Super Bowl XLIX pits the unstoppable offense of the New England Patriots against the impenetrable defense of the Seattle Seahawks. The 49th edition of the NFL’s big game could be one of its most memorable contests. Here’s a preview of Sunday’s game:

Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Az. | Sunday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC-TV

How They Got Here (& What They’ve Done Here):

Super Bowl 49
Getty Images

Seattle:The reigning Super Bowl champions didn’t look like they’d get back to defend their title when they were 3-3. Led by their top-ranked defense and the NFL’s best rushing attack, the Seahawks won nine of their last 10 regular season games to finish with a 12-4 record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seattle easily beat Carolina, 31-17, in the divisional round, then came back to stun Green Bay, 28-22, in overtime in the NFC title game.

Seattle is making its third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The Seahawks lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but beat the Denver Broncos handily last year. They can become the first team to repeat as champions since…the Patriots in 2004-05.

New England: After stumbling to a 2-2 start, the Patriots rallied to win their sixth straight AFC East title with a 12-4 record. Their incredibly efficient offense, led by quarterback Tom Brady, fueled the team to wins in 12 of its last 14 games, including the postseason. New England’s improved defense, featuring cornerback Darrelle Revis, became a bright spot as the season progressed.

After winning a 35-31 slugfest against the Ravens in the divisional round, the Pats routed the Colts, 45-7, in the AFC Championship Game. Yes, we know about the deflated balls. Everyone does. If it was an advantage, it’s one they won’t have in Arizona.

This is the franchise’s eighth Super Bowl appearance — its sixth with Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. The Brady and Belichick combo has been responsible for the Pats’ three Super Bowl wins and two of their four losses. A win against the Seahawks would make Brady and Belichick the second QB-coach combo to win four Super Bowls, joining Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Keys To The Game:

New England

New England Patriots
Getty Images

Let The Run Set Up The Pass: Even though Tom Brady has a healthy offensive line and targets like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Patriots need to make Seattle respect the running game. Somehow, LeGarrette Blount may be the most important player on the New England roster — one who wasn’t added to until Week 12 (Nov. 20).

Go To Gronk Early: Rob Gronkowski is a bar-hopping, ball-spiking, game-changing tight end who has helped Brady stay elite. The Pats need to throw to Gronk early and often, and hope he attracts attention from Seahawks safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor — and whichever unlucky linebackers drop into coverage. More Seattle players trying to stop Gronk means other open targets for Brady later in the game.

Contain The Beast: Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is a terror with the football. Heck, he’s pretty scary without the pigskin, too. Other than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has fined Lynch for his media-averse behavior, no one man can stop ‘Beast Mode’ from happening. The Patriots defense has to contain Lynch and set up obvious passing downs — when they can test the mettle of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.


Seattle Seahawks
Getty Images

Pressure Tom Terrific:The New York Giants have shown it twice: Tom Brady is less effective when he gets pressured, especially right up the middle. Seahawks defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are among the players who need to put heat on Brady.

Drop the Boom: Whether it’s LeGarrette Blount on a carry, Rob Gronkowski over the middle or any receiver coming off the line of scrimmage, the Seahawks must inflict hard hits on the New England skill position players. Physical defenses — the Chiefs, Bills, Jets and Dolphins — have been able to push the Pats around to great effect. The entire Seattle defense must live up to its ‘Legion of Boom’ nickname.

Control The Clock: Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll may dress like a Mandelbaum brother who was left out of a 'Seinfeld' episode, but he can game plan with anyone. As good as his defense is, Carroll needs his team to keep possession of the ball — and keep it away from the New England offense. Seattle also can’t expect to overcome five turnovers and rally from 16 points down, like it did against the Packers.

Other Storylines You’ll Hear About:

Andy Reid
Getty Images

A Former Jets Coach Will Win (Another) Super Bowl: Both Bill Belichick of the Patriots and Pete Carroll of the Seahawks were once the head coach of the New York Jets. Carroll’s tenure lasted just one year (1994) and featured a dismal 6-10 record. Belichick’s stint was over in one day; the former Jets’ defensive coordinator resigned just 24 hours after being named to succeed retiring head coach Bill Parcells in 2000.

The Jets? They haven’t been to a Super Bowl in 46 years.

Trash Talk II: The last New England-Seattle game may have helped kickstart the legend of Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman. After upstart Seattle knocked off the favored Pats, 24-23, in 2012, Sherman trash-talked Tom Brady on the field after the game, and he was soon given the heel label he now wears so proudly. Will we hear more chatter on Sunday? Count on it.

Hail To The Chiefs: We assume one of the pregame shows will employ Kansas City head coach Andy Reid to tell everyone how to beat these teams. Though his Chiefs didn’t make the playoffs with a 9-7 record, Reid’s team beat both New England and Seattle. Kansas City stomped the Pats, 41-14, in Week 4 and edged the Seahawks, 24-20, in Week 11.

We’ll personally send Andy $10 if he says ‘I’m on to the buffet’ at the close of a segment.

More From WOMI-AM