Here is the first of a two-part preview for Super Bowl XLVIII. The first part will break down the matchup between the Denver Broncos offense and the Seattle Seahawks defense. I will also breakdown the head coaches and tell you which team has the edge heading into the Big Game. Later today, I will pit the Seattle offense vs. the Denver defense, as well as each squad’s special teams. Tomorrow’s feature will end with which team I feel will come out victorious and what the final score will be—-but– I will also give you a brief synopsis as to how I see each quarter playing out for the teams.
SUPER BOWL XLVIII: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS VS. DENVER BRONCOS
STATS TO KNOW:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (15-3) vs. DENVER BRONCOS (15-3)
Sunday, 6:25 p.m. EST, FOX, East Rutherford, N.J.
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OPENING LINE — Denver by 1
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Seattle 12-5-1; Denver 12-6
SERIES RECORD — Broncos lead 34-19
LAST MEETING — Broncos beat Seahawks 31-14, Sept. 19, 2010
LAST GAME — Seahawks beat 49ers 23-17; Broncos beat Patriots 26-16
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE — OVERALL (17), RUSH (4), PASS (26)
SEAHAWKS DEFENSE — OVERALL (1), RUSH (7T), PASS (1)
BRONCOS OFFENSE — OVERALL (1), RUSH (15), PASS (1)
BRONCOS DEFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (7T), PASS (27)
This is the second Super Bowl between No. 1 seeds in last 20 seasons. The other was Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts following 2009 season. The Saints won that game, 31-17.
The Broncos and Seahawks matchup is the epitome of strength versus strength. Not only do you have the top offense and defense in terms of total yards allowed and gained– but this will be the fifth time since the AFL and NFL merged that the league’s top-scoring offense played the top-scoring defense in the Super Bowl.
The last time this occurred was in Super Bowl XXV when Machine Gun Jim Kelly, RB Thurman Thomas and new Hall of Famer Andre Reed led the high-octane offense of the Buffalo Bills into Tampa to face the Lawrence Taylor led New York Giants (top defense). While you may or may not believe that stats and facts like this matter for this Super Bowl, you may want to consider how the Giants defeated Buffalo.
Behind game MVP and RB Otis Anderson the Giants dominated time of possession, something the Chargers did in Denver to beat the Broncos in Week 14. In SB XXV, Anderson carried only 21 times for 102 yards but 13 carries came in the second half (7 in 4th qtr.) which allowed the Giants to keep the ball for 40-minutes and 33-seconds of the games 60 minutes. Buffalo still managed to gain 371 yards of total offense in the 19 minutes they possessed the ball so limiting Kelly’s chances was as critical. As masterful as the Giants game plan was, the Bills were still inches away from winning.
I would not be at all surprised if Super Bowl XLVIII were similar. It is also important to note that the top defensive team has won three of the previous four matchups. The lone win by the top-scoring team in those games was by the 1989 San Francisco 49ers against the Broncos. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that this will be the second Super Bowl since the merger featuring the No. 1 total offense (yards gained) versus the No. 1 total defense (yards allowed). Denver topped the NFL by gaining 7,317 total yards (457.3 per game) while Seattle allowed 4,378 (273.6 per game), the fewest in the league. The first matchup like this occurred in Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 1 in yards allowed) beat the Oakland Raiders (No. 1 in yards gained).
The Broncos will be the 19th regular-season scoring champion to reach the Super Bowl. The previous 18 teams were 10-8 in the title game. The Seahawks defense is the 16th defense to allow the fewest points in the NFL and reach the Super Bowl. The previous 15 teams went 12-3 in those Super Bowls.
This year, the Broncos averaged 37.9 points per game, 14.5 points more than league average. Seattle, meanwhile, allowed just 14.4 points per game, 9.0 points better than league average.
QB: Peyton Manning:
Manning led a Broncos offense that scored a league record 606 points in 2013. Manning lit the football world on fire, as No.18 threw for more touchdowns (55) and yards (5,477) than any quarterback in NFL history this season. Manning only tossed 10 total interceptions and when he does throw one, it’s usually because a receiver misstepped, ran a wrong route or a defender has made an exceptional read or play. Manning’s presnap recognition skills are simply masterful and he is the best that ever played the game in terms of checking out of bad plays (“Omaha!”). Two seasons removed from major neck surgery — and possibly facing retirement — Manning will look to finish one of the best comeback stories in not just NFL history but sports history.
