Super Bowl XLIX pits Tom Brady opposite a toughest enemy of his extraordinary career: a immature Tom Brady.
That’s who Russell Wilson is: a subsequent Tom Brady. That is who he has always been. Brady is not confronting story or “legacies” or a tiny liaison projected into something outrageous like a cockroach in an IMAX documentary. He is confronting one of a biggest defenses in history, yet we’re removing metaphorical and psychic here. What Brady is facing, on a deepest level, is his past and a NFL‘s future.
Wilson is a subsequent Brady. You don’t have to flicker to see it. Wilson has had a early success, a warp-speed moody from mid-round-rookie shade to dynamic Super Bowl glory. Like Brady, he had a lot of assistance from a good invulnerability and a firmly run classification in his arise to a top; acknowledging a apparent does not take divided from his accomplishments.
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Wilson and a immature Brady constructed vast win totals yet tiny stat totals. Wilson succeeds with timely large plays, good decisions and well-developed diversion generalship, like a immature Brady. Both were/are easy to lazily boot as “products of a system,” both grown nurtured diverse, superstar-caliber ability sets during a early years when a invulnerability or regulating diversion had to fill in some of a gaps. Wilson is in a final stages of building and nurturing his.
Wilson, like a immature Brady, punctuated his mass by heading his group to feat opposite Peyton Manning‘s team. Do we see a similarity now?
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Some colleagues are casting this diversion as a good quarterback opposite a “just good” one. That’s satisfactory from “macro” standpoint (the third-year pro has not nonetheless climbed to Brady’s roost on a all-time lists) or a “micro” standpoint. (Wilson didn’t demeanour all that good opposite a Packers; a great-good title is also superb from a quantum clickability standpoint.) But from a relativistic standpoint, when we get vast and non-Newtonian, Brady and Wilson are customarily mass viewed from dual angles. Wilson is mass entrance toward us, Brady relocating divided from us. Brady is “better” given we still knowledge bands of mass from 2001-04, 2007 and 2011 trailing behind him. Wilson’s mass is dense and immediate; we have not nonetheless felt a full brunt.
The problem with being in a here-and-now is that a viewpoint is limited. It’s tough to filter out a Deflategate and Marshawn Lynch sound to see what is right in front of a eyes. Brady and Bill Belichick are perplexing to win their fourth Super Bowl, yes, yet Wilson, Lynch and Pete Carroll are going for their second, Rob Gronkowski and Darrelle Revis their first. These are not people who will be lost in 4 years. They are ancestral football personalities. These are people we will remember in 20-30 years as legends, customarily as we remember those who came before them 20-30 years ago.
How will we remember them?
Wilson Is Brady
Lynch Is John Riggins
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Riggins had a successful career with a Jets, afterwards became a luminary during a second career as a Redskins’ energy curtain in their arise to a top, customarily as Lynch played good in Buffalo before apropos a open figure in Seattle. Riggins was mostly concerned in some financial hassle, customarily like Lynch.
Lynch talks too little, yet Riggins talked too much. Sit Lynch down subsequent to a Supreme Court justice, and “I’m customarily sitting here so we don’t get fined” becomes a acquire choice to Riggins’ “Come on, Sandy baby. Loosen up. You’re too tight.”
Gronkowski Is Shannon Sharpe
Gronkowski arrived for a second half of a Hall of Fame quarterback’s career, providing a new form of arms and an descent jolt. He missed his group and quarterback’s initial spin of Super Bowl appearances; not many to miss, in a box of Sharpe’s Broncos. He has been a luminary parsimonious finish on a good group that has fell a diversion or dual brief for years. Gronk is Sharpe in 1997, prepared to put his fatiguing stamp on a final few years of a legend’s career and punctuate his possess mass in a process.
Richard Sherman Is Ronnie Lott
Joe Montana threw customarily 19 touchdown passes in 1981, when a 49ers won their initial Super Bowl. Lott, afterwards a rookie, had 7 interceptions, dual fail recoveries and 3 touchdowns. Lott was a first-team All Pro; Montana had a lowest touchdown and yardage totals of a 4 Pro Bowl quarterbacks that year. (Dan Fouts, Ken Anderson and Steve Bartkowski were a others.)
