Much history surrounds Seahawks, Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Pete Carroll knows he can’t go back in time to 1997 when he arrived in New England as the Patriots’ giddy 46-year-old new head coach.
But if he could, he says he certainly would have done things a lot differently.
It’s been 17 years since Carroll was fired after a three-year run in New England and forced to accept his second failed stint as an NFL coach, unsure he’d ever get — or want for that matter — another shot.
But after reviving his career at the University of Southern California and then returning to the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, he returns to Foxborough and the Patriots’ home stadium Sunday for the first time since his departure in 1999. It will also be the first meeting between the teams since New England’s 2015 Super Bowl victory denied Seattle back-to-back championships.
“When I went into New England, I was really committed to being able to bring the philosophy and do it exactly the way you wanted to do it, and be in control of it. It didn’t really work out that way, the way I hoped,” Carroll said. “I wasn’t on my game enough to pull that off. It was a great lesson learned.”
That lesson hardened his coaching style during an eight-year run at USC that included a pair of national championships. The lessons stayed with him when he returned to the NFL in 2010 and when he led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win in 2014.
It was even with him when the Seahawks came up a yard short in their Super Bowl 49 loss to the Patriots and his New England successor, Bill Belichick.
It makes Sunday’s rematch one of the most-anticipated games of the season.
Carroll said even with the sour Super Bowl memories he has nothing but respect for what the Patriots have built since he left.
“I think it’s really awesome to watch New England,” he said. “When Bill got the job there, (team owner) Robert (Kraft) gave him the chance to take that thing over and run it and do it exactly the way a football guy sees it, and the rest has been a great history and a great success story.”
The respect is mutual from the other sideline for Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
“I think that John and Pete have done a tremendous job with that organization,” Belichick said. “We’ve spent a lot of time studying what they do both on the field and in terms of their building — team building. So we’ve learned a lot from them from the outside, obviously.”
Here are some other things to watch for in Sunday’s game:
SUPER BOWL MEMORIES: Patriots cornerback Malcom Butler said his end-zone interception to seal the Patriots’ 2015 Super Bowl win always brings back fond memories. But he’s put all reminiscing out of his mind this week.
“That’s not gonna help us win this game,” Butler said. “This is bigger than me. It’s about this team. That play will not help us Sunday night. So we gotta be ready to play.”
RUN AROUND: Seattle’s run game continues to severely underperform, and changes could arrive this week. The Seahawks rank 30th in the NFL averaging just 75.4 yards per game rushing. They’re on pace for the fewest yards rushing in franchise history in a 16-game season.
Carroll was vague about who would be the primary ball carrier against New England, but did say rookie C.J. Prosise will get more snaps. Christine Michael has been mostly ineffective and Prosise has shown flashes of potential in his limited opportunities. He is a better option as a receiver out of the backfield.
BAM BAM’S BACK: Strong safety Kam Chancellor is expected to return after missing the previous four games with a groin injury. The timing couldn’t be better for Seattle with the problems presented by New England tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
Chancellor was injured just before Seattle’s Oct. 16 win over Atlanta and was slow in recovering. Kelcie McCray played well in Chancellor’s absence, including an astounding 108 total plays in Seattle’s 6-6 tie with Arizona, but Chancellor brings a mix of physicality and athleticism that’s difficult to replace.
GRAHAM’S GREATNESS: Jimmy Graham continues to defy expectations.
There were questions whether Graham could ever return to being a starter in the NFL after a patellar tendon injury in his knee a year ago. Graham is doing more than just starting, becoming Seattle’s most dangerous option in the passing game. Graham had eight catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns last week against Buffalo, his third 100-yard game of the season.
Graham is on pace for more than 1,000 yards receiving and is averaging a career-best 14.3 yards per reception. Graham is making an early case for Comeback Player of the Year.