All season NFL football handicappers and football fans heard about the terrific Dallas offensive line and what a great running back DeMarco Murray has been and nobody will contest that point.
In the regular season the Cowboys finished a distance second to Seattle in the NFL stats, rushing for 147.1 yards per game compared to the Seahawks at 172.6 YPG, a difference of over 17 percent between first and second place.
If you have been studying the betting odds for almost the past two weeks in preparation to make your NFL picks for side, total and prop wagers, one question you have had to ask yourself is can the Patriots defense slow down Marshawn Lynch and the other elements of the Seattle rushing game?
If you ask the 13 different teams the Seahawks have faced, the easy answer is “yes” which all sounds good watching game film and knowing their tendencies and working on it on the practice field. Reality comes calling when you have to stop Seattle in an actual game.
Seattle Offensive Does Not Get Enough Credit
When the discussion arises among those making weekly football sports picks, who has the best offensive line in the game, the Seattle group is never mentioned. Collectively, this contingent has suffered as many injuries as any in football, yet they keep putting up great numbers and open holes for their running backs.
Center Max Unger is the key cog and what this group does is rely on technique rather than mauling. If you watch closely, the Seattle linemen know their opponent’s and they are able to create creases by walling them off with leverage to generate holes for Lynch, Robert Turbin or Russell Wilson.
Seattle has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but Dallas, Carolina and Arizona in the first matchup all kept the Seahawks under 4.5 YPC. What it takes is having size and a physical front to stuff their linemen since Pete Carroll’s guys are not the most physical group and can be stood, which renders their techniques less meaningful.
How to Contain Lynch
Marshawn Lynch is one of the most unique running backs in the league as anyone studying the NFL odds from sportsbooks would attest. He’s not going to grade out well at a combine, but you cannot measure heart with a stop watch.
Lynch has incredible leg drive which enables him to go into –Beast-mode- on occasion, dragging five or more tacklers 10 or 15 yards. Lynch also has great vision, allowing him to not only find the hole, but understand would-be tacklers might be off-balance as they approach him, which allows him to make a slight adjustment on the move and pickup more yardage than what the play actually looks like on television.
What New England has to do first is tackle firmly, ideally with more than one defender, hitting Lynch at waist high or lower. Bill Belichick’s defense has to execute extreme gap control, not only where the play is headed, but one or two gaps either direction, as Lynch will bounce plays outside or cutback and if nobody has maintained gap integrity (a little NFL-speak for you), that is where Seattle creates big plays.
Two Other Ways to Slow Seattle on the Ground
The first is really simple, if New England can achieve it. Only two team’s held Seattle under 20 rush attempts, San Diego and Dallas. Both did so by building early working margins, which forced the Seahawks offense to pass the ball more. It can be argued Green Bay was in that position, but the sense was because the Packers were kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns, Seattle always had belief instead of feeling pressured. New England goes up 14-0 or 20-3 in a game of this magnitude; the Seahawks could become panicky and abandon the running game.
Where the Cowboys, Panthers, Cardinals and Packers for three quarters had success was winning first and second down against the run, forcing third and long for Wilson and company. Seattle is comfortable rushing the pigskin on 3rd and five or less on any point of the field. The New England defense can bring an extra defender on early downs because their secondary should be able to handle check-downs by Wilson against ordinary receivers, if he dumps out of a called play.
Can Lynch and Seattle actually be throttled by New England’s defense? Tune in at 6:30 EST Sunday to find out.