Those of us who played sandlot football in a early 1980s know that Lott was as large a star as Montana, if not bigger, before Montana grew to designate a West Coast offense and a whole new character of football. That’s where Sherman and Wilson are now. Seven years from now, when double-threat quarterbacks are entirely embraced by many of a joining and Sherman has altered to (Pro Bowl-caliber) safety, perceptions will be different.
Darrelle Revis Is Mike Haynes
Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Haynes was an superb cornerback for a terrible Patriots classification in a 1970s. Imagine if a stream Jets infrequently floated bad checks to keep a track plumbing working: That’s about what a 1970’s Patriots were like. Haynes hold out after his agreement lapsed in 1982, given behind then, NFL players couldn’t do things other tellurian beings do when practice contracts finish (seek practice where they chose), given football folks guess giveaway group was worse than demon worship.
Haynes forced a large trade to a Raiders, where he assimilated an aging dynasty perplexing to extend a run of success. He got a Raiders one some-more Super Bowl and kept them in a design for several some-more seasons; he eventually reached a Pro Football Hall of Fame. He did not make a array stop with a Buccaneers like Revis, yet he did bluster to join a USFL, that is scarcely as sad.
Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor Are Dick Anderson and Jake Scott
They were a safeties for a 1972 Dolphins; it is OK to not remember them, given they were leaders of a “No Name Defense.” Anderson was a three-time Pro Bowler who also had 3 eight-interception seasons. Scott was simply a best reserve in a NFL of a early 1970s, a Thomas of his era. He would have done a Hall of Fame if there weren’t so many other 1972 Dolphins forward of him in a queue.
Poor safeties; they customarily get remembered if they have some kind of vicious-hitter repute and nickname. Thomas and Chancellor competence transport improved than Anderson and Scott. Then again, story competence bury them behind Wilson, a puzzling Lynch, a plain Sherman and a 12th Man legend.
Vince Wilfork Is Dave Butz
Wilfork is a bumbling establishment in a center of a line, a overpass between eras. Butz followed a Redskins from a Over a Hill Gang to a days of Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. Wilfork plugged a defensive line for a final of a 3 championship Patriots teams, by Randy Moss and 40-point blowouts and into a complicated era. With liaison snapping during a rest of a organization’s heels during any turn, Wilfork cooking adult double-teams, filibusters to kill time during press conferences, afterwards saves lives during trade accidents.
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There are customarily a handful of truly unaccompanied people in NFL history. Brady is one. Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis are dual others. Jim Brown, Don Maynard, Sammy Baugh, Chuck Bednarik, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor, maybe a dozen others. They weren’t customarily great, yet incomparable; their careers and accomplishments have an surprising shape. They altered strategies, roles or expectations. Brady looked like another Troy Aikman or Bart Starr early in his career, yet a years have incited him into something different, a hybrid of Aikman with Dan Marino or Starr with Johnny Unitas, something singular.
And nonetheless Wilson is commencement to demeanour like a subsequent Brady. Two Super Bowl appearances in 3 years, and a personification character and open persona that make people rethink their expectations and perceptions, will do that for a immature quarterback.
When observation Wilson and Brady as dual angles on a same phenomenon, a formula of Super Bowl XLIX spin roughly irrelevant. Brady has a 40-60 percent possibility of winning this matchup with Wilson. Despite his settled skeleton to play past his stream contract, Brady has about a 0 percent possibility of violence Wilson in 2018, customarily as Wilson had a 0 percent possibility of violence Brady in 2007.
There’s no “legacy” during interest here, unless Brady takes a margin retaining a football that gives like a kitchen sponge. Brady owns a past, Wilson has claimed a future, and they share a benefaction according to their prescribed indicate on a path, Brady boring both excellence and a container of success (jealousy, suspicion, aged grudges) behind him down a hill, Wilson basking in still-fresh indebtedness and earning acceptance behind a wire of “greatness” as he climbs.