Cold Weather a Problem for Manning?
The current kickoff forecast for Super Bowl XLVIII calls for temperature of 40 degrees and dropping throughout the game, which could pose a problem for Manning.
Manning has a career record of 8-11 playing outdoors with the temperature below 40 degrees, with 30 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He is 1-2 this season with losses to the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers in night games and a win over the Tennessee Titans in an afternoon contest. Manning is the fourth quarterback to reach the Super Bowl after leading the NFL in both passing yardage and touchdown passes. The other three- Dan Marino, Kurt Warner and Tom Brady- all lost in that Super Bowl appearance. Manning will also try to be the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl for two different teams.
Broncos Pass Catchers:
The Broncos also are the only team in NFL history to have five players each score at least 10 touchdowns in the same season: wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (14), running back Knowshon Moreno (13), tight end Julius Thomas (12) and wide receivers Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10). The offense averaged 457.3 yards per game and 340.3 passing yards per game, both the best in the league.
As slot man extraordinaire, Wes Welker is quick off the line, runs great routes, and catches nearly everything thrown to him. Patriots’ fans will point out that he’s had some Super Bowl struggles and a case of the drops at inopportune times but he’s going to the SB and they are watching. At 6-3 and 225-pounds, WR Demaryius Thomas is big, strong, fast, and physical. He can fight through press coverage and builds straight-line speed quickly. He has excellent body control and can adjust to poorly thrown balls. Eric Decker is also big and a superb athlete. He has deceptive speed, runs great route trees and has good focus and strong hands. He is as tough as they come and will not be intimidated. He takes hits, holds onto the ball, and bounces right back up. Tight end Julius Thomas is a big man with great athletic skills. In his third year from little known Portland State, where he starred at college basketball, Thomas broke the Denver record for TD receptions by a TE with 12. Thomas also has excellent size (6-5, 230), speed, and strength. He will simply fly by most linebackers and overpower most defensive backs. He still plays a and looks a little raw at times, almost like a puppy trying to find his legs– but it is a deceptive quality that lures DB’s and LB’s to sleep.
Knowshon Moreno was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2009. The 5-foot-1, 220-pound back was seemingly headed for the scrap heap until Peyton Manning showed up and rejuvenated his career. Moreno has good power and straight-ahead speed and is a slashing-type runner. He has good strength and will break his share of tackles and push the pile when need be. He can break the long one but he isn’t durable or as tough as many would like. H did prove that when called upon this season that he can carry his offense for a bit. Rookie Montee Ball (5-10, 215) is the perfect complement to Moreno. He is a compact runner with a powerful lower body. Ball has good vision and will hit holes with authority and if he gets loose, his quick feet and good balance could be a problem. He’s had trouble hanging onto the Ball so do not expect to see him in clutch situations.
In the NFL this season, quarterbacks were sacked or put under duress (Duress is defined as when the quarterback is forced to scramble, move or alter a throw due to defensive pressure) on 26 percent of their dropbacks. Manning was pressured on a league-low 14 percent of his dropbacks this season. Manning has yet to be sacked this postseason and he’s been under duress on only five of his 79 dropbacks (6 percent).
Manning had the best completion percentage under duress this season, but the pressure still affects his play, making his protection so important. A lot of the credit goes to the Broncos’ offensive line. The five-man unit of Chris Clark, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin have been on field together for 80 percent of the Broncos’ snaps this season (1,031 total), including every postseason snap.
Ramirez is athletic, quick, and smart. All-Pro right guard Louis Vazquez (6-5, 335) is strong and athletic and has not given up a sack this season. He’s allowed two hits and 13 hurries and has given up pressure on just 1.8% of his pass blocks. Left guard Zane Beadles (6-4, 305) is solid and steady and he works hard to open lanes.
The Seahawks were the first team to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways since the 1985 Chicago Bears. In the red zone, the Seahawks were the league’s second-best defense, allowing touchdowns 39 percent of the time; only Detroit was better. The team allowed third-down conversions 37.3 percent of the time, 10th best league wide.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has put together a 4-3 unit that rivals the Cincinnati Bengals’ for its depth and versatility
The starting ends are kick-blocking ace Red Bryant and 10-year man Chris Clemons. The team’s starting defensive tackles, eight-year veteran Tony McDaniel and 2007 third-round pick Brandon Mebane, weigh a respective 305 and 311 pounds. Former Cincinnati Bengals backup Clinton McDonald is one of the backups in the middle, and he has contributed 5.5 quarterback sacks, the most among Seattle’s defensive tackles. . The team’s two sack leaders, ends Michael Bennett (8.5) and Cliff Avril (eight), are listed as backups on the depth chart. Avril is a former Detroit Lions standout enjoying rare postseason exposure during his sixth NFL season and has two or more pressures in every game this season and four or more pressures in five of his last 10. Avril spends 77.8% of his pass rushes as a left edge defender.
