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Originally published October 13, 2012 at 8:03 PM | Page modified October 14, 2012 at 12:53 PM

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Patriots provide a challenge — and measuring stick — for Seahawks' young, talented defense

The high-scoring New England Patriots will be a tough challenge for the Seahawks, the only team in the NFL who have not allowed more than 20 points in a game this season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

New England @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 7

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The Patriots have scored 76 points in the past six quarters.

The Seahawks have given up only 70 all season.

New England is the only team in the league that has scored 30 or more points in four games, while Seattle is the only team that has yet to allow more than 20 in any game.

If you're intrigued to see how Seattle's shield holds up against New England's sword on Sunday at CenturyLink Field, well, you're not alone.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how this works out," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

So are a lot of others around the NFL as this young Seattle defense, which aspires to heavyweight status, faces an offense that will serve as much a measuring stick as an opponent.

Does that storyline sound familiar? It should.

That was the buildup to the Seahawks' Week 2 game against Dallas, and it was also the way Seattle's Monday night game against Green Bay was framed. And now that the Patriots are in town with the league's top-scoring offense, Seattle has a chance to show, again, that this defense isn't merely good, but dominant.

"It's an exciting challenge and opportunity for a young team to figure out where we are," Carroll said. "This won't tell us where we are forever, but it will tell us where we are this week."

The Patriots are one of the league's most punishing offenses in large part because of their relentless pace. Quarterback Tom Brady is capable of pushing the tempo so that there's only 12, maybe 15 seconds between plays. That accomplishes two things: keeping opponents from substituting as much as they like, and pushing defenses into mistakes.

"Their tempo is trying to dictate if we're going to become frustrated," said Gus Bradley, Seattle's defensive coordinator. It's not all that different from a boxer who throws jab after jab, all the while looking for the opening to land an uppercut.

"When you watch tape, a lot of their explosive plays come from guys not having a clue on what they're doing out there," safety Earl Thomas said. "Like busted assignments. We just try to eliminate that and make sure that we're still playing fast even though they're going up-tempo on us."

Seattle's defense isn't alone in facing a challenge to establish the pace. The Seahawks' offense has a role to play in dictating tempo, too. Seattle can't afford to run three plays and punt when it gets the ball; it has to show an ability to control the ball, consume the clock and reduce the number of chances Brady and the Patriots have.

"Any time you go against a no-huddle, you want to make sure that they're not grinding your defense down," tight end Zach Miller said. "We've got to have long sustained drives, and keep Tom Brady off the field. That's going to be a big part of this game."

Not as big as the defense's ability to stop Brady when he does get on the field, though. That's when the strength of this Seattle team will be tested by the league's most potent offense.

"They're a fantastic group with great history and they have proven it over a long period of time," Carroll said. "We're kind of just getting going, and we'll see how it matches up."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

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