With Tom Brady under center and a thriving ground game, the New England Patriots' offense is clicking on all cylinders.
In contrast, while the Seattle Seahawks haven't moved the ball with much consistency, their defensive unit ranks as arguably the best in the league.
Something has to give Sunday when the high-scoring Patriots square off against a stingy Seahawks team looking to open 3-0 at home for the second time in three seasons.
Alone atop the AFC East, New England (3-2) is averaging NFL highs of 33.0 points and 439.4 yards. While those numbers aren't much of a surprise with Brady directing the offense, much of the Patriots' success is due to a well-balanced attack.
New England's 165.4 rushing yards per game rank third in the league and their league-best 10 TDs on the ground are two more than Brady's thrown.
"We're getting a lot of nickel defense," Brady said. "When they put little guys out there (in the secondary), we have to take advantage of it. I think we're playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the football. We have to keep doing it. It's only been five games.
"You can't just throw it all day. You can't just run it all day. You have to be able to do both."
After running for 247 yards during a 52-28 win at Buffalo in Week 4, the Patriots gashed Denver for 251 last Sunday in a 31-21 victory - marking their first back-to-back 200-yard efforts since 1978. Running back Stevan Ridley led the way with a career-high 151 yards and a touchdown while Brady threw for a season-low 223 yards with a TD.
"A lot of people key on (Brady) and our running back group has to get some pressure off him so he can be the quarterback he can be," said Ridley, who ranks fifth in the league with 490 rushing yards. "If they're sitting back there staring Brady in the face every play, we can't be a one-dimensional offense."
The surging Patriots, though, could be in for a tough test against Seattle (3-2), which is surrendering a league-low 258.6 yards per game and ranks second in points allowed (14.0).
"I think it will be a great challenge for us this week ... against a defense that's really, really playing well," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.
"They're fast. The secondary is big, fast - I would describe them as long. They get their hands on a lot of balls. Even though they're younger, I would say they have a lot of experience playing together. They're all good tacklers."
The Seahawks turned the ball over three times but delivered another superb defensive display last Sunday at Carolina, giving up a season-low 190 yards in a 16-12 win.
"Most teams, after three turnovers, something would go wrong. But our defense held on and fought hard and we stayed true to what we were there to do and finished the game really well," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who spent three seasons at the helm in New England from 1997-99.
"I love seeing that we played so well and so tough on defense."
Seattle has been especially hard on opposing offenses at CenturyLink Field, where it beat Dallas 27-7 on Sept. 16 before handing Green Bay a 14-12 defeat eight days later thanks to some help from a controversial touchdown call by the replacement referees on the last play of the game.
"I think it might be the loudest stadium that we've been in and we're in a lot of loud ones," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "... It's a huge home field advantage for them."
While their defensive efforts leave little to be desired, the Seahawks - last in the NFL at 163.0 passing yards per game - surely need rookie Russell Wilson to pick up the pace.
Wilson failed to top 160 passing yards in each of his first four games before throwing for 221 with a touchdown and two interceptions last weekend. His mediocre play has led many to question whether backup Matt Flynn might be better suited to lead the offense.
"I use it as fire," Wilson, who's been picked off five times in his last two games, told the team's official website. "I ignore the noise all the time, but at the same time I know that I have to get better."
New England had dropped five straight to Seattle before taking the last two matchups, most recently winning 24-21 on the road Dec. 7, 2008.
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