But then, “the leader is irrelevant” creates for a flattering lousy Super Bowl prediction, doesn’t it?
A More Traditional Super Bowl Preview
Enough of a satellite view; let’s get granular! If we review a “Seahawks safeties contra Gronk” relapse one some-more time your imperishable essence will evaporate like a raisin, so let’s hold on some other vicious trends and matchups. Unless differently noted, all stats are pleasantness of Football Outsiders, some from their inner database.
When a Patriots Have a Ball
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The elite process for violence a Patriots in a Super Bowl—the customarily famous method, really—is to vigour Tom Brady yet blitzing. That requires a defensive front to consistently win one-on-one line-of-scrimmage matchups.
Call it The Giants Method. Apply vigour with 4 defenders opposite 5 blockers, keep 7 defenders in coverage, force some rushed throws and three-and-outs, wish for a bizarre method of fourth-quarter events, and Presto! The Lombardi Trophy is yours. The Ravens attempted something identical to The Giants Method 3 weeks ago, and it scarcely worked, yet a bizarre method of fourth-quarter events went a other way.
The Seahawks have a good defense, of course, yet they are built to win matchups in a secondary, not on a defensive line. That does not meant their defensive line is ineffectual (they have unequivocally good edge-rushers but, with Brandon Mebane hurt, are standard on a inside), customarily that they would rather use their superb delegate to emanate shell opportunities than use their defensive front to emanate additional coverage opportunities.
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This is a pointed indicate that works in New England’s favor: The Patriots are glorious opposite a blitz, while a Seattle invulnerability is not as widespread when it rushes 3 or 4 defenders.
The Seahawks customarily rushed 5 or some-more defenders on 26 percent of pass plays this season, roughly a standard joining average. Their blitzes were impossibly efficient, however. The list next shows that Seahawks blitzes lead not customarily to a aloft pouch rate (as we would figure), yet a reduce execution rate, a reduce yards-per-attempt rate and larger altogether vigour (hurries, knockdowns or plays where a quarterback was underneath transparent compulsion to get absolved of a football).
Yards Per attempt
3 or 4
5 or more
Football Outsiders Game Charting Project
That additional pass-rusher, customarily Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, is giveaway to do his deviltry given a Seahawks delegate handles male coverage so easily. He is a actor who mostly puts a Seahawks pass invulnerability over a top.
But there’s a problem: Blitzing Brady is roughly counterproductive. Brady completes 65.0 percent of his passes and averages 7.2 yards per try opposite three- or four-man rushes. He completes 65.5 percent of his passes and averages 7.9 yards per try opposite five-to-seven-man rushes. Brady was sacked 16 times and intentionally grounded dual passes opposite three- or four-man rushes, yet was sacked customarily 3 times on blitzes.
There is some cause-and-effect feedback in Brady’s anti-blitz numbers. Brady faces a lot of blitzes by opponents who have no choice—nothing else is working, so send an additional pass-rusher! Opponents like a Dolphins and Chiefs went after Brady with 4 defenders given they could. They had a peculiarity manpower to estimate The Giants Method. (The Jets and Bills also tumble broadly into this category.) No one wants to lay behind and let an unpressured Brady kick it, yet everybody wants a defensive front to find a diseased links in a Patriots line.
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The Patriots descent complement creates it tough for a invulnerability to dial adult a best blitzes. Between a no-huddle, a quick-huddle and a bottom crew package that could spin into a energy arrangement or an empty-backfield widespread arrangement during a line of scrimmage, customarily a many dynamic defensive coaches get many opportunities to use an elaborate shell opposite a Patriots.
So a Seahawks wish to blitz, yet a Patriots customarily wish them to shell on Brady’s terms. We all know that Gronk is going to trip all over a formation, yet Shane Vereen, Tim Wright and others will be separate far-reaching or bunched in surprising combinations, forcing K.J. Wright or Wagner to possibly compare adult with them or tip their palm by display blitz. The Seahawks are expected to extent their blitzing while personification lots of base-on-base personnel. That will emanate winnable underneath matchups for Brady to exploit, even if Chancellor and Thomas delayed Gronk and Sherman takes divided one half of a field.
