That's the key to stopping the Seahawks at times dominant rushing attack.
It sounds funny when you are talking about shutting down a physical running back known as Beast Mode and a quarterback who runs the ball as well as any passer in the game today, but according to many Patriots players the key to keeping the Seahawks high-powered rushing attack in check on Super Bowl Sunday will be as much about defenders' eyes and minds as it will their arms or shoulders.
Marshawn Lynch ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,306 yards during the regular season. His 4.7-yard average was the same as rushing leader DeMarco Murray, while his 13 touchdowns tied the Dallas back for the league lead. He's as physical as any back in the game, but also can beat you in space or hit the big play at any time.
Wilson tied for 16th in the league in rushing with 849 yards, a 7.2-yard average and six touchdowns, more than 200 yards ahead of the next most productive running quarterback.
Combine the two with the read option that gives Wilson the chance to hand off to Lynch or pull the ball out and run on his own to the back side and it puts tremendous stress on an opposing defense.
"Everything starts with the running game," Duron Harmon said of preparing for the Seattle offense. "They have two guys with Wilson and Lynch who can run the ball really effectively and hurt you. Then that sets up the play-action."
The Patriots have played read option teams before, including division games against the Jets and Dolphins, among others. But few teams, if any, have the horses and the precise execution to run it the way the Seahawks do.
Still, New England's defenders feel like defending the read option comes down to what has become the Patriots unofficial team slogan of late – Do Your Job.
"It's something that I've done for a very long time now, is playing that read option-type play," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said confidently. "Really it's all about your eyes and what you see. So you have to be really good in what you're looking at and understand that there are two quality guys that are running the football or pulling the football (out). You just have to be aware of what's going on.
"Everyone has to do their job. Like everything else everyone has a responsibility and you have to do your responsibility. It's all about reading your keys. The faster you can read your keys the faster you're going to play."
"It's about eye control and just doing your job," echoed Harmon.
Patriots first-year defensive tackle Alan Branch got an inside look at Seattle's read option in practice as a member of the Seahawks when Wilson was a rookie back in 2012. He doesn't feel like that necessarily gives him an advantage working up front with Vince Wilfork and the rest of the interior line, rather he fell back on what his new teammates said.
"You have to do out there and do your job," Branch declared. "If you have quarterback responsibility, you gotta get the quarterback. Dive? Get the Dive. And option. It's just about playing sound football when it comes to the dive option."
There is also unanimity in the Gillette Stadium locker room as to how important it's going to be to corral Lynch, Wilson and Seahawks rushing attack in Super Bowl XLIX.
"It's really just going to come down to want-to," Hightower said. "You can do as many tackling drills as you want. You can get as many repetitions as you want. It comes down to want-to. If you don't want to tackle then you don't want to tackle. So it's really just going to be guys, we're going to have to get out there, get everybody to the ball and everybody is going to have to want to tackle. It's going to just come down to us wanting to tackle.
"It's really just going to be us coming down to execution."
Execution that starts with the eyes, runs through the brain and then ends with the ability to actually physically take down Lynch or Wilson. A breakdown in any of those three areas, for any defender on the field, can lead to positive yards and big plays for the Seahawks.
"Defending that is definitely going to be a big part of what we want to do to be successful on game day," Hightower concluded of the read option.
Laughing at Lynch
Not only is Lynch one of the best running backs in the game, he's also a lightning rod for interview controversy. Most fans are well aware that the Seahawks star doesn't care to talk to the media, and when he does he often answers every question with the same response.
"I think everybody has seen that," Hightower said with a big smile before going on to give his view of Lynch's interviews. "I think it's apparent that he doesn't want to talk to the media. It is what it is. A lot of guys don't want to, but you kind of got to."
Though Hightower is a guy always willing to do his duties in front of the media, he doesn't seem to mind Lynch doing his best to avoid talking.
"I think it's funny. I'm pretty sure you all think it's funny too."
Stork leads perfect practice attendance
Rookie center Bryan Stork was once again on the practice field, his third-straight workout after missing the AFC Championship Game to a right knee injury. The New England practice took place inside the Dana-Farber Field House with players in helmets and shells. Stork's right knee was taped and had a brace on it, though the rookie seemed to be jogging well during the media viewing portion of the Saturday workout.
Every New England player was on the indoor field for the workout. Chris Jones, who also missed the title game due to a left elbow injury suffered against the Ravens, was one of the last players to arrive at the field. The defensive tackle is wearing a brace on that left elbow.
Fans can show their support for New England as it prepare for Super Bowl XLIX by signing the "Go Patriots" banner that is currently hanging at Patriot Place just outside Gillette Stadium. The banner is located at the top of the Grand Staircase and to the right on the deck overlooking Gillette and will be on display until it makes its way to Arizona Thursday where it will be hung for the entire team to see. … The Patriots will return to the Foxborough practice fields on Sunday for one last local workout before flying to Arizona on Monday.