Set to square off against Seattle's top-ranked defense, Patriots wideout Julian Edelman knows New England's scrappy cast of receivers are in for their stiffest test of the year in Super Bowl XLIX.
Just the third team in NFL history to lead the league in scoring defense for three straight seasons, the smothering Seahawks have allowed only 9.8 points per game over their last eight outings.
It starts with a nasty Richard Sherman-led secondary that gave up just 39 plays of 20-plus yards in the regular season, best in the league. The Patriots counter with their own talented crop of defensive backs -- arguably the AFC's best -- but Edelman sees a distinction between the two units.
"They're a little different because they're all big," Edelman said Sunday. "They're all big, strong, ferocious players. They play in their scheme. They're well coached. They play hard. We certainly have some guys that are big, but this a completely different group and like you said, I've never played against them. (We've) got to take these next few days (to) prepare (and) get ready for them and try to bring out the A game."
New England's top X-factor, of course, isn't a receiver but tight end Rob Gronkowski, who boasts the requisite power and rare playmaking ability to give Seattle's defense trouble.
A fully operational Gronk has the chance for big numbers, but I still can't help but wonder if this bout boils down to the ground game. With the way the Seahawks are pounding the ball behind Marshawn Lynch, Seattle's matchup against New England's front seven might be the key to next Sunday's showdown.
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