Best of the Best …Super Bowl XLVIII -- Seahawks-Broncos Game Preview …5 Keys to a Seahawks Victory …
[Steve Raible on the Call]”... Kaepernick trying to save his last 2 time outs. Calls the play. His wide receivers slotted on the far side. Shotgun for Kaepernick. Takes the snap … looks … fires … near side, going for the end zone. Ball is tipped up [Warren Moon screams for joy] and knocked away. Is it picked off? Is it picked off? IT IS! IT’S PICKED OFF IN THE END ZONE! THE SEAHAWKS INTERCEPT IN THE END ZONE! RICHARD SHERMAN TIPS IT! MALCOLM SMITH PICKS IT OFF IN THE END ZONE! INTENDED IN THE FAR CORNER. THE SEAHAWKS ARE GONNA RUN THIS BABY DOWN! WE ARE GOING TO NEW JERSEY! HOLY SMOKE! THE DEFENSE DOES IT AGAIN! HOLY CATFISH!”
And now … it all comes down to this. 60 minutes of winning football. That’s all that stands between the Seattle Seahawks and the Lombardi Trophy. To BE the best … they’ve got to BEAT the best though, as the #1 Defense in the NFL (and one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen) … goes up against the #1 Offense in the NFL (and one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen). Can it get more dramatic than that? Ever since the Seahawks and Broncos faced off in the Preseason, many Seahawks fans sat dreaming about seeing the Seattle go up against Denver in the Super Bowl. Now those dreams have become reality. The #1 seeded Broncos (the Best of the AFC) and the #1 seeded Seahawks (the Best of the NFC) square off in an epic clash that will determine who is king of the NFL’s mountain. Will it be the Legend in Peyton Manning grabbing the brass ring one last time before he rides off into the sunset … or Russell Wilson cementing his status as one of the true rising superstars in this league and starting to build his own resume for the Hall of Fame?
Before we get into just who the Denver Broncos are and the specific keys to victory for Seattle in this game, let’s delve in to the numbers for both of these teams and see what story they tell ...
Forced Fumbles …
|Broncos vs. Seahawks Offense-Defense Comparison (Regular Season Stats)…|
|Broncos Off. Category/NFL Rank||Seahawks Def. Category/NFL Rank||Seahawks Off. Category/NFL Rank||Broncos Def. Category/NFL Rank|
|457.3 Yards/Game (1st)||273.6 Yards/Game Allwd (Fewest)||339.0 Yards/Game (17th)||356.0 Yards/Game Allwd (19th)|
|37.9 Points Scored/Game (1st)||14.4 Points/Game Allwd (Fewest)||26.1 Points Scored/Game (Tied 8th)||24.9 Points/Game Allwd (22nd)|
|46% on 3rd Downs (2nd)||35% of 3rd Down Allwd (Tied 8th)||37% on 3rd Downs (17th)||38% of 3rd Downs Allwd (Tied 15th)|
|27 Fumbles (Tied 4th)||26 Fumbles Caused (Tied 4th)||26 Fumbles (7th Most)||25 Fumbles Caused (Tied 7th)|
|461 Rushing Attempts (11th)||422 Rush Attempts Against (10th Fewest)||509 Rushing Attempts (2nd)||420 Rush Att Against (8th Fewest)|
|1,873 Rushing Yds (15th)||1,626 Rush Yds Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)||2,188 Rushing Yards (4th)||1,626 Yards/Game Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)|
|117.1 Rushing Yds/Game (15th)||101.6 Rush Yds/Game Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)||136.8 Rushing Yds/Game (4th)||101.6 Rush Yds/Game Allwd (Tied 7th Fewest)|
|9 Runs of 20+ Yds (Tied 18th)||6 Runs of 20+ Yds Allwd (Tied 4th Fewest)||11 Runs of 20+ Yds (Tied 10th)||13 Runs of 20+ Yds Allwd (22nd)|
|16 Rushing TD’s (Tied 7th)||4 Rushing TD’s Allwd (Tied Fewest)||14 Rushing TD’s (Tied 13th)||15 Rushing TD’s Allwd (Tied 23rd)|
|107 First Downs (10th)||83 First Downs Allwd (9th Fewest)||116 First Downs (4th)||90 First Downs Allwd (13th Fewest)|
|10 Rushing Fumbles (Tied 27th)||7 Rush Fumbles Caused (Tied 10th Most)||6 Rushing Fumbles (Tied 14th)||9 Rush Fumbles Caused (Tied 5th)|
|675 Pass Attempts (2nd)||524 Pass Att Against (7th Fewest)||420 Pass Attempts (31st)||613 Pass Att Against (27th)|
|5,444 Passing Yds (1st)||2,752 Pass Yds Allwd (Fewest)||3,236 Passing Yards (26th)||4,070 Pass Yds Allwd (27th)|
|340.2 Passing Yds/Game (1st)||172.0 Pass Yds/Game Allwd (Fewest)||202.2 Passing Yds/Game (26th)||254.4 Pass Yds/Game Allwd (27th)|
|8.3 Average Yds/Pass (3rd)||5.8 Yds/Pass Att Allwd (Fewest)||8.4 Average Yds/Pass (2nd)||7.1 Yds/Pass Allwd (Tied 15th)|
|12.1 Avg. Yds/Reception (8th)||9.9 Yds/Reception Allwd (Fewest)||13.1 Avg Yds/Reception (3rd)||12.2 Yds/Reception Allwd (Tied 24th)|
