3 things to watch: Patriots look to bring sizzle to Seattle

Rob Gronkowski will miss the remainder of the postseason, according to multiple reports.
SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Three things to watch Sunday as the Patriots invade Seattle’s CenturyLink Field to take on old friend Pete Carroll and the Seahawks (4:05 p.m., CBS). It’s the Patriots first trip back to Seattle since a 24-21 victory in December of 2008:

1. Quick to the punch               
Much was made about the Patriots pace last Sunday against Denver as they got to the line within seconds of a made completion or Stevan Ridley run. Even though the Seattle defense is ranked tops in the league in fewest yards allowed per game so far this season, until a team is able to stop offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ frenetic march expect the Pats to keep it up.
Eventually an NFL team will solve the riddle, but by then the Patriots’ offense will likely have turned into something else altogether.

2. Something has got to give
Seattle has faced six quarterbacks this season (John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford and Cam Newton) and has allowed just two touchdown passes. Only Romo has gone over 250 yards through the air against the Seahawks.

The ‘Hawks give up just 4.4 yards per play, the best mark in the NFL, so the Patriots could start playing dink-and-dunk to avoid Seattle’s towering cornerbacks.

Tom Brady has a touchdown pass in every game and has thrown just one interception on the season (against Arizona in Week 2), so this chess-match will get quite interesting in a hurry.

3. Hustle Russell
If the Patriots secondary wants to build back up the confidence it lost in Week 3 to Joe Flacco and in the second half last week against Peyton Manning, seeing rookie Russell Wilson this Sunday presents an exciting situation.

Wilson has only one game this season in which he has had a quarterback rating over 100 (112.7 in Week 2 against Dallas). That typically doesn’t get it done in the league.

While Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory have combined for five interceptions in 2012 the play of the group as a whole has been uninspiring, to put it mildly. Regaining some confidence is a must in this game for this sorry lot.



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