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5 things you have to know about Seahawks 01.26.15 at 2:25 am ET
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Marshawn Lynch powers the Seattle ground game. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Marshawn Lynch powers the Seattle ground game. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Here are five things you have to know about the Seahawks, who will face the Patriots Sunday night in Super Bowl XLIX:

When it comes to their offense, their success starts on the ground.

The Seahawks offense has many powerful assets, but at its heart is the ground game, namely Marshawn Lynch. The Cal product has been tremendous the last few seasons, and finished the regular season with 1,306 yards on 280 carries, with a career-best 13 touchdowns and a whopping 4.7 yards per carry. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is nearly impossible to bring down in a one-on-one setting. That means the Patriots — whose attitude is always to try to take away the No. 1 offensive option on the other team –€” likely will load up, bringing a safety down into the box. Bottom line? They want to try to slow down Lynch by any means necessary. In a perfect world, if you’€™re the Patriots, that means they’€™ll try to force the Seahawks to throw as much as possible against a secondary that probably won’€™t be getting a lot of help. New England has to trust that its defensive backs –€” namely Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington, as well as Devin McCourty, who likely will play the role of single-high safety for most of the game –€” will be able to operate with minimal help, namely in one-on-one coverage against the likes of Doug Baldwin (team-high 66 catches for 825 yards and 3 TDs) and fellow wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (38 catches, 537 yards, 1 TD). While Wilson has produced terrific numbers over the course of his career as a pro (including a 63 percent completion rate, 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns this season) he’€™s occasionally been vulnerable when the game has been placed in his hands. He redeemed himself late after throwing some bad balls early in the NFC title game against the Packers.

Russell Wilson is the best pure running quarterback the Patriots will have faced this season.

The Seahawks have great success up front when it comes to Wilson and his ability to operate as an option in their zone-based running game, which has developed into a nice complement to Lynch in the run game. You have to load up up front to stop Lynch, but you also have to be mindful of Wilson’€™s ability as an extra running back as well. Wilson was the second-leading rusher on the team behind Lynch with 849 yards and an average of 7.2 yards per carry. (He led all quarterbacks in rushing yards, and actually was 16th in the league.) He can gash you with the run –€” it’€™s absolutely vital the Patriots defensive front maintains gap discipline and contain on the likes of Wilson. One tactic is to employ a spy — a defender whose responsibility it is to keep his eyes on Wilson and not let him break free if he decides to fake the handoff to Lynch. That might be defensive end Rob Ninkovich — who did it last year against Cam Newton — as well as linebacker Jamie Collins.

There are some matchup advantages that could be exploited by the Patriots.

The Patriots likely will have a couple of opportunities in the passing game, namely tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the same way that New England likely will make Lynch it’€™s No. 1 focus on defense, Seattle will try to do the same when it comes to Gronkowski. According to Football Outsiders, one of the Seahawks’€™ two biggest defensive vulnerabilities in the passing game is against tight ends, where they are 18th in the league. Seattle has done well to limit some big time tight ends like Julius Thomas and Greg Olsen. But where opposing teams have done well with tight ends is finding holes in Seattle’€™s Cover 3 — specifically, the middle of the field. (Antonio Gates had three touchdowns in a win over the Seahawks earlier in the season.) If Gronk is lined up in the slot or flush against a tackle, look for him to draw some combo coverage that includes the likes of Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas, as well as linebacker Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright. One other thing — when he’€™s split wide, look for a potential matchup against Richard Sherman or Byron Maxwell. The other guy who might be able to achieve some matchup advantages is running back Shane Vereen. One of the only five backs in the league this year who had at least 50 catches and 50 carries, Vereen’s speed and shiftiness can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Look for the Patriots to try plenty of presnap movement in hopes of getting Vereen matched up against a slower linebacker, or just getting him in space against a bigger defender. (The Seahawks are also 18th in the league in defending running backs in the passing game.) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX
Julian Edelman is mentally ready to prepare for ‘ferocious’ Legion of Boom secondary 01.25.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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Julian Edelman (left) is looking to connect with Tom Brady often in the Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman (left) is looking to connect with Tom Brady often in the Super Bowl. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman is more than aware of the challenge ahead of him.

One of the best timing route receivers in the league has to find a way to get open against arguably the most physical secondary in football on the game’s biggest stage. Edelman hasn’t played against Seattle since 2012, when the “Legion of Boom” was coming into its own.

Cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas present the biggest challenge Edelman has seen as a starting slot receiver in the NFL.

“They’€™re a little different because they’€™re all big,” Edelman said. “They’€™re all big, strong, ferocious players. They play in their scheme. They’€™re well coached. They play hard. We certainly have some guys that are big, but this a completely different group and like you said, I’€™ve never played against them. [We’€™ve] got to take these next few days [to] prepare [and] get ready for them and try to bring out the ‘A’ game.”

How does Edelman feel about the progress in the game plan so far?

