Call it the Irresistible Force vs the Immovable Object as Peyton
Manning and the National Football League's top-ranked Denver offense
go toe-to-toe against Richard Sherman and the number one rated
Seattle defense in an East Rutherford, New Jersey, winter setting at
Manning, in the argument as professional football's greatest
quarterback, set NFL records for most passing yards and most
touchdown passes in a season for the 13-3 Broncos, who averaged 38
points a game.
Sherman, the trash-talking cornerback who led the NFL in
interceptions, is the face of a supremely effective Seattle defense
that limited opposition offenses to a mere 14 points a game in the
Seahawks' 13-3 campaign.
The points margin is the widest in 48 Super Bowls and fuels
speculation on whether either team can impose their will.
Profiles of those impressive opposing units set up a fascinating
study of strength against strength in a game where Denver is rated a
Gunning to become the first starting quarterback to win Super Bowl
titles with two different teams, following an NFL title with the
Indianapolis Colts, Manning has a brilliant quartet of receivers to
The cerebral quarterback, renowned for figuring out the best options
against a defense in the moments prior to the snap, has been an
equal opportunity thrower.
Targets Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and tight end
Julius Thomas have each caught at least 60 passes and registered at
least 10 touchdowns.
As daunting as those combinations are, they are up against the most
formidable part of Seattle's stifling defense.
Sherman and fellow Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at
safety, along with cornerback Byron Maxwell, often dare quarterbacks
to throw their way with tight man-to-man coverage confident in their
own ball-hawking skills.
A classic drop-back quarterback, Manning uses his quick mind and
quick release to stay a beat ahead of pass-rushers and after Denver
led the regular season in fewest sacks allowed, he has not been
sacked once this postseason.
Seattle uses a deep rotation of defensive linemen, including sack
leaders Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, to apply pressure.
Making Manning uncomfortable is a Seattle goal.
"It's really about his timing," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
"He's so quick with the football and his decision-making is so
precise, that the ball's just not in his hands long enough to get
there, for the most part.
"We can't give into that. We have to rush the passer, we have to try
to get him off the spot, we have to try to move him, and to get that
done, we're going to have to cover them (receivers) very well."
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Weather conditions and officiating could impact the tantalizing
While seasonable temperatures have been forecast for Sunday, the strength of winds that often swirl around the stadium built on
swamplands is a wild card.
Gusting winds could impair Manning, whose arm strength is not of the
highest order, drawing Sherman to comment on the wobbly "ducks" that
the Broncos quarterback sometimes throws.
A closely called game in which officials crack down on overly
physical play, could cost the super aggressive play of Seattle
When Seattle has the ball, second-year quarterback Russell Wilson
manages a ball-control attack but is capable of producing a big play
with his skills as a scrambler and has tied for the most wins ever
by an NFL quarterback in his first two seasons.
The go-to man is bruising running back Marshawn Lynch, who after an
uncomfortable week fidgeting and ducking from the glare of media
attention will finally get to do what comes naturally for him — run
with the ball.
Lynch's power runs set up throws by Russell to a solid crew of
receivers including Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and
big-play threat Percy Harvin.
Harvin, signed to a $67 million contract before the season, has
played in parts of just two games for Seattle due to injuries but is
raring to go, and hopes to pay dividends in the Super Bowl as a
receiver, runner and kick returner.
Both teams are dangerous on special teams, with Seattle holding an
edge, and a long kickoff or punt return could sway the balance in
what many observers expect to be a taut battle.
"The number one scoring offense against the number one scoring
defense. The running game of Seattle versus the passing of the
Broncos," Gil Brandt, the former longtime personnel chief of the
Dallas Cowboys, summarized when asked by Reuters to evaluate the
Brandt said chilled fans might get to see a Super Bowl first on
"This might be the first overtime game we ever play," he concluded.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)
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