There are so many things surrounding the Super Bowl it’s easy to forget the actual football game. With the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks each trying to make their own little piece of history, this has a chance to be a classic conclusion to the NFL playoffs.
Forgetting about deflated balls and media appearances, forced or wanted, we’re left with two very good teams that are difficult to run against and differ in the way they get points and move the ball. Tom Brady has found his youth again this season, but running isn’t a forgotten art for the Patriots. The Seahawks begin and end things with Lynch bulldozing defensive lines, but Russell Wilson can be unstoppable even after almost losing a game all on his own.
There’s no doubt that Marshawn Lynch is the most important offensive weapon the Seattle Seahawks have. In the NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers he churned out his career best performance with 183 yards from scrimmage, which included rushing for 148 yards between the tackles (a career high), getting nine first downs on his own and being used in 58 snaps. There was no need for his expertise in the previous Super Bowl, but he’ll have a chance to rectify that against the Patriots.
The Patriots look to Rob Gronkowski to be their solver for the Seahawks’ secondary, which despite some early season problems is still probably the best in the NFL, although Aaron Rodgers, when he actually got the chance to show it, managed to find plenty of holes among them. The Seahawks have allowed 11 touchdowns by tight ends while interceptions just two passes intended for the position. They’ve allowed only six touchdowns by running backs and wide receivers in the passing game while intercepting 11 passes intended for those positions. Gronkowski has 12 touchdowns in the regular season, tied for most among tight ends.
And still, the Seahawks secondary is a problem the Patriots need to face. A lot of its ability to handle it comes in the form of Richard Sherman, who should be without any elbow problems to start the game with. In the postseason, teams are 6-of-17 when targeting outside right of the numbers, where Sherman almost always lines up. Teams complete 67.9% of their passes when targeting anywhere else on the field when playing the Seahawks.
Besides limiting Gronkowski, the key to stopping the Patriots is putting pressure on Tom Brady, early and often. He proved against the Baltimore Ravens that the “known” truth about him which is roughing him up early in the game takes him out of focus doesn’t always work as the Ravens messed up on too many occasions that day. The Seahawks finished the regular season with incredible defensive form, including ranking second in the NFL from weeks 14 through 17 in sack percentage.
One thing that both teams are similar at is the way they got to the Super Bowl. Both teams scored just one field goal in their two postseason games and lead all teams with 11 (Patriots) and 7 (Seahawks) touchdowns. They are also the two leading teams in third down conversions in this postseasion, and pretty much moving the chains and not settling for three points on most possessions (Remember the Seahawks fake field goal?) helped them get to where they are.
It’s hard actually settling on a favorite heading into this game.The way the Patriots ran all over the Colts should make them scary, but they were pushed to the brink against the Ravens. The Seahawks came out of oblivion to win the NFC championship game. This is one of these games in which you know almost no lead is safe. More than anything, we need to hope it won’t be over before the half time show artist takes the stage.