“I feel good. Practice has had a high tempo; guys are focused,” Edelman said. “We still have a long way to go. We still have a few days out in Arizona to prepare so we’€™re going to try to take advantage of that. It’€™s been pretty good.”

This is Edelman’s second Super Bowl experience. Three years ago, Wes Welker had his job before leaving for Denver. Edelman was returning kicks and playing on special teams. He returned three kicks for 73 yards, including a 31-yarder. What did the experience in Super Bowl XLVI teach him about the crazy week leading up to the game?

“Just all the scheduling of everything, definitely being at one has helped,” Edelman said. “It’€™s always a little different every year I guess. I’€™m a little more familiar with what you’€™ve got going on when you’€™re there [and] being able to ignore a bunch of distractions and all that kind of stuff. It really is a business trip for us. [I’€™m] looking forward to that.”

Edelman made it clear that he’s anxious to get out to Arizona and take the game prep to the next level.

“Definitely. You’€™re anxious to get out there and kind of feel your surroundings, see what you’€™re going to be working with that week as far as facility, the meeting rooms,” Edelman said. “[You] don’€™t have to worry about anything else. You should have all your off-the-field stuff taken care of. You’€™re definitely anxious to get out there and start the preparing process out there. It’€™ll be nice to be in some 70-degree weather. That’€™s always nice. [We’€™ll] go out there and try to win the last game.

“Anytime you go to a Super Bowl it’€™s pretty exciting so I don’€™t know. I was really excited last time, I’€™m excited this time. Probably a little more focused this time as far as knowing what you have to do out there, knowing what’€™s going on ‘€“ experiencing all that kind of stuff. That’€™s how I feel about that question I guess.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Julian Edelman, Legion of Boom, New England Patriots, nfl
Tom Brady (via Facebook video) asks: ‘Who’s with us?!’ at 4:26 pm ET
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Before taking off for Arizona on Monday for the Super Bowl, Tom Brady did a little social networking Sunday.

The Patriots embattled quarterback put out a call on Facebook, via a produced video, to rally Patriots fans around the organization.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX
Reports: Patriots have perfect attendance in final practice of the season in Foxboro at 2:27 pm ET
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Bryan Stork (center) raises his leg during warmups, prior to Thursday's Patriots practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bryan Stork (center) raises his leg during warmups, prior to Thursday’s Patriots practice. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

In their final Foxboro practice of the year and their last before departing for Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, the Patriots had perfect attendance Sunday, according to multiple reports.

For a fourth straight day, the Patriots held their practice inside Dana-Farber Fieldhouse Sunday as they try to simulate game conditions inside University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale next Sunday.

The Patriots had a full pads practice on Thursday, followed by a walkthrough on Friday and a pair of sweats and shells practice on Saturday and Sunday.

The Patriots officially listed six as questionable in Friday’s projected injury report, including rookie center Bryan Stork, who injured his knee in the divisional win over the Ravens. His continued participation in practice is a good sign that he will be ready to play in the Super Bowl.

Sunday’s practice was the 65th and final one of the season on their Foxboro campus. The next big event for the Patriots is Monday’s send-off rally at 11 a.m. at City Hall Plaza in Boston. The Patriots land in Arizona Monday afternoon and will be available to the media at that time.

Read More: Bryan Stork, New England Patriots, nfl, Seattle Seahawks
Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’ claims Bill Belichick ‘doesn’t make any sense’ in explanation at 10:47 am ET
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Bill Belichick said the Patriots followed every rule to the letter. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

Bill Belichick said the Patriots followed every rule to the letter. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

And so it continues.

Less than a day after Bill Belichick offered his explanation of the team’s scientific investigation and study of Deflategate, a scientific expert has come forward and accused the Patriots coach of being flat out ignorant.

Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer who worked at Boeing before becoming TV’€™s ‘€œBill Nye The Science Guy,’€ was a guest on Sunday’€™s “Good Morning America,” claiming Belichick’s explanation “doesn’€™t make any sense.”

[Bill Belichick‘s entire press conference, including explanation is listed below]

Belichick did get validation from another science think tank based in Pittsburgh that includes experts from Carnegie Mellon. Thomas Healy, founder of HeadSmart Labs, claims that the conditions of the AFC title game would have caused a significant drop in air pressure by result of their simulation.

“We took 12 brand new authentic NFL footballs and exposed them to the different elements they would have experienced throughout the game.’€ said Healy, a masters student in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon. “Out of the 12 footballs we tested, we found that on average, footballs dropped 1.8 PSI when being exposed to dropping temperatures and wet conditions.”