The Seahawks defense has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 32 percent of dropbacks this season, best in the NFL. The Seahawks have been able to get pressure even when relying heavily on a four-man pass rush. During the regular season the Seahawks sent four or fewer pass rushers 73 percent of the time, eighth highest in the NFL. This postseason, the Seahawks have done so on all but three dropbacks (96 percent).
One of the keys as to why the Seahawks’ defense has been so successful is because of the depth and rotation of their defensive line. Seven defensive lineman have played at least 500 snaps for the Seahawks this season, and none have played more than 58 percent of the team’s snaps.
Seahawks Defensive Line Rotation
This Season (Inc. Playoffs)
Espn stats & info
During the 2012 draft, West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin was seen as a big reach for the Seahawks. But he converted from defensive end and was seventh on the team this year with 31 solo tackles, contributing two sacks as well. Seattle took Utah State’s Bobby Wagner during the second round of that same draft; he had a team-high 120 total tackles (72 solo) and contributed five sacks. Wagner (6-0, 241) is a three-down player who combines toughness and athleticism to track ball carriers from sideline to sideline. Bruce Irvin (6-3, 248) and Malcolm Smith (6-0, 226) also swarm to the ball. Smith was selected in the seventh round and played for Carroll’s at USC. His 34 solo stops were sixth on the team.
Many consider the Seattle secondary, or L.O.B. (Legion of Boom) to be the straw that stirs the Seahawks drink. Aside from their great athletic and playmaking ability, what makes the secondary so effective is the size they possess. The hard-hitting, blanket-covering secondary sports three starters at 6-foot-1 or taller — cornerbacks Byron Maxwell (6-foot-1) and Richard Sherman (6-foot-3), as well as safety Kam Chancellor (6-foot-3). Safety Earl Thomas, who is the shortest at 5-foot-10, has a team leading 78 solo tackles; he also snared five interceptions. Sherman’s eight pickoffs led the league, and Maxwell and Chancellor combined for seven. Thomas, Wagner, Chancellor and Sherman were a respective first, second, third and fifth on the team in tackles, which is usually not optimum for any team to have its defensive backs ranked so highly.
If the secondary as a whole is the straw, then CB Richard Sherman is the man doing the stirring—or perhaps even the drink itself. He can play any way you need him to. He’s comfortable playing jam coverage or giving a cushion. He’s the best in the league right now and if you don’t believe me, just ask him. Sherman has lined up on the offense’s right side on 98 percent of his snaps this season and confirmed at media day he will face whoever lines up on his side.
None of the Broncos’ top three wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker) lined up on the right for more than 52 percent of their snaps, and Manning might be wise to limit his attempts to them when they do line up on that side of the field. The Seahawks allowed only 53.6 percent of passes thrown to the right side of the field to be completed this season, second best in the NFL. Their completion percentage allowed over the middle ranks 25th while the left ranks 12th. In the 2013, postseason, opposing quarterbacks have targeted Sherman only twice, allowing no receptions. When targeting Sherman in two matchups during 2013, Drew Brees had identical passer ratings of 39.6 in each game. Tom Brady’s passer rating against Sherman is even worse – when New England visited Seattle in 2012, Brady’s passer rating when targeting Sherman was 6.5. In three games, neither QB threw a TD when targeting Sherman
Matchups to Watch:
Manning vs. Secondary:
The Seahawks will attempt to intimidate and push around the big Denver receivers. Seattle’s defense showed press coverage on 41 percent of the pass routes run by players split out wide this season, third highest in the NFL. Press coverage is defined as a defensive back lining up within about 1.5 yards of the line of scrimmage directly across a receiver—bumping or hitting him immediately off the line of scrimmage is also a big part of solid press man coverage. When opponents targeted a receiver that started the play facing press coverage, the Seahawks allowed a 47 percent completion percentage and a minus-10 TD-Int differential. When not facing press coverage, receivers caught 65 percent of their targets with a plus-1 TD-Int differential.
