Thursday, October 11, 2012
SEATTLE — Ready?
The Seahawks had better be when Tom Brady lines up the Patriots offense Sunday.
Seattle’s defense might have 12, maybe 15 seconds from the time one play ends to when New England is ready to snap the ball on the next one in its no-huddle offense that is redefining what it means to play at a fast tempo.
What makes the Patriots’ offense go is their quarterback, who will be playing in Seattle for the first time as a professional. This is Brady’s 13th NFL season. He has three Super Bowl wins, two Super Bowl MVP awards and one supermodel marriage.
But Seattle is one of two NFL cities where he has never played. He was out with a knee injury in 2008, the last time the Patriots came to town.
“I’m actually excited to get out there and play in a place I’ve never played,” Brady said Wednesday during his weekly news conference. “I think what makes it loud is that they’re very good. So, when they make plays, the crowd is into it and they get a lot of support.”
On Sunday, he will take the field as the key figure for an offense that will try to turn this game into a drag race.
“If they have their way, it’s going to come screaming down the field at us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “They’re going to go as fast as they can go.”
And that pace is about as fast as any team can play in the NFL. The Patriots ran 89 offensive plays last week, gained 35 first downs and did everything but burn rubber as they sped off to a 31-7 lead against Denver.
“We’ve been using that for several years now,” New England coach Bill Belichick said of the no-huddle approach. “Sometimes, we do more of it or less of it. If we feel like there’s an advantage, we’ll do it.”
Once upon a time, Belichick was known for his defenses in New England. That has changed. In 2007, the Patriots set the league’s scoring record by going over the top of opponents. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, and the Patriots won all 16 regular-season games.
Now, it’s not about how far the Patriots are throwing it, but how fast they are playing. That breakneck pace is the signature of an offense that averages a league-high 33 points.
“They’ve been ahead of the curve so far,” Carroll said.
Welcome to the next generation of NFL offense, which has followed college football’s lead in pushing the pace. The Patriots even got an inside look at what Chip Kelly has done at Oregon.
“The fact that they’ve studied with Chip, and he’s kind of helped, I’m still kind of pissed,” Carroll joked.
New England’s emphasis is tempo, and Belichick said his team has a variety of ways to communicate, relaying and echoing signals while keeping the defense from getting a bead on the timing.
“They’re doing their own offense,” Carroll said, “but they’re featuring the tempo, and the philosophical approach of playing with that kind of speed. It’s very common in college. It’s not in the league.”
And the key to the approach is the guy behind the wheel of the offense.
“You can’t get better than Tom,” Carroll said. “Tom has command of the whole thing.”
He has some help. Wes Welker is an excellent slot receiver who caught 13 passes last week. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, whom the Seahawks expect to face Sunday after he missed the last three games, are two dynamic tight ends.
“They have every weapon you could want,” Carroll said.
But when Brady steps under center Sunday, Seattle will get its first chance to see how he deals with the decibels at CenturyLink Field.
“I think he’s played in some pretty big games in the past,” Welker said. “So I’m not too worried about him.”