EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Super Bowl XLVIII Gameday is here: As much as the players and coaches said today’s game is just another “championship opportunity,” it’s just the second one the Seahawks have had in 38 years.
Today will mark just the second time since 1970 that the league’s top-scoring offense (Broncos) will face the NFL’s top-scoring defense (Seahawks). The last time? Tampa Bay’s top defense beat Oakland’s top offense in Super Bowl XXVII, 48-21. That bodes well for the Seahawks today.
But as much as the national media has made about the “Legion of Boom” facing future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, I think the Seahawks hopes revolve around its offense and Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks have consistently faced top-10 defenses for the past two months — the 49ers (5th), the Saints (4th), the Cardinals (6th), and the Giants (8th). The Broncos are 19th in the league in total defense, not to mention 27th against the pass. This is the perfect opportunity for Wilson to utilize all of his weapons in the pass game — Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Zach Miller — and of course, Percy Harvin.
Harvin will be the X factor in today’s game. He was in great spirits all week, and understands how blessed he is to have this opportunity. For a guy who has endured rehab from hip surgery all season, and then suffered a concussion in the divisional round against the Saints, Harvin is finally at full strength. He’ll be returning kicks as well. This is a chance for Harvin to play a full game for the first time as a Seahawk — and to do so on the biggest stage of all.
By the way, Wilson is attempting to become just the third youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl (Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady). I was most intrigued by the fact that Wilson attended last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans just so he could scout the gameday events — to see how pregame ceremonies worked, how the extended halftime would affect the teams, etc. He’s always said that the “Separation is in the Preparation.” Wilson is clearly prepared.
And then, there’s Marshawn Lynch. Keep an eye on his number of carries today. The Seahawks have never lost when Lynch has carried the ball 25 or more times — and the Hawks have also never lost in the postseason when Lynch rushes for 100 or more yards (4-0). With five yards today, Lynch will become the Seahawks all-time postseason leading rusher. That shouldn’t be difficult.
One interesting note: The Super Bowl MVP is expected to attend a press conference on Monday morning with the winning head coach. Imagine if Lynch wins that award. Would he even show up?
Pete Carroll is trying to become just the third head coach to win a Super Bowl and a college football national title (Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson). At 62, this is Carroll’s biggest opportunity of all. For a coach who had previously failed at the NFL level — a coach who was fired by the New York Jets 20 years ago — this week represents a full-circle of growth and accomplishment for Carroll. Now he needs the Lombardi Trophy as tangible evidence.
Then there’s Steven Hauschka. He tells me that he’s visualized kicking a game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl. He’s been incredible throughout the playoffs, making all six attempts the last two games. If the game comes down to him, I’m confident he’ll be cool under pressure.
And finally, turnovers. There’s no mistaking why Carroll has coined the phrase “It’s all about the ball” and labeled a full day of practice “Turnover Thursdays.” The Seahawks are 27-4 under Carroll when they win the turnover battle. They had the best turnover differential in the league during the regular season. Whoever wins the turnover battle today will likely win the game.
I’m not sure how much we can take out of the home preseason game against the Broncos earlier this year — the Seahawks were certainly dominant when the first-string defense faced the Broncos first-string offense. Then again, remember that Manning had the Broncos on the Seahawks one-yard line when Heath Farwell forced a fumble that stalled all of Denver’s momentum. Score a touchdown there, and the game (albeit, meaningless) would have played out much differently back then.
Manning has never faced a tougher challenge. The Seahawks defense has never faced a tougher challenge. Who wins out? I’m going with our 11 over their one.
Kam Chancellor had a fitting message this week about legacies. He’s already thinking about the Seahawks legacy, even though they haven’t won a Super Bowl title. All legacies begin with a championship, and this is their chance to start one. With the youth and leadership on this Seahawks team, this organization has a chance to do something really special over the next 5-10 years. That legacy starts today.