This advantage for a Patriots will be narrow. The Seahawks are stingier on brief passes than on prolonged ones: Football Outsiders ranks them fourth opposite brief passes, ninth opposite low ones (15 or some-more yards downfield). Brady is during his weakest when perplexing to conflict a low sidelines, so Seahawks defenders know that a Patriots will be perplexing to finish passes in front of them. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril will win some battles opposite a Patriots descent line yet wanting a shell boost.
But a Patriots can make a Seahawks pass invulnerability roughly standard if they can stymie a front four, and few quarterbacks in story can collect detached a invulnerability that is forced to shell like Brady. Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly and Josh Kline can force a Seahawks to play a standard Patriots diversion instead of what a Seahawks wish to play: a Giants Super Bowl.
When a Seahawks Have a Ball
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Forget Gronk, Chancellor and Thomas. Just how are a Patriots going to stop Luke Willson and Tony Moeaki, anyway?
The Patriots arrange 12th in a NFL in altogether pass defense, according to Football Outsiders. But they arrange 30th during interlude parsimonious ends. Willson, Moeaki and Cooper Helfet are not accurately Gronk, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas, yet they normal some-more than 16 yards per catch. The Seahawks try to beget one or dual large pass plays per diversion by regulating energy formations and play movement to trip their parsimonious ends past a defense. The Patriots defense, meanwhile, is not unequivocally good during interlude parsimonious ends from slipping past it.
The Patriots came by that 30th ranking opposite parsimonious ends honestly. Charles Clay had 8 catches for 86 yards opposite them in dual games, including 22- and 24-yard catches. Scott Chandler had 7 catches for 125 yards in dual games. Travis Kelce hold 8 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in a Chiefs loss. Richard Rodgers hold a 32-yard touchdown in a Packers loss. Jeff Cumberland hold 6 passes for 93 yards and dual touchdowns in dual games. Martellus Bennett had 6 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, yet that Bears diversion was a blowout after a initial quarter, so it did not unequivocally matter.
These are not good numbers by good parsimonious ends. They are surprisingly good numbers by normal parsimonious ends on teams that (in many cases) lacked well-developed downfield flitting games. The Patriots stopped parsimonious ends like Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas and a Colts tandem effectively this season, yet they have some difficulty with ball-control teams that use a parsimonious finish as a big-play threat. That’s precisely what a Seahawks are on offense.
There are formidable reasons because a Patriots have a tough time interlude parsimonious ends, yet they can be epitomised as “Patrick Chung can't cover anyone.” Chung is a means reserve in run invulnerability yet a guilt in coverage. If we see an hostile parsimonious finish locate a touchdown pass opposite a Patriots, we can substantially mark Chung during a corner of a frame.
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According to Pro Football Focus, Chung authorised 5 touchdown catches and a 106.8 passer rating on throws to his receivers in a unchanging season, yet that customarily tells partial of a story. The Patriots use Duron Harmon as a nickel reserve and trip Chung into underneath zones on flitting downs; Chung customarily trades severe downfield coverage assignments for a purpose as a view opposite scramblers or a rapid tackler on passes underneath.
Chung’s liabilities explain a Patriots parsimonious finish problem nicely. Chung doesn’t pull many assignments opposite a likes of Antonio Gates; Devin McCourty, Harmon or a cornerback is some-more expected to pull a tip parsimonious finish in male coverage. Chung is some-more expected to get removed opposite Cumberland forms when opponents are in run formations that pull Chung into a box.
The figure next shows how a Jets used a elementary judgment to feat Chung in male coverage in their second meeting. Cumberland (85) lines adult inside Jace Amaro (88) in a two-tight-end fixing to a right. The receivers take a cornerbacks and low reserve Harmon (30) to a left. Chung (23) and McCourty (32) divvy adult a parsimonious ends, with McCourty holding a clearly some-more vicious outward responsibility. Play movement freezes a linebackers (and Chung, briefly), and Cumberland turns a reserve around with a discerning inside move. The outcome was one of a few easy touchdowns a Jets gifted this year.
