More Sports / Football

Breaking down key factors for the Super Bowl

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

One of the best moments during the Super Bowl week is simulating the biggest game of the year.

How do the Seahawks match giant tight end Rob Gronkowski?

Can the Patriots stop Marshawn Lynch when he is in the “Beast Mode?” And ultimately, who’s gonna win?

The Seahawks made back-to-back NFL championship games thanks to their league-best defense, which allowed only 267.1 yards and 15.9 points per game during the regular season. They can become the eighth franchise in Super Bowl history and the first since the Patriots of the 2003-04 seasons to clinch the Vince Lombardi Trophy for second straight year.

It is the sixth Super Bowl for the Patriots since Bill Belichick became the head coach in 2000 and they have a two-game losing streak in the title game after three victories from 2001-04.

Here are some keys that could decide the winner and the loser on Sunday.

What the Seahawks must do: Keep pressure on Tom Brady.

In the last two Super Bowl defeats, both to the Giants and one of them was at the same University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, after the 2007 season, Brady had difficulty finding his passing rhythm against the Giants’ pass rush. Brady tends to take time until his receivers reach the deep zones.

Seattle must get the best effort from Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin and Jordan Hill, who had a combined 19 sacks during the season.

What the Seahawks must not do: Turn the ball over.

Of course, turnovers hurt every team, but especially against the high-scoring Patriots, you cannot give them more offensive opportunities. The Seahawks rely on their running attack on offense, which takes more time to score than passing. If the quick-attack Patriots have more scoring chances and the clock-controlling Seahawks have less, the outcome of the game is a no-brainer.

What the Patriots must do: Move Gronk around.

The 198-cm, 120-kg All-Pro Gronkowski is a headache for all defenses. He can create mismatches of speed against linebackers and of power against defensive backs.

When Gronkowski lines up wide out, Richard Sherman or Byron Maxwell will cover him, with either Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor providing double coverage. That will open up the routes for Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Brandon LaFell.

From the normal tight end position, Gronkowski can run inner routes that force a linebacker to cover him, or become a downfield blocking threat. Gronk is the best weapon for the Patriots as a receiver, a blocker and even a decoy.

What the Patriots must not do: Play a close game.

Lynch is almost unstoppable. His running makes passing for Russell Wilsona lot easier and read-option plays more effective.

One of the best ways to stop the run is to take it away by widening the lead and forcing the opponent to employ a catch-up, pass-heavy offense. That is not the best asset for Wilson and the Seahawks.

But if the Patriots are kept in a close contest, like the Packers were in the NFC Championship Game, another loss in the desert becomes more likely.

The kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday local time (8:30 a.m. on Monday in Japan).