Seymour will be key to Raiders' chance vs. Patriots

Posted Sept. 26, 2011 @ 9:04 p.m.
Posted By Eli Kaberon

In 2001, the Patriots made DT Richard Seymour the first first-round pick of the Bill Belichick era. The big lineman out of Georgia contributed immediately to the New England defense, registering three sacks in the '01 regular season and one more in Super Bowl XXXVI, helping the Patriots win the championship in his rookie season. Over the next seven years, Seymour continued to dominate under Belichick, three times being named a first-team All-Pro and helping the team win two more Super Bowls.

In 2009, the duo was split up when Belichick and the Patriots dealt Seymour to Oakland for a first-round pick. On Sunday, with both the Patriots and Raiders at 2-1, the lineman faces off against the Patriots for the first time in his career.

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Seymour might be emotional on Sunday to face off against his former team, but if the Raiders want to pull off a second consecutive upset of an AFC East foe, they'll need their big man to do more than show up with a chip on his shoulder. The lineman's knowledge of the New England playbook could be a huge key in taking down Tom Brady and Co. and legitimizing the Silver and Black as a force to be reckoned with.

Against the Jets on Sunday, the Raiders packed the line of scrimmage to slow down the New York running game and get in the face of QB Mark Sanchez. The pressure, anchored by Seymour, did what it needed to do, especially in the second half, holding the Jets to just 35 rushing yards over the final 30 minutes of the game. The Raiders also sacked Sanchez four times, intercepted him once and constantly had him throwing before a receiver was open downfield en route to a 34-24 victory.

Tom Brady's no Sanchez and the Raiders "D" will need to improve to take down the reigning league MVP. While the Jets ran a lot of play-actions and bootlegs to move the athletic Sanchez around outside of the pocket, Brady likes to stand tall and get rid of the ball quickly to open receivers. Seymour and his fellow Raiders pass rushers won't have much time from the snap to when Brady releases the pigskin to bring him down. Brady has been sacked three times in 136 dropbacks this season.

Seymour practiced against Brady and his offense every day for eight seasons, and though things have changed for the Pats since '09 when he was dealt, the knowledge he accumulated should serve him well. Going up against All-Pro OLG Logan Mankins, the big D-lineman might have his hands full, but his presence alone should create opportunities for the Raiders' other pass rushers. Everybody knows Brady loves throwing over the middle to WR Wes Welker and TE Rob Gronkowski, but Seymour's insight into the Pats' offense could play a role in tipping off the Oakland linebackers when those plays might be coming.

Of course, the Patriots know Seymour, too, his strength and his weaknesses, and might account for that in their game plan. It will be an emotional afternoon on Sunday in Oakland for Seymour and Belichick, 10 years after they first teamed up. Only one will leave the reunion happy, however, and that might depend on how well the lineman knows his former club.

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