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(A discerning note from film study: The Dolphins also used concepts like this one to get Clay open on a few occasions. The Chargers used roughly a same judgment shown in a blueprint to giveaway Ladarius Green down a field. He lined adult inside a second parsimonious end—Gates had quickly left a game—but ran a post opposite linebacker Jonathan Casillas. Philip Rivers was a split-second late anticipating Green, who got walloped a impulse after he hold a pass. The round fluttered into a air, and McCourty hauled it in for an interception that was unequivocally some-more of a fail recovery, yet whatever. The bottom line: Teams like to get those parsimonious ends down a margin opposite a Patriots.)
If a Patriots do not fear your regulating game, Belichick will get artistic with his coverage patterns. Brandon Browner lonesome Gates a few times in a Chargers game. Revis mostly draws a container assignment, and he lonesome Coby Fleener several times in a discussion championship game. Spread a margin with 4 receivers, and Chung will give approach to Harmon and a dime package.
John Froschauer/Associated Press
The Patriots contingency honour both a Seahawks’ regulating diversion and a choice threat, that means Chung will be on a field, in a box and mostly confronting an either-or assignment of chasing Lynch, espionage Wilson or creation certain that Willson or another parsimonious finish does not trip past him. If a parsimonious ends get divided for a 20-30-yard locate each, it will be a large advantage for a Seahawks, who will get both a yardage and a heedful invulnerability when a Seahawks play their choice game.
The Seahawks suffer another graphic advantage when a Patriots have their run defenders on a field. The Patriots arrange final in a NFL during fortifying short-yardage situations, according to Football Outsiders. Opponents have had 79 opportunities to modify a initial down or touchdown with one or dual yards to go opposite a Patriots and have succeeded 55 times. Opponents normal 5.7 yards per play in short-yardage situations opposite a Patriots, a conspicuous figure arrogant by several large pass plays on 3rd- or 4th-and-short by Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill and Kyle Orton.
The Seahawks will be means to modify short-yardage situations, and notwithstanding a mismatches during far-reaching receiver, they will be means to beget a handful of prolonged pass plays. They are unequivocally expected to beget a prolonged pass or dual in short-yardage situations. In a diversion where drives will be precious, regulating some 3rd-and-short conversions to set adult a warn parsimonious finish adult a join could give a Seahawks customarily adequate of a pillow to let their invulnerability do what it does best.
The Giants kick a Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII and 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI. Those Patriots offenses were improved than this one, and those Giants defenses, while configured differently, were not scarcely as tough as this Seahawks defense.
That does not meant a Seahawks will automatically kick a Patriots. It does meant that this diversion is going to be low-scoring, with a initial group to 21 winning.
The Patriots have been hold underneath 21 points 24 times given 2009, a year Brady returned from his knee damage (postseason games included). They are 6-18 in those games. Messy slugfests customarily aren’t their style, and that list of 24 games includes all of their playoff waste in a final 6 years.
Since Wilson became a starter in 2012, a Seahawks are 11-6 in games where they measure 21 points or fewer. Messy slugfests are their thing.
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
These Seahawks have too many in common with a Giants and Ravens teams that have given a Patriots postseason fits for scarcely a decade to ignore. Despite their shortcomings—I can’t suppose them reaching 28 points on Sunday yet a defensive touchdown—they have valid impossibly good during a pursuit they are about to set out to do. They consistently improved opponents with superb flitting games. Their code of field-position football effectively slows games down and tilts a margin to their advantage.
The Seahawks are building their sovereignty on a hull of a empires they defeat. The Patriots are their toughest challenge, yet also their final one. The Patriots competence be a biggest American sports authorization of a generation. But in 2015, a Seahawks are a improved team.
Prediction: Seahawks 22, Patriots 20.
Mike Tanier covers a NFL for Bleacher Report.