[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="492561"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]The bye week is over and the Patriots have turned their attention to Seattle as the Seahawks are set to hit town Sunday night for a prime-time affair in Foxborough. Bill Belichick certainly knows how tough Pete Carroll's team can be and that was one of the topics of his Monday morning conference call.
The Patriots coach was asked about the Seahawks mental toughness and he agreed it was a trademark of the team during Carroll's tenure.
"I do think that the Seahawks are a very mentally tough team; mentally and physically tough," Belichick said. "They compete very hard on a down-after-down basis. They never let up. There's never any slack in the line. I think that starts with Pete. I know Pete demands that and always has and certainly got that when he was at USC and with Seattle.
"We played them in 2012, 2014 and this will be three times in the last four years, calendar years, whatever it is. And I'd say that's one of the characteristics about his teams and about the Seahawks is how hard they compete. I think they have a lot of experienced guys that we've seen in a lot of close games and how good they are at playing their best in critical situations. Defensively [Earl] Thomas, [Richard] Sherman, [Kam] Chancellor, [Michael] Bennett, [Bobby] Wagner, K.J. Wright; a lot of experienced guys there that have been in a lot of snaps.
"Yeah, physically they're tough. They're a hard hitting team, they turn the ball over, they take it away and mentally I think they're tough to play in any situation no matter what the score or situation is on the game – playing on the road, playing at home, playing in weather conditions."
Belichick touched on some specific elements of the Seahawks defense and some from his own team as well.
Strength in the middle - Belichick was asked about Wagner, the Seahawks star linebacker who has been the lifeblood and a very talented defense for years. Not surprisingly, the coach was effusive in his praise of not just Wagner but also of his partner Wright.
"He's a great football player, always around the ball, very instinctive, runs well so he gets to a lot of plays. He turns the ball over with strips and tackles, and again, just tipped balls, being around the ball. He and K.J. Wright – Wright is a little bit longer – but they're a good complement, a good duo there that is consistently productive and durable.
"They're on the field almost every play. They're there every week. Wagner does a great job in both phases of the game; run and pass. They're both good blitzers and, again, I think you just see the competitiveness of those individual players as well as the whole team. No matter what the situation is they always play hard."
Super relevant - As Belichick mentioned, the Patriots and Seahawks met in the Super Bowl in 2014 and the coach believes there's plenty that remains relevant from that game. When asked if he would be looking back to help in the preparation process, Belichick admitted that would be the case.
"We'll definitely take a look at it. Again, there's a lot of carryover, especially on their defense, from many of the players that we played against but there is also carryover on offense. Certainly from some of the key players – the quarterback and the receivers – and the kicking game with the specialists so there's a decent amount of carryover.
"I would say that their scheme, what they do hasn't changed dramatically. Ours probably hasn't changed dramatically either. I think there's definitely some relevance to that game. I'm sure they'll look at it. We've certainly seen it. I think it's relevant. Now again, there has been a lot of football played since then so I don't think it's – again, just one piece in the puzzle. I don't think it's the whole puzzle."
Things lining up - Closer to home, Belichick was asked about the play of his offensive line, which has featured a more steady lineup this season in comparison to the recent past, and whether or not the cohesion has allowed the Patriots to be more successful in the deep passing game.
"Ideally that's always the way that you want to go, is to have that kind of consistency especially I'd say at the offensive line position where those five guys do work so closely together in terms of seeing the defense and having the consistency to carry out their assignments with each other. But again, that's not always possible but it's nice to have it when you have it so we'll take it.
"Certainly the protection to be able to throw the ball downfield including some of the deeper intermediate routes – comebacks, and in-cuts and seam passes and things like that, that's very important and, again, like everything on our team there's always room for improvement. There are things that we could do better but we've had some success and some production so hopefully we can build on that."