-11, 310 pounds.
Will the Patriots be able to establish the run like they did against the Dolphins? Will we see more of the same “jumbo” fronts, with extra linemen entering the game as eligible tight ends? Does Belichick even want Cam Newton to run free with the likes of Wagner pursuing him? This will be another fun-to-watch chess match.
The Patriots offense was impressive on the ground on Sunday. It was also efficient and mistake-free through the air. But one of the big questions for this unit that needs to be answered is, what happens when they have to play from behind and starting throwing more?
The Seahawks have high-end talent in the front-seven, but they also have big, skilled cornerbacks in Shaqill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar who could match up well with N’Keal Harry in the passing game. If they force Newton to make big throws down the field, is Harry up to the task of making big catches on the other end? After Newton strongly defended the young wideout on Wednesday, the hope for Patriots fans is they get a big-time response from the 2019 first-round pick.
If Seattle scores first, or goes up multiple scores, it will be fascinating to see how Newton and the Pats receivers answer.
Ignore The (Fake) Noise
The deafening roar of “The 12th Man” at CenturyLink Field held the Guinness World Record for crowd noise at a sporting event for a time. Tough break for the Seahawks: they now have to play with only 11 players on defense.
Carroll spoke publicly before the season about the Seahawks trying to find a balance for the amount of crowd noise they will pipe in during games. Either way, the Patriots should have a much easier time running their offense in an empty stadium with artificial noise, which eliminates the need for silent snap counts on offense.
In this case, the personnel on the field will decide what happens, and not the “personnel” in the stands.
Podcast: Patriots-Seahawks Week 2 Preview
Alex Barth and I recapped the Patriots’ Week 1 win over the Dolphins and looked ahead to Week 2 in a new podcast for 985TheSportsHub.com. Have a listen below.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at firstname.lastname@example.org.