Manning has targeted his top three wide receivers almost equally this season when facing press coverage (204 attempts) and not facing press coverage (225 attempts), but only Wes Welker seems to have the ability to shake it off consistently. Manning had a combined 55 percent completion percentage when throwing to D. Thomas and Eric Decker in press coverage and that number rose to 74.5 percent when the two did not press coverage. Welker was 66 percent when facing the press and 69 when he didn’t.
With this in mind, Manning could look to Julius Thomas more if the press proves to be a problem. He completed 74 percent of his passes to the tight end this season—But the Seahawks have also been able to limit top tight ends. Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis combined for six games against the Seahawks this season. They finished with 14 receptions on 30 targets and 136 yards in those games.
Seahawks right cornerback Byron Maxwell lines up in press coverage on 56 percent of plays, which is ninth most among cornerbacks with at least 500 snaps. Seahawks left cornerback Richard Sherman lines up there 47.5 percent of plays, which is 16th-most among cornerbacks. Seahawks slot cornerback Walter Thurmond lines up in press coverage on 36.4 percent of plays, which is sixth most for all cornerbacks when lining up in the slot with at least 200 slot snaps.
Denver will need to maximize every completed pass for every available yard. Meaning they can ill afford to step out of bounds, fall down or worse, drop passes. – Perhaps because of their pass-dominated offense (695 passes out of 1,156 total regular-season plays), the Broncos dropped 35 passes in 2013, eighth most in the league. Welker’s 10 drops were second in the league only to Chicago’s Brandon Marshall (12). Wideout Demaryius Thomas had eight drops, while Decker dropped seven. When they do hang onto the ball, Denver will need as many yards after the catch as possible, something they do very well. The Broncos finished the regular season with the most yards after catch and boast the individual league leader from each of the past three seasons (Demaryius Thomas in 2013, Wes Welker in 2011 and 2012).
The Broncos averaged fewer than 5.0 yards after the catch in all three of their losses this season (eight times total). With that said, Seattle is the soundest tackling team in the league, as they allowed the fewest yards after the catch this season, limiting opponents to 4.1 on average—There it is again—strength on strength! If the Broncos can win this game not throwing to Richard Sherman’s side, then you had better believe they would. Manning tossed a pick-6 in his last Super Bowl to the Saints Tracey Porter, which sealed the Colts fate. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, there is a chance that Manning doesn’t target Richard Sherman at all in the Super Bowl. His last playoff game against an elite cornerback was the 2010 game against the Jets with Darrelle Revis. In that game he threw 17 passes in the middle of the field, nine to the right, and zero to the left.
I will give the edge to Manning here. It may be asking a lot for Seattle to shut Manning down for four quarters. No.18 is a master at pre snap reads and finding the slightest seams, creases and breakdowns in any secondary. Not to mention, the key to this matchup may not lie with the Seattle secondary at all—-what, you say!—-The Seahawks are not fancy, they line up and play hard nose physical one-on-one football, which make may make Manning’s pre snap responsibilities on Sunday not as difficult.
One thing is for sure, if Manning makes a mistake or cannot find the little seams, creases and breakdowns, the Seahawks secondary will make him pay. If Manning has been watching as much tape as I think he has been, he knows it. That could put a little extra pressure on Manning to try to be too perfect but if any QB in league history is capable of handling that, it’s Manning and it’s why he gets the edge.
Denver Offensive Line vs. Seattle Pass Rush:
As good as the Seahawks’ secondary has been the pass rush is just as crucial for the NFL’s top defense. How or even if they are able to disrupt Manning will be another key matchup to watch Sunday. The Patriots hardly placed a finger on Manning in the AFC Championship game. Manning has yet to be sacked in the playoffs and has never been pressured either. This postseason he has been under duress on only five of his 79 dropbacks (6 percent). Even when Manning is pressured, he is still lethal. Manning had the best completion percentage under duress this season.
As stated earlier, the Broncos offensive line has been on field together for 80 percent of the Broncos’ snaps this season (1,031 total), including every postseason snap. Guard Louis Vasquez has not allowed a sack this season but as good as the line has been– Manning deserves some credit too—of course. On average, Manning has held onto the ball for 2.34 seconds from snap to pass this season. Only Andy Dalton and Chad Henne (each at 2.29 seconds) had quicker release times.
