Super Bowl XLVIII Preview: Seattle Seahawks Versus Denver Broncos

Per the official NFL release:

Two teams. One game. It all comes down to this.

On Sunday, February 2, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will meet in Super Bowl XLVIII (6:25 PM ET, FOX) at MetLife Stadium in the first outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl.

For only the second time in the past 20 seasons, the game will feature the No. 1 seed in each conference (Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans vs. Indianapolis in the 2009 season).

“It doesn’t happen like this too often when both No. 1 seeds make it,” says Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman. “It’s a testament to the hard work of both teams and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic game.”

Super Bowl XLVIII will pit the NFL’s top offense (Denver) against the league’s best defense (Seattle).

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Sherman. “They’re an unbelievable record-setting offense with a Hall of Fame quarterback (Peyton Manning). That’s as tough as it gets. The No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense.”

The Broncos led the NFL with 606 points scored while the Seahawks allowed a league-low 231 points. Since the 1970 merger, this is only the fifth Super Bowl – and first since 1990 (Super Bowl XXV) – in which the league’s highest-scoring team faced the club that allowed the fewest points.

XIII 1978 Dallas Pittsburgh Pittsburgh
XIX 1984 Miami San Francisco San Francisco
XXIV 1989 San Francisco Denver San Francisco
XXV 1990 Buffalo New York Giants New York Giants
XLVIII 2013 Denver Seattle

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. This is only the second Super Bowl since the 1970 merger matching up the league’s top offense against the NFL’s best defense in terms of total yardage.

XXXVII 2002 Oakland Tampa Bay Tampa Bay

“It’s the Super Bowl, so it’s going to be tough,” says Denver Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas. “Nothing is going to come easy. This is for all the marbles, so I’m pretty sure it will be a tough game all around.”

The Seahawks and Broncos both advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII with home wins on Championship Game weekend. Seattle defeated San Francisco 23-17 and Denver knocked off New England 26-16. The two games averaged 53.7 million viewers, joining 2011 as the most-watched Conference Championship Sunday in more than 30 years.

In the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks erased a 10-point deficit and then held on for a 23-17 win over the division-rival 49ers. It marked the seventh consecutive NFC Championship Game decided by seven points or fewer, the longest such streak in NFL history. Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown to spark the offense and Seattle’s vaunted defense forced three turnovers, including an interception in the end zone with 22 seconds remaining to seal the win.

“That’s the way we’ve played the whole season,” says Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the game. “These guys are relentless. All we do is practice turnovers on defense and we wanted to be in that situation where the game was on our backs.”

Lynch, who is the only player to rush for at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, has four 100-yard rushing performances in six career postseason games, including both games in 2013. Quarterback Russell Wilson has won 27 games – including the playoffs – in his first two seasons and can join Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger as the only quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl in his first or second season.

“To get to the Super Bowl, we’re excited about it,” says Wilson. “But at the end of the day, we haven’t done anything yet. We won the NFC West, which was one of our goals. We won the NFC Championship Game, which isn’t easy. But only one team gets the prize. That’s what we’re focused on and we’re moving on to play the Denver Broncos.”

During the regular season, the Seahawks led the NFL in points allowed (231), total defense (273.6 yards per game) and pass defense (172.0 yards per game). Seattle also topped the league in takeaways (39), interceptions (28) and turnover differential (+20). Sherman led the league with eight interceptions – his 20 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2011 are the most during that span – safety Earl Thomas is the only safety in the past decade to record at least 100 tackles, five interceptions and two forced fumbles in a single season.

“As a competitor, you always want to play the best,” says Thomas about the Super Bowl matchup. “We’re here to play. We love football. We know what’s at stake. We know this chance is rare. I’m excited about this.”

Sherman (1st) and Thomas (3rd) are two of the six Seahawks who were selected to the Pro Bowl, joining Lynch (4th), Wilson (2nd), safety Kam Chancellor (2nd) and center Max Unger (2nd).

The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl with a 26-16 win over the Patriots. Denver will make its seventh Super Bowl appearance, one shy of the record held by Dallas and Pittsburgh. Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning completed 32 of 43 passes (74.4 percent) for 400 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 118.4 passer rating in the victory. It marked only the fifth time in NFL postseason history a quarterback threw for at least 400 yards without an interception in a game.

“It’s an exciting feeling,” says Manning about advancing to the Super Bowl. “You take a moment to realize that we’ve done something special here and you certainly want to win one more game.”

Manning, who was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLI with Indianapolis, can become the sixth player in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. Joe Montana was named Super Bowl MVP three times and Terry Bradshaw, Brady, Eli Manning and Bart Starr have each won it twice.

“Peyton Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback,” says Russell Wilson. “I have a ton of respect for him. I love him to death. He’s a great person and obviously a great football player.”

This year, Manning set NFL single-season passing records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, becoming the first player in league history to pass for at least 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season. He is the fourth quarterback to lead the league in passing yards and touchdowns and advance to the Super Bowl joining Dan Marino, Warner and Brady.

In the AFC Championship Game, the Broncos scored on six consecutive drives (two touchdowns, four field goals), the longest such streak ever recorded in an AFC or NFC Championship Game.

During the regular season, Denver scored 606 points, becoming the first team in NFL history to score 600 points in a single season. 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.

“We’ve spread the ball around so well all season, so it’s hard for teams to know who to key on,” says Manning. “On any given play, a number of guys could get the ball. That puts pressure on a defense.”

Head coach John Fox who guided Carolina to Super Bowl XXXVIII, is the sixth head coach to lead two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He knows the challenge that awaits the Broncos in playing the Seahawks.

“They’re a great football team,” says Fox about the NFC champions. “(Seattle head coach) Pete Carroll and his staff have done a terrific job.”

“We’re not going to take this challenge lightly,” says Carroll. “We’re going to go after this thing and we’re not going into this game any other way but thinking we’re going to win it. These guys don’t know any other way.”

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