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New England looking to deny Seattle
30 Jan 2015 12:12
By Karl O’Shaughnessy
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On Sunday the city of Glendale in Arizona will host the showpiece conclusion to the NFL season, where an estimated worldwide audience of 160 million will see the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
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The 49th installment of the Super Bowl sees Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks looking to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the New England Patriots did it in 2004 and 2005. The current New England side will still be under the guidance of head coach Bill Belichick and will still be led by quarter back Tom Brady, just as during those famous Super Bowl wins ten years ago.
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Belichick leads the Pats into his sixth Super Bowl on Sunday having already won three titles. It’s also Tom Brady’s sixth outing at ‘The Big Show’ and he’ll look to try to turn New England’s Super Bowl fortunes around following their most recent appearances that ended in two defeats to the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012.
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The build-up to Super Bowl XLIX has been dominated by the recent ‘deflate-gate’ scandal involving the Patriots. New England were accused of deflating the footballs in the AFC Championship game to gain a competitive advantage over the Indianapolis Colts, who they routed 45-7. An NFL inquiry is ongoing but coach Belichick has remained defiant throughout the media circus claiming “we as an organisation have absolutely followed every rule to the letter”.
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Whether they have or not will most likely come to light post Sunday. It remains to be seen though, if the strain of the last two weeks takes its toll on the Pats come kick-off on Sunday, or if it galvanises the team instead.
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New England focused on the run game to overcome the Colts in that AFC Championship game with LaGarrette Blount rushing for a career high 148 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle’s defence will be far tougher to run on than the Colts and their talented secondary makes passing through the air all that more difficult. As a result, we might see Patriots running back Shane Vereen feature regularly.
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Brady will look to dump off short passes to the running back to pick up valuable yards alongside Blount’s battering-ram approach.
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No player who plays the tight end position has ever been awarded the Super Bowl MVP. If there were one player who might change that statistic, it would be the Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ‘Gronk’ suffered injury plagued seasons in 2012 and 2013 but has come back stronger than ever. In regular season play this season, he notched up 12 touchdowns and he’ll once again be a regular target for Brady. It’s worth remembering that no tight end in NFL history has more touchdowns than Gronkowski through their first five years in the league. When he and his quarterback are on the same wavelength he’s almost unplayable.
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For Seattle it’s been a less stressful Super Bowl build-up. The biggest media issue they’ve faced is star running back Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to speak openly with reporters. Lynch caused a media backlash by refusing to elaborate on his thoughts at Super Bowl Media Day beyond repeating the words ‘I’m just here so I won’t get fined’ and ‘you know why I’m here’.
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The man affectionately known as ‘Beast Mode’ in Seattle decided instead to leave his talking for the field on Sunday and he could be a huge factor again for the reigning Champs. Lynch has been on fire in recent weeks. He clocked up 157 yards and a touchdown in an amazing Seahawks comeback against the Packers in the NFC Championship game to secure the ‘Hawks place at Super Bowl XLIX.
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Coach Pete Carroll will no doubt look to Lynch to drive the Seahawks offence alongside quarterback Russell Wilson who boasts an impressive record against fellow Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. Wilson has faced Super Bowl champions on ten occasions and on all ten, he’s come out victorious. He’ll look to make it 11 wins on Sunday v Brady’s Patriots.
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Wilson hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders this season, but he has found form in key moments of playoff games in recent weeks. If he can repeat his near perfect Super Bowl performance in New Jersey last season, where he racked up over 200 yards passing with two touchdowns, then Seattle will be difficult to stop.
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There’s an old saying in NFL circles that proclaims ‘defence wins championships’. For the second year in a row Seattle will roll into Super Bowl Sunday with the best defence in pro football. During the last six games of the regular season the Seahawks defence gave up a miserly 39 points. Interestingly, the Patriots under Belichick are 2-4 when they face the team with the best scoring and total defence records.
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Teams with the best scoring defence who reached the Super Bowl have also won seven out of the last eight times it has occurred. It might be clichéd, but NFL history seems to favour strong defences. Maybe a good omen for fans of the Seahawks.
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These two teams are very evenly matched and we may not see a blowout victory this year. Don’t be surprised to see a low scoring affair with special teams and perhaps even a kicker determining the destination of the Vince Lombardi trophy this time around.
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Will it be New England’s Tom Brady that makes history joining 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw on a record four Super Bowl victories?
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Or will it be the young pretender in Seattle’s Russell Wilson that emulates what his future hall of fame opponent achieved ten years previous by winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles?
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Between now and Sunday, there’ll be plenty more talk of deflated footballs, media snubs, commercial advertising and even Katy Perry’s worthiness as a Super Bowl half time performer. Come 11:30pm Irish time though, all of the talking will stop and the battle to be crowned Super Bowl XLIX Champions will commence.
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It’s been a turbulent season for the NFL on and off the field with domestic violence scandals, player suspensions, poor officiating and cheating allegations. Let’s hope Super Bowl XLIX goes some way to making it that little bit more memorable for the right reasons.
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@OShaughnessyK
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