The Seahawks have been able to get pressure even when relying heavily on a four-man pass rush. During the regular season, the Seahawks sent four or fewer, pass rushers 73 percent of the time, eighth highest in the NFL. This postseason, the Seahawks have done so on all but three dropbacks (96 percent). Seattle generated pressure on at least 21 percent of dropbacks in every game this season, something that Manning has had happen only four times this season and he went 2-2 in those games.
The key is forcing Manning to move in the pocket, delaying his release time. Although Manning has a quick release, Seahawks’ opponents have held the ball for 2.77 seconds from snap to pass this season, fourth longest in the NFL. However, if the Broncos are able to sustain long drives, and Manning’s no-huddle prevents proper substitution, it could tire the Seahawks’ pass rushers.
The Broncos have managed to get to the Super Bowl despite losing two key members of their offensive line very early on. Center Dan Koppen was lost in training camp and they lost Peyton Manning’s blind side protector, left tackle Ryan Clady for the year in mid-September. But the Broncos forged on and Manning was sacked less than any QB in the league this year. With that said, this may be where it catches up with them. The youth, speed and depth the Seahawks have may prove to be too much, even in with a hurry up offense. The Seahawks secondary will force extra looks from Manning, which means holding the ball a split second longer. They will force him off his “spot” and if you can get Manning moving, sacking him three or four times may not even be necessary.
Since 2006, Super Bowl offenses that faced a loaded box on more than 20 percent of snaps are 5-1. The reason? Overall, the stats from the past seven Super Bowls indicate that crowding the line of scrimmage with more defenders than the offense has blockers nearly triples the likelihood that the offense will score a touchdown on that play. Seattle will not be guilty of this.
Seattle’s defensive front must be able to do Manning what the NY Giants NASCAR package did to Tom Brady– not once but twice in the Super Bowl—apply constant pressure while the secondary forces Manning to his check down receivers.
Given the fact that Seattle does not use blitzing a lot and still tied for eighth in the league with 44 sacks is saying something. In fact, since 2006, defenses have employed a standard pass rush on nearly 75 percent of QB dropbacks in the Super Bowl. The reason? Bringing four or fewer pass rushers nets a sack on 6.1 percent of dropbacks — nearly double the 3.2 percent sack rate when D’s blitz. With a basic 4-3 front, Manning may not have a lot to look at before the snap but that will change faster than you can say “Omaha” once the center hands him the ball.
Denver Rushing vs. Seattle Rush defense:
It will be a Super Bowl homecoming for fifth-year running back and 2009 first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, a New Jersey native. Moreno has carried the ball 37 times for 141 yards during the postseason, following a regular season when he gained 1,038 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Rookie Montee Ball was second on the team with 559 rushing yards and four scores. The Broncos do not usually use a blocking fullback, but have C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in reserve as ball carriers.
How effective the Broncos running attack is could critically important against a defense like Seattle’s. However, establishing the run at any point has not proven to be the key to beating the Seahawks. In fact, in the eight worst performances by the run defense this season, Seattle is still 7-1. Over the last nine games, Seattle has only allowed one rusher (Frank Gore) to gain even 70 yards. Manning checks to run plays more than any QB in the game and does so with much success. Expect Manning to check to running plays more often than usual, but Denver will not win the game with Knowshon Moreno or Montee Ball. Seattle’s run defense is too good to allow that.
The Broncos’ strength when running the ball is to the right side where they average 4.48 yards per carry, which is eighth best in the league. When running to the left they only average 4.14 yards per carry, which is slightly below league average. Here comes that phrase again, strength-on-strength—- The Seahawks’ strength when stopping the run is against runs to the offense’s right side. When offenses run to the right against Seattle, they allow just 3.48 yards per carry, which is the fourth-lowest mark in the league. When offenses run to the left against Seattle, they are close to league average at 4.12 yards per carry allowed.
Seattle Secondary vs. Yellow Flags:
The Seahawks were the NFL’s most penalized team in 2013, getting flagged for 128 accepted infractions, a regular-season average of nearly eight per game, and a league-high 1,183 yards. Defensive end Michael Bennett and quarterback Russell Wilson are the team’s co-leaders with 10 penalties each but CB Richard Sherman was flagged five times for pass interference; the Seahawks’ 13 interference calls co-led the league with Philadelphia.
