Posted by Katie Peverada
About 12 years ago I remember standing on a football field - yes, I played football - and hearing my coaches say over and over that "Defense wins championships!" For my football team, affectionately called the Purple Team, that rang true. We were able to ride the back of our 140-pound defensive lineman to victory over the White Team in the championship game. But why am I writing about a meaningless Pop Warner football game that occurred 12 years ago? Because the Super Bowl is on Sunday, and the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks, will find a way to beat the No. 1 ranked offense of the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are arguably the greatest single-season offense of all time. Manning broke the single-season records for touchdown passes (55) and yards (5,477), and the team scored the most points in league history (606). Yes, Denver won two playoff games against two defenses in the top-half of the NFL. Against the No. 11 ranked San Diego Chargers, they put up a respectable 24 points. The next week, they put up 26 points on the No. 10 ranked New England Patriots. But neither of these defenses compares to what Denver will face at the Meadowlands.
Denver faced one defense in the top five during the regular season, beating the No, 5 ranked Kansas City Chiefs twice. However, neither the Kansas City Chiefs, nor the Patriots or Chargers, is at the level of the Seattle Seahawks "Legion of Boom" defense.
The Seahawks only gave up 231 points during the regular season, 74 less than the Chiefs - the Broncos' toughest test - and 107 and 117 less than the Patriots and Chargers, respectively. That's 14.4 points per game, which is the most important number when looking at defensive statistics. The Seahawks also lead the NFL in interceptions (28), turnovers forced (39), and yards allowed (4,378).
At this point in his career, Manning has taken to the short passing game, something that Seattle's young, mobile linebackers will be able to break up. And of course the Legion of Boom, as Seattle's secondary is nicknamed, has the ability to cover the multi-faceted Denver receiving corps. Other teams have not had the depth to cover all of the weapons in the Denver offense, but the Seattle secondary does.
All this being said, Peyton Manning, ever-known for his meticulous studying of film, will find ways to pressure the Seattle defense and put up points. So the Seahawks won't shut out the Broncos, but they will prevent them from reaching their average numbers, giving their offense a chance to control the game.
If defense can win championships, though, can't the same be said about defense losing championships? Well, yes.
The Denver Bronco defense finished 22nd in the NFL during the regular season. The Broncos actually have one of the top rush-defenses in the league, only giving up 1,626 yards this season (interestingly enough, the same yardage Seattle gave up on the ground). Denver gave up 13 runs of more than 20 yards, but none over 40 yards.
However, Denver also gave up 15 rushing touchdowns. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, the second-best back in the league this year, had 12 rushing scores. Lynch also has a knack for busting one or two big runs a game that somehow end in the end zone.
So if the Seahawks can get Lynch going early, not necessarily with big runs but by eating chunks of yards and clock, they will control the game and keep the ball away from Denver. Quarterback Russell Wilson, oft cited for his mobility to role out and make plays with his legs, has an underrated deep ball, which the Broncos have a propensity for giving up (61 over 20 yards, 8 over 40 yards). If Lynch can get the ball rolling early and establish the play-action pass, then Wilson will have the opportunity to expose the slightly suspect Denver secondary.
Overall, the Seahawks defense is good enough to put Seattle in a position to win the game, it will just need help from Lynch and Wilson. The weather, too, will probably favor the Seahawks and their ability to ground-and-pound. Of the six coldest playoff games in NFL history, four were won by the team with the better ground offense but lesser pass offense. Manning and the Broncos' potent air-offense will undoubtedly make it interesting, and there is no way Peyton Manning goes down without putting up a fight. But in the end it is the defense - on both sides of the ball - that will allow Seattle to win.
Seattle 27, Denver 23.