Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll Priming for Another Instant Classic Between Seahawks and Patriots
Being out of conference foes, the Seahawks and Patriots are only scheduled to play one another every four years. But despite the fact they will face each off for just the fourth time on Sunday since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in Seattle back in 2010, the two franchises are well acquainted.
Carroll and Belichick have been on the sidelines for all three prior matchups, including Super Bowl XLIX, while quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner played in each of those games. The arrival of safety Jamal Adams, who played against New England twice a year while in New York the past three years, adds even more familiarity to the equation.
As the two teams ramp up preparation for the latest matchup in the series, there's going to be plenty of smoke signals and gamesmanship between two coaches who have a great deal of respect for one another. When it comes to game-planning, specifics will be kept even closer to the vest than usual.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, after being asked about Seattle's tendencies blitzing, particularly with Adams, Carroll joked, "Well, I wouldn't want to tell coach Belichick anything in particular, but we really like doing it on the second first down of the series."
There's a great mutual admiration between Carroll and Belichick, the NFL's two oldest coaches who rebounded tremendously after failing in their initial NFL head coaching stints. Belichick posted a 36-44 record in five seasons with the Browns and was fired after the 1995 season, while Carroll received a pink slip from the Jets and Patriots.
Ironically, Belichick was tabbed as Carroll's replacement in New England after the 1999 season, while Carroll went back to the college level to coach at USC for a decade before eventually returning to the league.
When asked about coaching against Carroll 20 years after taking his place, Belichick replied, "That means we've done pretty well or somebody would have replaced us."
Looking at their respective track records, saying Belichick and Carroll have fared pretty well would be an understatement. While the former has a big edge in the Lombardi Trophy department, the two renowned coaches have combined to win seven Super Bowls, 408 regular season games, and 42 postseason games.
In head-to-head matchups, Carroll and Belichick have split their four prior games coaching against each other. All three prior games between the Seahawks and Patriots were decided by seven points or less, including the infamous Super Bowl XLIX when Wilson was stunningly picked off at the goal line by Malcolm Butler.
While 12s don't want to hear about that disastrous ending from February 2015, the other two games tilted in Seattle's favor. As part of the team's rise to contender in 2012, Wilson connected with Sidney Rice for a 46-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to stun New England and cap off a 24-23 upset at CenturyLink Field. After the game, Richard Sherman shouted "You mad bro?" at Tom Brady, spawning a series of memes on the internet.
Four years later, the Seahawks again got the best of the Patriots, this time holding on late for a victory in Foxboro. Wilson threw three touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin, outdueling Brady, who threw for 316 yards but didn't throw a touchdown and was intercepted by DeShawn Shead.
The game featured several notable plays, including a dazzling touchdown from Wilson to Baldwin shortly before halftime, Earl Thomas obliterating Rob Gronkowski after making a catch, and Kam Chancellor denying the star tight end in the end zone on fourth down from the Seahawks one-yard line to close out the game.
Recalling the prime time barnburner, Belichick believes it ranks near the top of the best games his teams have played in at Gillette Stadium in 20 years at the helm.
"They came in here and handled us in 2016," Belichick said. "It was a great football game, it was as competitive the game as I think as we've ever played in this stadium. We've played a lot of them, a lot of big ones, but that was a great football game - two evenly matched teams and they got the better of us."
When the Seahawks and Patriots take the field at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, the atmosphere won't be anything like those prior three matchups, and not many players remain from the last time they played. Due to COVID-19, there won't be a single fan in the stands and artificial crowd noise will instead blare from the speakers. Brady won't be under center, with Cam Newton now calling the shots for New England's offense, while stars such as Thomas and Chancellor no longer roam the secondary in Seattle.
But despite the vastly different circumstances, there should be no shortage of intriguing story lines for this latest prime time battle between two teams that know each other well. Wilson and Newton will rekindle their rivalry with the latter hoping to get a bit of revenge, while Adams will look to stick it to his former division rival with his new team.
But most importantly, there's a chance this could be the last time Belichick and Carroll embark on a chess match against one another. Both iconic coaches are nearing 70 years of age, and barring a Super Bowl grudge match, their teams won't see each other again until 2024.
While that possibility wasn't considered by Belichick on Monday, he expects nothing less than another instant classic between two franchises that wouldn't want it any other way. Holding his peer in the utmost regard, he knows Carroll will have his squad led by Wilson, Wagner, and Adams ready to play and he's looking forward to the challenge of coaching against them once again.
"I have a ton of respect for Pete. His consistency, his record, his ability to handle whatever comes, and do it in a way that doesn't distract the team - injuries and whatever things that we all deal with from time to time - but he does a great job of handling and keeping the team focused. They go out there and play hard play competitive every week, it doesn't matter where it is or who it is or what the circumstances are... That's the type of effort you get from Pete [Carroll] and the Seahawks."