Former Atlantic Coast Conference referee Terry McAulay, an NFL official since 1998 and a referee since 2001, will referee the Super Bowl for the third time (XXIX, Eagles-Patriots; XLIII, Steelers-Cardinals). The rest of the all-star crew is composed of Carl Paganelli (umpire), Jim Mello (head linesman), Tom Symonette (line judge), Scott Steenson (field judge), Dave Wyant (side judge) and Steve Freeman (back judge). Earnie Frantz will be the replay official. In 10 playoff games, only seven defensive pass interferences have been called. This should benefit the Seahawks, who play as aggressive man coverage as there is in football. But Seattle’s aggressive and somewhat “handsy” approach to pass defense has drawn complaints from opposing teams all season. McAulay’s crew lets players play and does not litter the field with flags. He officiated the Seahawks-New Orleans Saints divisional-round game in Seattle. In that game, his crew called 15 penalties, 14 of which were accepted
Denver’s not completely exempt from the wrath of the officials. Denver was the fourth-most penalized squad in the league with117 penalties for 1,000 yards, tied with Cincinnati for the fifth-most yards. It is thought to be the first time in Super Bowl history two top-five penalized teams are meeting for the title. Right tackle Orlando Franklin led the team with 10 penalties (two false starts, six holds). WR Eric Decker has three offensive PI penalties this season and in the AFC title game against the Patriots, Broncos receiver Wes Welker collided with New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on a pick play. Talib was knocked out of the game. Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach, later called the incident “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.”
They get the edge because they were the most penalized team during the regular season and eight of the past 12 Super Bowl winners were flagged for more penalty yards than their opponents. This is a clear departure from the regular season, in which teams that are flagged more have just a .452 winning percentage since 2001. So memo to all Broncos and Seahawks: Bump, interfere and hold all you want. If history holds, you will be leaving New Jersey with a nice trophy.
From a very serious standpoint, Seattle cannot afford to be overly physical and allow the Broncos any 40 to 50 PI penalties, setting up first and goal to go.
Broncos’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase came up with a great game plan to beat the Patriots and their physical group of cornerbacks who play man. Gase mixed in a lot of crossing patterns and stacked formations to counter that. The Seahawks are not the Patriots and have an entire secondary filled with healthy, speedy, hard-hitting players. I honestly do not think the Broncos will be able to tire out the Seahawks or get over the top on them–and even worse–they may not be able to adjust to their speed quick enough. They certainly will not run on them and they will not beat them with 10-15 yard crossing routes to Wes Walker all day. This is going to be a great matchup and one we may remember for many years to come. As great as the Broncos record setting offense is, history, especially Super Bowl history says No.1 defenses come out on top in these battles.
Seattle posted its best regular-season record in team history (13-3) thanks in part to a plus-20 turnover ratio, bolstered by a league-high 28 interceptions by 10 different players; the postseason ratio is plus-3. For my money, I’ll lean on the young, fastand hard hitting defense over the master just ever so slightly in this contest.
Slight Edge to Seattle:
Pete Carroll vs. John Fox
Broncos head coach is John Fox, one of the more under the radar and underappreciated sideline walkers in the game. Fox will turn 59 six days after the Super Bowl and is 37-16 during three years in Denver. He is 115-90 overall, taking into account his years with the Carolina Panthers. Fox took the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII 10 years ago, when they fell to New England, 32-29. While many can say Fox road the coattails of Manning this year, he was also the HC when Tim Tebow led Denver to a playoff win, something Manning did not do until three weeks ago and in Carolina, Jake Dellhome was not exactly Joe Montana.
Fox had heart-valve surgery midway through the season after collapsing on a golf course in Charlotte NC during the Broncos bye week back in the beginning of November.
Head coach Pete Carroll leads the Seahawks. He is the eighth head coach in the team’s history and in four seasons with Seattle, including the playoffs, is 42-28. Carroll, 62, was formerly the New England Patriots’ head coach from 1997-99, beating the Baltimore Ravens during his final game there before heading to the University of Southern California and compiling a 97-19 record with two national championships.
Carroll is the fourth coach to lead an NCAA champion and make a Super Bowl appearance, following Barry Switzer (Oklahoma, Dallas Cowboys), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech, San Diego Chargers) and Jimmy Johnson (Miami, Dallas Cowboys).
Part two with game prediction to follow later.