FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Seahawks’ defense gave Tom Brady and the Patriots all they could handle during their Super Bowl matchup in 2015.
New England won’t be facing a completely healthy Seahawks unit Sunday, but the Patriots will be matching up with the highest-ranked defense they’ve seen since Brady’s return.
“I’ve told you guys a lot over the years, some of the best defenses I’ve played in my whole career,” Brady said to reporters. “They just do what they do and they do it at an extremely high level. This is one of those teams.”
After avenging their lone loss with a dominating 41-25 victory over the Bills last month, the Patriots entered their bye week with plenty of time to prepare for a Seattle defense ranked ninth in the NFL, giving up 332.6 yards per game.
Prior to this week, the highest-ranked defense New England faced this season was in Week 6 against Cincinnati, when the Bengals were No. 11.
Seattle’s defense was stout during its 6-6 tie with Arizona last month, but has given up 25 points in back-to-back weeks in a loss to the Saints and narrow victory over the Bills. The Seahawks are expected to get back strong safety Kam Chancellor after he missed the previous four games with a groin injury. But they will be without DE Michael Bennett, whom Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said is still rehabbing from a knee injury.
Chancellor’s addition brings some much-needed help as Seattle attempts to deal with the Patriots’ two-pronged attack at tight end with Bennett’s brother, Martellus, and Rob Gronkowski.
Martellus Bennett said he wishes his brother could play, but he’s not exactly lamenting not having to face him.
“I’m not upset at all,” Bennett said with a smile. “Mike’s a hell of a player. He’s always been, and he does a lot of great things for the Seahawks. …You always want your brother to be healthy, you don’t want him to be hurt, and for a guy to be well. But not this week.”
Belichick said it’s the Seahawks’ versatility on defense that creates the most problems.
“They’re a good situational football team. They’re very smart. They make you earn every yard,” Belichick said. “If you make a mistake they capitalize on it and they kill you. They don’t give up very many points. They don’t give up very many big plays.”
And that’s something the Patriots have lived on since Brady’s return.
In his four games this season, the Patriots have 18 plays of 20 or more yards. The Patriots’ three quarterbacks have also not thrown an interception in their eight games. It’s just a game short of the 1960 Cleveland Browns’ NFL record of games without a pick.
New England is also scoring a lot, averaging 34 points per game with Brady.
It makes forcing turnovers a priority for Seattle. The Seahawks have six interceptions and recovered two fumbles in 2016.
Carroll acknowledged that Brady’s quick release in the pocket creates difficulty in putting pressure on him.
“When you’re playing a really good quarterback it takes everything,” Carroll said. “It takes rush, it takes terrific coverage, and then hopefully your matchups work in your favor at times. It’s not going to be a sloppy game, neither one of us are going to play that way. It’s going to be really sharp football and you’re going to have to make your plays happen.”
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