At 5:25 p.m. on Sunday, two NFL teams will take the field at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. like they would any other week. But, unlike the previous games, the teams have a league championship on the line that will shape the legacy of one of these organizations forever.
And for a franchise like the Seattle Seahawks, a Super Bowl could not be more important. We’re talking about a club that has only been in a game like this once before (Super Bowl XL) — a contest they were defeated in by a passing touchdown from a wide receiver.
But this year’s Seahawks squad features a new level of confidence. Cocky? Perhaps. But a team with a 15-3 record including the playoffs, sporting the league’s best defense and running game, has every reason to feel good about their chances in Sunday’s big game.
In fact, come final whistle, the Seahawks will be flying high in confetti as this year’s Super Bowl champions.
Yes, time could be spent looking at Sunday’s weather forecast and how Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is 0-4 in playoff games in 40 below zero weather, or the fact that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has reached the end zone in 11 games this year. But, as the old saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and the Seahawks certainly have the best.
The numbers really do speak for themselves. The Seahawks are holding opposing quarterbacks to just 172.0 passing yards per game and running backs to a mere 101.6 yards per game. However, the more impressive statistic is what they’ve done this postseason against two of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks.
On Jan. 11, the Seahawks held New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees to just 34 yards passing in the first half. Brees ended the game with 309 yards passing, but most of it came in bunches in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. Against San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks allowed just 153 yards through the air.
This defense is best at harassing wide receivers and taking them out of the game with their “bump-and-run” style of play, which heavily disguises what formation they’re in. With defensive formations having been somewhat of a sore spot for Manning in previous playoff years, expect the Seahawks to turn up the chaos to throw off the veteran.
On the offensive end, expect the majority of the load – especially early on – to be on the legs of the aforementioned Lynch. His ability to gain yards will dictate how the Seahawks’ successful second-year quarterback Russell Wilson will be at throwing the ball on play-action attempts.
And if there’s anyway to make sure Manning is unproductive, it’s to keep him off the field with long, sustained drives. It’s something Seattle has done well so far this year, and will look to continue on Sunday en route to their first title.