The strength of the New England Patriots’ defense will have a tough test Sunday, going up against a Seattle Seahawks team which has flourished in the aerial attack led by quarterback Russell Wilson.
Whoever wins the vertical battle — the Patriots secondary vs. Seahawks receivers — certainly could go a long way in helping their team come out on top during Week 2’s “Sunday Night Football” clash.
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, understands the challenges Seattle presents.
“Those guys are very explosive,” Gilmore told reporters on a video conference Friday.
The Seahawks have big play capabilities with the speedy Tyler Lockett and physical second-year receiver D.K. Metcalf. Lockett eclipsed 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019 while Metcalf recorded 900 yards on 58 receptions during his rookie season.
“D.K. is very strong, very explosive, can make big catches. And Lockett is a great receiver, too. Great speed, good after the catch,” Gilmore said. “And they got a great quarterback, too. So, it?s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Wilson is the head of the snake in the Seattle offense. The dual threat QB keeps plays alive with his legs and is tough to both contain, and ultimately, bring down.
“Russell Wilson, when I look at a guy like him, he?s a great quarterback,” Gilmore said. “He throws some balls where only his guy can catch it so you got to really play great technique, be really tight on the receiver. And with that, he can buy time, buy extra time to get his receivers open. So, it?s going to be a team effort to stop a guy like him.”
Wilson completed a noteworthy 88.6 percent of his passes Week 1, both signaling a great individual effort and brutal defensive performance from the opposing Atlanta Falcons. He threw for 322 yards with four touchdowns in the game.
“It?s difficult. Anytime a guy can throw the ball like he does, and buy time, it makes everybody?s job harder,” Gilmore said.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they have among the best secondaries in the league, which is how they intercepted three passes in a Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Gilmore leads the cornerback group with J.C. Jackson, Jon Jones and Jason McCourty, along with a safety group including Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Terrance Brooks, Joejuan Williams and second-round pick Kyle Dugger. The Patriots depth and versatility on the back end allowed them to feature seven (!!) defensive backs on 17 defensive plays against Miami.
With that, it’ll be interesting to see who has the upper hand in the vertical matchup when “Sunday Night Football” kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images