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SB XLIX: Belichick impressed with Seahawks' model

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Seattle's No. 1-ranked defense is one of the things keeping New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick awake at night this week.

Belichick has studied the team from 2012, when the teams last played, and measured their progress in quality and depth. He marveled Wednesday at the construction of the Seahawks' championship model.

"The way they create competition, find players and develop players," Belichick said. "I've definitely taken things from it, tried to apply it to our team. They are very consistent. They know what they want. You can see how it comes together. It's really impressive."

New England is familiar with the Seahawks' power structure.

General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll share the ultimate power in terms of personnel, a flow chart the Patriots once used when Belichick andScott Pioli were running the front office. These days, Belichick has more power than personnel boss Nick Caserio.

The Seahawks have shown a narrowed focus in building a defense around players either passed over in the draft or cast aside by their first employer, such as defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.

Carroll said Tuesday he is fond of the saying "defense wins championships," and Belichick could not disagree.

"It's pretty high up on the list," Belichick said Wednesday at his 8 a.m. press conference at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass resort. "Seattle's defense is outstanding. The last three years, they've pretty much led the league in everything. They do it week after week, quarter after quarter, down after down. They're good all the time."

Preparations for the Seahawks shift gears Wednesday. The Patriots are on the practice field at 2 p.m. local time for the first time since their arrival Monday. The Patriots are practicing at the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe.

"We went over and walked the facility yesterday," Belichick said. "Their facilities are good. We'll utilize whatever we think works best. They have a nice indoor facility, two nice fields. We have a couple options."

Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork won the Super Bowl as a rookie but lost in 2007.

"I'm coming from college where we won a lot of games," Wilfork said. "My first year in the NFL, I was like, 'this is easy. I can do this all the time.' Here I am 11 years later more excited than I was before."

Defense is Belichick's forte, much as it is Carroll's background. Wilfork said the ability of most of the Patriots' players to play multiple positions makes the varied defense work.

"That is a big thing for us," Wilfork said.

One example of the cross-training philosophy of the Patriots is Seahawks castoff cornerback Brandon Browner. Primarily an outside bump cornerback in the Seahawks' Cover-3 scheme, Browner has covered tight ends and played in the slot this season. Outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich said he has played at least five different spots.

There are multiple advantages for the Patriots. Belichick said keeping his core 11 players on the field but being able to change formation to best match what the Seahawks will do puts him at ease if quarterback Russell Wilson speeds up the tempo.

"When you gain that experience it helps you as a player to better understand what everyone is doing around you," defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said of using players at multiple positions. "We've got a lot of guys that play multiple roles for us or different positions. We ask them to do whatever it is that can help us win each week and our guys are great about it."

Belichick said the generalized core of his philosophy is to let the players play, and his job is primarily to put them in position to be competitive.

"It's about players making the plays for the team to win," Belichick said. "I just try not to screw it up."

NOTES: RB LeGarrette Blount kept in contact with the Patriots through free agency and reached out to him immediately after he cleared waivers late in the season. "When he was available, we were excited to get him back," coach Bill Belichick said. ... Belichick and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll are both of Croatian descent, making Super Bowl XLIX the first matchups of Croatian head coaches. "I didn't realize we were breaking ground here. Very proud of my dad's family tradition and history. I'm proud of that heritage," he said.