FOXBORO -- The Patriots have gone through 32 quarters of football and 249 pass attempts without an interception.
The NFL record for fewest in a season -- five -- is shared by six teams (1960 Browns, ’66 Packers, ’90 Chiefs, ’90 Giants, ’10 Patriots and ’11 49ers).
What makes the Patriots’ start as impressive as any of those teams is A) the pace they are on, B) the amount of passing they do relative to most of those seasons and C) that they’ve gotten to 249 with three different quarterbacks throwing the passes.
Tom Brady was asked about it on Wednesday.
“That’s been a real strong point for our team and I think that’s been a product of a lot of things,” said Brady. “Sometimes it comes down to quarterback decision making, it comes down to protection in the pocket, it comes down to what the scoreboard looks like. If you’re down 14 points in the fourth quarter, that risk-reward scenario that I talk about a lot changes in your mind and you’ve got to start trying to make tighter throws.
“We’ve played with a lot of leads which has been very helpful, but yeah, this week is all about turnovers for us,” Brady added. “I know they preach that a lot. I know the coaches talk to us a lot about Coach [Pete] Carroll’s philosophy and saying, ‘It’s all about the ball, it’s all about the ball.’ They really thrive with turnovers. It’s a really turnover-driven defense. They’ve got a lot of playmakers at a lot of levels to get the ball off the quarterback, get the ball off the running backs, so it’ s going to be a big challenge for us.”
This Sunday night, the Patriots deal with Seattle in a Super Bowl 49 rematch. The last time New England saw Seattle in the regular season was 2012. In that game, the Patriots went up and down the field on the Seahawks as Brady threw for 395 yards but New England was 1 for 6 in the red zone scoring touchdowns and Brady was picked twice. The last time the Patriots saw Seattle, Brady threw two more picks.
Seattle’s picked off six passes so far this year and is traditionally one of the best in the league at creating turnovers thanks to their defensive mix of pressure, a cover-3 scheme and the ball skills of their secondary and linebackers.
“Turnovers are a huge, huge element and issue in this game and whenever you can control that in your favor it makes a difference and it generally leads to winning,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “It’s interesting that New England has done such a great job over the years in taking care of the football in terms of fumbles and now with interceptions – to be throwing a shutout? That’s a big-time factor that leads to wins. They do a fantastic job of it and we’ve always stressed and done a really good job over the years (of getting turnovers).”
Brady isn’t cowed by the complexity of the Seahawks defense. It’s the aggressiveness and confidence they play with that makes them so tough.
“I’ve told you guys a lot over the years, some of the best defenses I’ve played in my whole career, they just do what they do and they do it at an extremely high level,” said Brady. “This is one of those teams. They’ve led the team in scoring I think over the last four years, giving up the fewest amount of points. I wouldn’t say they’re going to run every defense in the book. I think it’s a relatively aggressive plan that they have. I think they all know what they’re responsible for and they all do a great job defending. It’s a very sound defense. They don’t give up anything and that’s why you can play that style. There are no voids in zones; there are no voids in the running game. It’s hard to throw the ball on these guys. I think they all play pretty aggressively. Coach [Bill Belichick] says, if you love football, Sunday night here at this stadium is going to be a great place for it.”
Brady was asked if he’d go back to SB49 to prep for Seattle.
“Yeah, definitely,” he answered. “I’ve watched it a couple times, and I’ll watch as much as I can over the course of the week so I can play with anticipation; get to know their players and know their scheme. Sometimes, when you play in those Super Bowls, you’ve got two weeks to prepare, and I would say I watched more film that week than I’ve watched in my entire career. But you still have to go through that process this week and it’s good to have some familiarity with them. We practiced yesterday; we got off to a good start. We’ve got to keep it going over the course of this week, but it’s a big challenge for our team and hopefully we’re able to really meet the challenge.”
That game -- you may recall -- turned on a pick. It wasn’t Brady that threw it. And if trends continue, he won’t this Sunday either.