By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — Pete Carroll has a bone to pick with Chip Kelly.
The former Pacific-12 Conference coaching rivals don’t cross paths often now that Carroll is in the NFL, but for this week anyway, Carroll is a little unhappy with the Oregon head coach/offensive genius (that may or may not actually be Kelly’s title at Oregon).
You see, the New England Patriots, who will play in Seattle on Sunday, have always had a dangerous offense with Tom Brady at quarterback, but in recent years, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has spent time with Kelly, learning more about Oregon’s high-tempo offense. The result has been an always dangerous offense becoming even more lethal as the Patriots have employed the more up-tempo style that helped them jump to a big lead against Denver last week, a game that saw New England run an amazing 89 offensive plays while picking up a team-record 35 first downs.
With all the weapons Brady has at his disposal, the Patriots would be a challenge for a talented Seahawks defense regardless of tempo, but now they’ve upped the degree of difficulty.
“Preparing for that is most challenging,” Carroll said. “I think the fact that they studied with Chip and he’s helped — I’m still kind of pissed at that — you have to experience what this is like to adapt well.
“They’re doing some really cool things on offense, and Tom Brady is as good as you can get. It’s an exciting opportunity for us. … They have really featured the no-huddle offense, and kind of tailored it after the speed of the college game, and it’s been very, very effective.”
The reason Carroll calls this an exciting opportunity as opposed to, say, a terrifying one, is that he and his defense might just be as well-equipped as any team in the league to handle an offense like New England’s. Through five games this season, the Patriots have scored more points and gained more yards than any team in the NFL. Perhaps most impressively, the Patriots have just three three-and-outs this season in 60 possessions, the fewest in the league.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, have held opponents to the fewest yards of any team while allowing the second-fewest points. The Seahawks secondary, which might well be the best in the NFL, already has shown it is up to the task of facing an elite passing attack. In 2011, 10 quarterbacks passed for 4,000 or more yards, and Brady will be the fourth player on that list Seattle has faced already this year. Against Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Cam Newton, the Seahawks went 3-0, allowing and average of 179.66 net passing yards.
“We’ve done some good things against really good players, too, and good quarterbacks and good teams,” Carroll said. “We like that, but this will be another challenge. This is the No. 1 offense — for a good reason — that we’re playing. The challenge of us playing these guys, we need these challenges, you need to play against the best to find out where you sit and all.”
No one needs convincing that any Patriots offense led by Brady is elite. He is a future Hall of Famer who is again putting up big numbers, so no one will doubt him.
The Seahawks, however, will go into this game once again hoping to prove how good they are defensively. It seemed like Seattle’s Monday night game against the Packers would be the chance to show on a big stage just how good this young defense is, but a very impressive defensive outing was drastically overshadowed by that game’s controversial ending.
Now, a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown since that Packers game — the Rams scored their only touchdown on special teams, while the Panthers’ only touchdown came on an interception return — will get another chance to show what it can do against one of the NFL’s best offenses.
“We love it, man,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “This is what guys come to the NFL for, to play against the best competition, play against the best in the world. It’s a great opportunity to come out and show the world what we can do.
“We know we’ve got our hands full. We know they have a lot of weapons from the running backs to the tight ends to the receivers, but at the same time we’ve got a good defense and we think we match up well against them. I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”
The Patriots offense, and their emphasis on the no-huddle offense, won’t just have an effect on Sunday’s game; it also could change offenses throughout the league, according to Carroll. While college offenses feature tons of variety and are constantly changing, the NFL tends to evolve more slowly. And even though the Patriots’ offense doesn’t look like Oregon’s schematically — the similarities are in tempo, not in formation or play-calling — its success could influence how other NFL teams run offenses.
“The league changes slowly until somebody does really well,” Carroll said. “New England is going to have a big impact. What they’re doing will have a big impact on the pro game. A lot of teams that are already no-huddle will see where they can go. It’s pretty impressive.”
Pretty impressive indeed? But more impressive than Seattle’s defense? The Seahawks are excited to find out Sunday.
“We have people at every position who are talented,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We’ve just got to continue to prove that we’re one of the best. It’s a challenge, because we know that they’re a good offense, so it’s a chance to put our defense against a great offense. Everybody on the team is welcoming the challenge.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.