When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
Record: 3-2 after Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Broncos
Where they rank: No. 1 on offense (3rd rushing, 9th passing); No. 22 on defense (8th rushing, 30th passing)
Series: Patriots lead 8-7, including victories in the past two games – 30-20 in Foxborough in 2004 and 24-21 in Seattle in 2008
TV: CBS (KIRO/7), with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts
Star power: Tom Brady. Are you kidding? Who else could it possibly be? There are other “star” players on the Patriots roster, but Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. seems to be shining here, there and everywhere – often with his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, and their son, Benjamin. He also has hosted “Saturday Night Live,” appeared on “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” and been featured in a number of TV commercials and magazine ads. On the field, there are the obvious honors and achievements – seven-time Pro Bowl selection; two-time league MVP; QB on the NFL’s all-decade team for the 2000s; two-time Super Bowl MVP; 41,429 passing yards; 308 TD passes; a career passer rating of 96.6. But what makes Brady special is how he has affected his team. Since he became the starter in 2001, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls; five AFC Championships; posted 10 seasons with double-digit victories, including a 16-0 record in 2007; and advanced to the playoffs nine times.
Unsung hero: Stevan Ridley. Don’t tell anyone, but the pass-crazed Patriots are becoming balanced. OK, more balanced. In their first five games this season, they have run the ball 191 times and passed it 185 times. Last season, it was 438 runs and 612 passes. The main beneficiary in this shift, and one of the main reasons for it, is Ridley. A third-round draft choice last year, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Ridley already has run for 490 yards, a 4.8-yard average and four touchdowns. But the Patriots also rely on the legs of Brandon Bolden (206 yards, 5.6-yard average) and Danny Woodhead (119 yards, 3.3-yard average) to average 165.4 rushing yards.
On the spot: Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Brady has been sacked 12 times in five games, compared to 16 in the entire 2009 season, 25 in 2010 and 32 last season. At the current pace, Brady will be sacked 38 times, the most since he went down 41 times in 2001. Sunday, Solder, a first-round draft choice last year, and Vollmer, a second-round pick in 2009, will have to contend not only with the din generated by the 12th Man crowd at CenturyLink Field, but the heat generated by Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin. The Seahawks’ rush-ends have combined for 10 sacks, the second-most by any end tandem in the league.
Burning question: Where was Wes Welker in Weeks 1 and 2? The league’s leading receiver last season with 122 catches, the Patriots’ slot man supreme had eight catches combined in a season-opening win over the Titans and Week 2 loss to the Cardinals. Since then, it’s been more like the Welker of old, as he caught eight passes for 142 yards against the Ravens; nine passes for 129 yards against the Bills; and 13 passes for 104 yards in Sunday’s win over the Broncos.
Numbers to know: 89, the number of offensive plays the Patriots ran against the Broncos. Eighty-nine? Eighty-nine. The Seahawks’ season high is 70. The last time they got 80-plus offensive snaps in a game was in Week 10 of the 2009 season (81 plays). Before that, it was in the 2007 season finale (82 plays). … 51, the number of points kicker Stephen Gostkowski has scored, which ranks second in the league. … 75, the uniform number of 325-pound defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who can be a disruptive force, as evidenced by the fact that he averaged 55 tackles the past four seasons.
Familiar faces: Wide receiver Deion Branch (2006-10) and linebackers Niko Koutouvides (2004-07) and Tracy White (2003-04) played for the Seahawks. Koutouvides was a special teams co-captain in 2007 and led the team in coverage tackles three times. Branch caught 53 passes in 2006, 49 in 2007 and 45 in 2009. Vice president of media relations Stacey James was an intern in the Seahawks’ PR department and went to Washington State University.
The last word: “We live off of turnovers. Sometimes we give up a lot of yards, but we feel like any time we can get the ball back into the offensive’s hands, good things will happen.” – Jerod Mayo, the Patriots’ outside linebacker who had 13 tackles and forced two fumbles against the Broncos, on the defense forcing 14 takeaways and the team being a league-best plus-10 in turnover differential
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