The National Football League (NFL) took a gamble when it went
against convention and decided to stage the game at an outdoor
stadium in nearby New Jersey during the winter.
Naysayers warned that the biggest sports event in the United States
would be ruined by a snowstorm. But with weather forecasts for the
game getting better by the day, America's biggest city is warming to
the prospect of a classic encounter between the Denver Broncos and
the Seattle Seahawks.
As Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback whose deadpan delivery
can be as sharp as his passes, dryly noted: "The Super Bowl is a big
No player has been under more scrutiny in the build-up to Sunday's
title game than Manning. Despite being one of the greatest
quarterbacks of all time with one Super Bowl ring already on his
hand from his time with the Indianapolis Colts, he is still under
enormous pressure to win.
With a win, he would become the first starting quarterback to win
Super Bowls with two different franchises. But a loss would raise
more questions about his unflattering postseason record, with one
title from 13 trips to the playoffs.
John Elway, the starting quarterback when the Broncos won their two
previous Super Bowls, in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, thinks it is a
"I don't think this game, one way or the other, affects his legacy,"
argued Elway. "He's going to be one of the all-time greats no matter
BEATING THE ODDS
Manning has already beaten the odds just by getting back to the
Super Bowl after missing the entire 2011 season to undergo neck
At 37, and in just his second season with the Broncos after he was
released by the Colts, he is playing the best football of his
career, setting a string of passing records, including the most
touchdowns in a single season.
In the AFC Championship, he threw for 400 yards, leading his team to
a win over the New England Patriots and his old rival Tom Brady.
Manning's combination with Denver's wide receivers, Demaryius
Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, has helped make the Broncos the
best offensive team in the NFL and compulsive viewing for fans of
high-risk, high-energy football.
Part of the intrigue of Sunday's game is that the Seahawks boast the
best defense in the league, offering a delicious contrast in styles.
Led by their trash-talking cornerback Richard Sherman, Seattle have
labeled their almost impenetrable secondary defense the "Legion of
"L-O-B, it's a group, it's a legion," shrieked Sherman.
"It's a vast army of individuals and we have countless bodies behind
us that are more than capable of doing the job."
Sherman has been cast in the role of the villain after he publicly
taunted his opponents after Seattle's win over the San Francisco
49ers in the NFC Championship.
An articulate Stanford graduate, Sherman has also become a source of
inspiration, emerging from his upbringing in a violent Los Angeles
neighborhood to get within reach of grasping the Vince Lombardi
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THE AMERICAN DREAM
For others, Sunday's Super Bowl is their chance to live the great
American dream. Denver's portly defensive tackle Terrance Knighton,
affectionately known as 'pot roast', joked that it was his ticket
into corporate America.
"Maybe I'll get a Chunky Soup commercial or something like that," he
said. "If I get a sack this game, I've got a little special sack
dance and hopefully that gives some people some ideas."
The Seahawks are making just their second appearance in the Super
Bowl and bidding for their first win with a youthful team brimming
with bright-eyed optimism.
Despite their focus on defense, their hopes could well depend on the
performance of their young quarterback Russell Wilson, who is in
just his second season in the NFL.
Twelve years younger than Manning, Wilson has been a model of
composure and consistency since breaking into the NFL and Seattle
head coach Pete Carroll said he has no doubts he will handle the
"He's the epitome of what you want in your competitor," Carroll
"He's got tremendous work habits. He's got extraordinary
athleticism. He's got a general all-around savvy that allows him to
make great decisions under pressure.
"He's extremely confident too, so no matter what is going on, he's
not going to waver in his focus and ability to handle things. He's
just been a blast to coach and been a great team member."
Las Vegas bookmakers have installed Denver as slight favorites,
although the odds makers do not have a great record of picking the
winner, with the underdogs capturing five of the last six Super
The only sure winner is the New York/New Jersey region. Officials
estimate the Super Bowl will inject between $550 million to $600
million into the area at a time when tourism is normally down
because of the chilly weather.
While the game will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford,
New Jersey, the 80,000 capacity home ground for both the New York
Giants and the New York Jets, Manhattan has been the Super Bowl's
spiritual and commercial hub during the build up.
More than a dozen blocks around Times Square have been closed to
traffic, transforming Broadway into a carnival of Super Bowl related
attractions, including a concert stage and a 60-foot-high
(18-meter-high) toboggan run.
Local officials expect a million people will visit the site,
flocking to the city's bars and restaurants and watching the game on
the giant screens while an estimated worldwide audience of more than
160 million people will tune in to watch the extravaganza unfold.
"It's a very hard game to get to," said Denver's head coach John
Fox. "But at the end of the game the object is to win."
(Reporting by Julian Linden; editing by Gene Cherry)
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