is probably the best cornerback in the NFL that you've never heard of. As a
matter of fact, you probably haven't heard of many of the players who make up
the NFL's best defense. But come Sunday
afternoon, these relative unknowns could be household names, at least around
6-foot-4 220-pound Pro Bowl cornerback — yes, you read that right — headlines
a Seattle secondary that has captivated the NFL with their range, stature and
physicality. Much like Browner, three of
the Seahawks four starting defensive backs stand at 6-foot-3 or taller. That
gives Seattle the biggest secondary in the league and a group that could
finally slow down the video game-like offense the Patriots have created.
Tom Brady and the
Patriots have put together an offensive unit that is being most closely
compared to the Oregon Ducks. And aside from some injury-induced struggles
against the Cardinals, no defense has found a way to stop them.
secondary, and suddenly it's not just the dreaded 12th Man at Century Link
Field that Brady and company will have to worry about.
are long, they?re big," Bill Belichick said of the Seahawks secondary.
"For the quarterback, it's harder because it's no different than playing
against a taller middle linebacker, a guy like [Brian] Urlacher or somebody
like that in there that's 6-4, 6-5 in the middle of the field. Their range and
their height just make those throws in the middle a little tougher."
spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League before finding a place in
the NFL, makes Belichick's point exactly as he's got the physical credentials
of a middle linebacker with the ball skills of a Darrelle Revis. But he's not
the only behemoth lurking in the Seahawks defensive backfield.
Kam Chancellor, a
Pro Bowl safety from a year ago, checks in at roughly 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds.
Talk about a heavy hitter. Seattle's other starting cornerback Richard
Sherman also checks in at 6-foot-3. The lone starter falling underneath the
6-foot-3 parallel is Earl Thomas, who also rounds out the trio of Seahawks defensive
backs to make the 2011 Pro Bowl.
The mere size,
never mind the elite skills, of the Seahawks defenders could cause serious
problems for the Patriots receiving corps. No Patriots receiver measures taller
than 6-feet — Brandon Lloyd and Matthew Slater — and even Aaron Hernandez,
who at 6-foot-2 is still questionable for a return Sunday, and Rob Gronkowski,
at 6-foot-5, will be challenged against the monstrous defenders in Seattle.
are big and they run well and they're physical," Belichick added.
"You look at their defense, I don't think you get real excited about
saying, 'Oh, let's do this, let's do that.' They've done a pretty good job of
defending everything over these five games."
Even with the
massive secondary, the Seahawks still don't have the best pass defense in the
league. Actually they rank seventh. But Seattle has been able to both frustrate
and shut down top-level quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Cam Newton and even held
Aaron Rodgers to relatively pedestrian numbers and without a touchdown pass.
With a track record like that, you can only imagine what type of success
they'll find against the Patriots.
If Browner and
the Seahawks secondary are playing bump and run, as they have had a tendency to
this season, then Wes Welker, Lloyd and even Gronkowski will likely find it
difficult to get open. The receivers' inability to keep up with their routes
would just slow Brady down and in turn could see him take a few more hits or
sacks than usual, something Rodgers had to face.
The Patriots best
chance at countering that challenge this weekend, though, is to enact their
up-tempo no-huddle attack. Much like the Oregon offense does nearly every
Saturday, New England better hope their speed and agility will be enough.
Because in this case, size definitely does matter.