Jets, Sanchez look to buck trend in Seattle

Home field advantage is an interesting topic.

We all understand it exist in college sports.  Where 18, 19 and 20-year-old player’s performances can be affected by a group of jumping, chanting, body-painted people.  But what about professional sports?

We have seen road teams band together and pull off the so-called upset in more than one occasion.  Most recently, the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants faced an 0-2 National League Division Series deficit after losing the first two at their own ballpark, before sweeping the next three games in Cincinnati to move on.

For the NFL, there is that other NY/NJ team that always seems to bring their “A” game on the road.  You have probably had a friend or two tell you about their recent success, you know, the winning Superbowls thing…

Anyways, whether you believe in home field advantage or not, the “12th man” of the Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field has had tangible effects on opponents.

From the Seahawks website:

“CenturyLink Field has established itself as the loudest stadium in the NFL.  Its 2.36 false starts per game is the highest average in the National Football League since 2005.  On gameday the 12th MAN produces as much as 112 dB, nearly as much noise as a Boeing 747 when the opposing team is on offense, but quiets down to an amazing 87 dB when the Seahawks’ offense takes the field.”  Since 2005, there have been 113 false start penalties by opponents, which tops the NFL.

“It’s about as tough of a venue as there is to play in the National Football League, so let’s have at it,” said Rex Ryan.

And it’s not just the crowd, this Seattle team has a physical, aggressive defense that has disrupted a few top tier NFL quarterbacks.

“These are two really big corners and the one safety is a giant,” said Ryan.  “It’s an interesting group.  They have a big, physical defensive line with two extremely productive and athletic edge rushers, so that’s a big challenge.”

Mark Sanchez also praised Seattle’s defense saying, “They have great edge pass rushers and they’re tough in the middle as well.  They have a great front seven and then, their backend, safeties and corners, are probably the most physical in the league.  They are some of the toughest guys we’ll play.  They have great speed and good ball skills, they find the ball in the air.  This is one of the best groups we’ll play all year.  They’re a sound, disciplined team and that’s no surprise with their head coach.  It’s going to be good for us.”

The Seahawks are 4-0 at home this year with wins against Dallas, Green Bay, New England and Minnesota.  Lets look at the quarterback numbers for those games.

Tony Romo: 23/40, 251 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, sacked once, 38.3 QBR, 74.1 passer rating, seven points scored

Aaron Rodgers: 26/39, 223 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked eight times, 54.3 QBR, 81.5 passer rating, 12 points scored

Tom Brady: 36/58, 395 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, sacked once, 72 QBR, 79.3 passer rating, 23 points scored

Christian Ponder: 11/22, 63 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked four times, 11.1 QBR, 37.3 passer rating, 20 points scored

Whether its completion percentage, turnovers or points scored, one area of a quarterback’s game will be effected by this Seattle defense/crowd combination.  It is not normal to make Brady misfire on over 20 passes.

Will Sanchez accomplish what Romo, Rodgers and Brady could not?

“On defense, all they are is the 4th rated defense in the National Football League,” said Ryan.  “They have a huge secondary.  They look huge.  I don’t know how else to put it.  I think they average 6 foot 3 inches, 220 pounds in the secondary.  The biggest corners look like Antonio Cromartie.”

Per usual against a tough crowd and a top ranked defense, red zone success and limited turnovers are obvious keys to stay in the game.

“Especially when you get in the redzone, that’s where you have to be sharp and at our best and we haven’t been this year.  So those things just have to get cleaned up and whatever we can do to fix it, we have to try and do it.  We’ve identified some of those things, and that’s where our emphasis will be.  We just have to keep playing smart and really take care of the ball and don’t hurt ourselves.”

One interesting trend to pick out from the chart above is Rodgers being sacked eight times, but still (basically but not in reality) winning the game.  We all remember how that became the infamous moment for the replacement refs, so lets assume Green Bay won that game.

Rodgers took eight sacks, he didn’t force throws under pressure or play any ‘Hero Ball’.  Sometimes offenses have to accept the sacks and move on to the next play.  Not turning the ball over is more valuable than a loss of yards on one play.  Rodgers had zero touchdown passes but zero interceptions—Sanchez doesn’t have to be a hero on Sunday, but his patience and risk/reward determination will be tested in a major way at Seattle on Sunday.

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