“During testing, 12 brand new footballs were inflated to 12.5 PSI in a 75 degree Fahrenheit room. This was to imitate the indoor conditions where the referees would have tested the footballs 2 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff. The footballs were then moved to a 50 degree Fahrenheit environment to simulate the temperatures that were experienced throughout the game. In addition, the footballs were dampened to replicate the rainy conditions.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Nye, Bill Nye Science Guy, New England Patriots
Dont’a Hightower knows Marshawn Lynch will throw ‘a little bit of everything’ at Patriots D at 10:19 am ET
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Dont'a Hightower and the Patriots will have to tackle well to contain Marshawn Lynch. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Dont’a Hightower and the Patriots will have to tackle well to contain Marshawn Lynch. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has seen enough of Marshawn Lynch to know he and his Patriots teammates better be in tackle mode next Sunday to stop Beastmode.

Hightower doesn’t need to look at Lynch’s regular season accomplishments of 1,306 yards and a career-best 13 touchdowns. All Hightower has to do is watch game film of how he’s been running in the playoffs.

In two postseason games, the All-Pro running back has carried the ball 39 times for 216 yards and a touchdown, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game against Green Bay, a team he sliced through for 157 yards. He is averaging 5.5 yards every time he touches the ball.

When defenses know he’s going to get the ball, what specifically makes him so difficult to defend?

“A little bit of everything. He’€™s aggressive, he’€™s strong, he’€™s got great vision, great balance, good feet ‘€“ he has everything that you would want in a back,” Hightower said. “His feet never stop moving no matter what he’€™s doing, whether it’€™s picking up blocks in protection or getting out on a screen pass or a check down. He’€™s always looking to make that big play.”

Hightower laughed Saturday when asked about how elusive Lynch can be in answering questions from the media.

“I think everybody’€™s seen that,” Hightower said. “I think it’€™s apparent that [he] doesn’€™t want to talk to the media. It is what it is. A lot of guys don’€™t want to, but you’€™ve kind of got to.”

Does Hightower think it’€™s funny?

“Yeah, I think it’€™s funny,” Hightower said. “I’€™m pretty sure you all think it’€™s funny, too, so don’€™t just put me up here and act like I’€™m the only one. But it is.”

But Hightower knows tackling Lynch in Glendale will be no joke.

Hightower is second on the Patriots in the playoffs with 11 total tackles so far, trailing Jamie Collins’ 15. Both linebackers will have to make sure to wrap up Lynch, who ranked fifth this season among running backs in the NFL with 639 yards after contact.

“Of course, especially tackling Lynch or Wilson or [Doug] Baldwin. They have great skill players who all have big-play impact,” Hightower said. “If you go back and you watch film, a lot of those plays were to get the ball to them real quick and out in space. Any time they can do that, they’€™re willing to take advantage of it, and that’€™s something they want, is to have that big-play ability.

“Again, everybody kind of looks at Lynch and thinks that he’€™s just an aggressor and wants to run everybody over. That might be his game, but I see it as both. He’€™ll run you over to get where he wants to get, but you never see him run out of bounds. He’€™s always looking to cut back and make those big plays and those 80- and those 70-yard touchdowns that you see. He does everything.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
Vince Wilfork on Deflategate: ‘We can’t let anything take our excitement away’ 01.23.15 at 8:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If the NFL thinks it can ruin the Super Bowl experience for the Patriots and their players over Deflategate, Vince Wilfork has a message for them.

“We can’€™t let anything take our excitement away,” the Patriots captain and 11-year veteran said Friday. “We worked hard to get here and everybody in that locker room is excited to play this game, and we need to be, we should be. You’€™re not going to take that away from us. You can’€™t take our joy away from us.”

Wilfork, with his trademark smile, answered reporters Friday wondering if the ongoing controversy might take away from the anticipation for the Super Bowl. Is Wilfork still excited for football’s most important game?

“Very excited,” said Wilfork, who is about to take the field for his fourth Super Bowl. “This is ‘€“ besides coming to training camp when you’€™re away from football the whole offseason ‘€“ I think this is one of the most exciting times of the year, especially if you have a team that’€™s in it. Our job is to be able to prepare well, and hopefully that’€™s good enough to win this ballgame. Everything we put into it to this point, everything we have, we’€™re going to have to leave on the field, and everything energy-wise we have has got to be geared towards getting that accomplished. That’€™s where I’€™m at right now. Hopefully the team feels the same way. You have a locker room full of guys that are happy and excited, and we should be.”

As for the deflated football controversy, Wilfork insists he’s not giving much time to it, while admitting he is preparing himself for more questions and distractions on the subject in the days leading up to the game.

“Here we are with the biggest game of our career, and that’€™s what it’€™s about,” Wilfork said. “It’€™s about going out and being able to play a game you work so hard for and be in the Super Bowl. That’€™s what it’€™s about. [We’€™ve] got to be able to eliminate all distractions right now, and I’€™m pretty sure we’€™ll have more distractions, but at the same time, I think we’€™ve done a great job around here all year of just being so focused on our opponents and what we have to do to win a ballgame. That’€™s where I’€™m at right now, so nothing different for me. [We’€™re] facing a good football team so we have to do everything we can to be able to play well against them this game.”

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Deflategate, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
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