Patriots, Seahawks provide lessons to rest of league
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PHOENIX — Super Bowl XLIX is a lesson in aggression.
The Patriots and Seahawks are here because they go for it. From their ownership to their personnel departments to their coaches — and maybe even to their locker-room attendants — the Patriots and Seahawks work hard, practice hard, play hard, take chances and bend the rules.
Everything they do is about pressure, whether it’s forcing the league to take action or forcing officials to call a penalty. They do everything with the intent of putting enough pressure on you that you eventually will crack.
And when that happens, it’s amazing how often the Patriots and Seahawks are ready to take advantage, even against the best of opponents.
There was no better example of that than the Seahawks’ improbable victory against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers are one of the best organizations in the NFL, but their performance against the Seahawks defined their conservative approach, including Morgan Burnett intercepting a pass by Russell Wilson and — at teammate Julius Peppers’ behest — immediately sliding to the ground despite having room to run with a 19-7 lead and 5:09 left.
The Packers thought the game was over. It should have been. Against the Seahawks, though, it most definitely wasn’t.
It wasn’t necessarily the wrong play. Nine times out of 10, the Packers still would have won the game. But it’s not a play the Seahawks ever would make. Coach Pete Carroll once faked a punt to maintain possession with a 47-17 lead in the fourth quarter against the Bills. Even if they overdo it at times, they condition themselves to go for the kill.
‘‘Oh, man, we’d try to get in the end zone,’’ Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. ‘‘You’ve got to be aggressive. I don’t care if there’s one second left. If I’m getting an interception, I’m trying to score a touchdown.’’
What works for the Patriots and Seahawks is all-out aggression on every level. They take advantage of every opportunity. When former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was cut by the Steelers in November after he walked off the field before the end of a game, the Patriots immediately — and suspiciously — re-signed him.
Blount wasn’t worth the trouble for the Steelers, but he’s making the most of his second chance with the Patriots. In the AFC Championship Game against the Colts, he had 30 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
Whether Blount orchestrated his release from the Steelers or not, the Patriots somehow came out on top again.
Carroll and Patriots coach Bill Belichick go all out to condition and prepare their teams. Sometimes they go overboard, such as when Belichick was found guilty of taping other teams in ‘‘Spygate’’ and when the NFL penalized Carroll and the Seahawks for illegally conducting live offseason practices.
But that’s an indication of how far Carroll will go to condition his team. Many teams avoid too much contact in practice for fear of injury. The Seahawks and Patriots go at it, conducting practices with high levels of intensity.
‘‘Practice is everything to me,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘That’s where we make us, so we want to practice at a level that is as close as we can get to the game. That’s why there’s noise. That’s why there’s competition. That’s why there’s ones against ones. It’s functioning at a higher level more consistently to hope that it will carry over to game time.’’
It usually does, which makes Super Bowl XLIX all the more interesting. The two best teams in the NFL providing the ultimate in competition — and a lesson for everybody else in the league.