Championship game takeaways: Seahawks must replicate Patriots’ success in replacing star players

Jan 24, 2017, 11:36 AM
The Patriots have a history of successfully replacing star players at the start of their decline. (...
The Patriots have a history of successfully replacing star players at the start of their decline. (AP)

Following a pair of blowouts in the NFC and AFC championship games, Brock Huard and Mike Salk listed a number of takeaways that are applicable to the Seahawks moving forward.

Atlanta’s youth: The thing that Huard said he is most envious about with the Falcons: they feel like the Seahawks circa 2011-2012. “That climb, that brotherhood, that connection that those guys have. Also, the youth that they play, and youthful exuberance. I think it plays a role in their hunger that is so easily seen on the field. I think it plays a role in the takeaways. One of Dan Quinn’s premises throughout this playoff is to be violent when you get to the ball and you’re going to take it away. They were plus-two in turnovers against the Seahawks and again Sunday versus Green Bay. They are winning the ball and just so much of their story feels like pages ripped out of the Seahawks playbook from 2011 and 2012. Younger players typically play with more to prove, typically have a true legitimate edge and chip. Younger players typically play with more reckless abandon. Younger players typically stay healthier and, man, were they a healthy team firing on all cylinders over those two playoff games at home.”

Atlanta’s health: Huard said the attrition by injury is very real in the NFL. Atlanta had four players on the injury report last week compared to the Packers’ 15. By the end of the season, Seattle was in a similar boat as Green Bay. Huard said that fact became even more apparent when he watched Kam Chancellor mic’d up against Atlanta. “To listen to him mic’d up in that second half trying to pump up DeAndre Elliott, Jeron Johnson, Neiko Thorpe and Steven Terrell was eye-opening and almost blinding … Unfortunately, they were thrust into situations. Especially against that team, that was a hard and very revealing to watch.”

Patriots find replacement cast members every year. Salk said listening to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talk about how much he loves playing with wide receiver Julian Edelman felt like deja vu. “I was thinking about how Brady used to say the exact same things about Wes Welker, and before that he said all the exact same things about Troy Brown. They have a couple types of players that they like. I see a lot of Teddy Bruschi in Rob Ninkovich, not that they’re exactly the same. You might be able to see a little bit of Ty Law in Malcolm Butler in some of the physical way in which he plays.” Salk said that coach Bill Belichick has never been afraid to start over if someone isn’t as good, hungry, fast, or hard-hitting as they used to be, and will find someone with that same valued skill-set.It dawns on me that if the Seahawks are going to be successful long-term, they’re going to have to start creating the next Kam Chancellor, the next Richard Sherman. You can’t just expect that guy to be him forever. You’re going to have to find the next one.”

Falcons switch up defensive schemes: Huard noted that former Seahawks defensive coordinator and current Falcons coach Dan Quinn has taken over some of the defensive play-calling with Atlanta. He brought extra pressure on 40 percent of the plays against the Packers, as opposed to sticking to the more cautious Cover 3, keep-it-simple and in-front approach that Atlanta might usually employ. “They mixed it up. It isn’t about getting sacks on the elite quarterbacks … When we talked a week ago about Seattle moving forward with their scheme, defense and style, you don’t become a Star Wars Pittsburgh blitz fest. But there are moments, and games, when you’ve got to be willing to take some of that risk to play in that fire against elite QB’s, and Dan Quinn was on it Sunday.”

Throwing to running backs: Salk said he could watch Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throw to his running backs out of the backfield all day. The Patriots did a lot of that, too. In fact, Salk said, much of the NFL seems to be going toward getting deep guys down field and finding either shallow crossers underneath or running backs in the flat. “Not that the Seahawks do none of it – we’ve seen Doug Baldwin run those shallow crosses under it – but they just seem to be unable to get their running backs involved in the same way.” Salk said the difference is the strength of the offensive lines in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New England and Green Bay. “As opposed to the Seahawks who need to keep the running back in for protection. It probably has to do with the ability to keep your quarterback protected long enough to make the other team respect the deep route so that then you can shoot guys underneath, but it is frustrating watching how good other teams are at doing that.”

On greatness: Huard said Belichick is undoubtedly the greatest coach of all time and that he is rooting for Atlanta but won’t be upset if New England wins. “If Tom Brady gets his fifth Super Bowl, he further distinguishes himself from everybody else. I think he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and if he gets a fifth, he gets one more than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw and there’s very little debate.”

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