|68.3% Pass Completion (3rd)||59.0% Pass Comp. Allwd (Tied 9th)||63.6% Pass Completion (9th)||58.2% Pass Comp. Allwd (6th)|
|55 Passing TD’s (1st)||16 Pass TD’s Allwd (2nd Fewest)||27 Passing TD’s (10th)||29 Pass TD’s Allwd (Tied 21st)|
|68 Passes of 20+ Yds (2nd)||30 Passes of 20+ Yds Allwd (Fewest)||52 Passes of 20+ Yds (Tied 13th)||61 Passes of 20+ Yds Allwd (27th)|
|114.4 QB Rating (1st)||63.4 QB Rating Allwd (1st)||102.4 QB Rating (5th)||84.5 QB Rating Allwd (17th)|
|10 Interceptions Thrown (Tied 5th Fewest)||28 Interceptions (Most)||9 Interceptions Thrown (Tied 2nd Least)||17 Interceptions (Tied 12th)|
|20 Sacks Allowed (Fewest)||44 Sacks (Tied 8th)||44 Sacks Allowed (Tied 20th)||41 Sacks (Tied 13th)|
|54 QB Hits Allowed (3rd Fewest)||NA||93 QB Hits Allowed (22nd)||NA|
|NA||114 Passes Defensed (Tied 5th)||NA||109 Passes Defensed (8th)|
Seahawks … 17 (5th Most)
Broncos … 16 (Tied 6th Most)Give Away/Take Away Margin …
Seahawks … +20 (1st)
Broncos … +0 (Tied 13th)Key #1: KNOW and own the ground game …
In so many ways, these 2 teams couldn’t be more opposite. Here were the numbers in terms of the Broncos Offense and how they compare with those of the Seahawks …2013 Broncos (Regular Season Stats)
Rushing Attempts …461 (40.58% of Offense)
Passing Attempts … 675 (59.42% of Offense)
Total Attempts … 1,1362013 Seahawks (Regular Season Stats)
Rushing Attempts …509 (54.8% of Offense)
Passing Attempts … 420 (45.2% of Offense)
Total Attempts … 929
As you can see, unlike the Seahawks the Broncos’ primary means of moving the football is via the pass. In fact, they passed the ball 675 times during the regular season -- 2nd most attempts of any team in the NFL. So, why focus on Denver’s running game so much?
Because Denver’s running backs are a deceptively large part of what they do on offense.
Before we get into that though, let’s take a brief look at their rushing numbers on the season ...
|2013 Broncos Rushing Offense (Top Rushers)|
|Player||Rush Attempts||Rushing Yards||Yards/Carry||Runs of 20 Yards+||Touchdowns|
|RB Knowshon Moreno||241||1,038||4.3||5||10|
|RB Montee Ball||120||559||4.7||3||4|
|RB Ronnie Hillman||55||218||4.0||0||1|
The further you break down the Denver passing attack, the more evident it becomes just how involved the Broncos running backs truly are. Let’s take a look at just how many times Broncos running backs have been targeted this season …
RB Knowshon Moreno … 74 targets … 60 catches … 548 yards … 3 TD
RB Montee Ball … 27 targets … 20 catches … 145 yards … 0 TD
RB Ronnie Hillman … 14 targets … 12 catches … 119 yards … 0 TDTotal … 115 targets … 92 catches … 812 yards … 3 TD
So, they’ve accounted for ...
115 of 675 targets (17.03% of passing attempts)
92 of 461 catches (19.96% of catches)
Denver running backs have been nearly 20% of the Broncos total passing offense this year.
And when you factor in their yards on the ground as well, the importance of keying on stopping their running backs becomes abundantly clear ...
If you take a look at the overall numbers, you will discover that Denver Running Backs have accounted for …
576 of their 1,136 total plays (50.7% of the Broncos Total Plays)
2,685 of their 7,445 total yards (36.1% of the Broncos Total Yards)
12 of 64 total TD’s (18.75% of the Broncos Total TD’s)
So, as has been the case all season long, the first and foremost important job of the Seahawks Defense will be to stop the run -- and that means shutting down Knowshon Moreno. Let’s take a look at his numbers on the season ...
|Knowshon Moreno’s 2013 Rushing Statistics|
|Week||Opponent/Result||Opp. Run Defense (Football Outsiders)||Attempts||Yards||Avg. Yards/Carry||Longest Run||TD’s|
|1 (9/5)||49-27 WIN vs Ravens||-13.6% (10th)||9||28||3.1||7||0|
|2 (9/15)||41-23 WIN at Giants||-17.2% (3rd)||13||93||7.2||25||2|
|3 (9/23)||37-21 WIN vs. Raiders||-3.6% (18th)||12||39||3.3||9||0|
|4 (9/29)||52-20 WIN vs. Eagles||-11.3% (12th)||12||78||6.5||17||1|
|5 (10/6)||51-48 WIN at Cowboys||4.3% (28th)||19||93||4.9||16||1|
|6 (10/13)||35-19 WIN vs Jaguars||1.1% (24th)||15||42||2.8||11||3|
|7 (10/20)||33-39 LOSS at Colts||-0.1% (22nd)||15||40||2.7||9||1|
|8 (10/27)||45-21 WIN vs. Redskins||-5.4% (17th)||13||43||3.3||8||0|
|10 (11/10)||28-20 WIN at Chargers||8.6% (31st)||15||65||4.3||9||0|
|11 (11/17)||27-17 WIN vs. Chiefs||-6.4% (15th)||27||79||2.9||11||0|
|12 (11/24)||34-31 (OT) LOSS at Patriots||4.3% (27th)||37||224||6.1||18||1|
|13 (12/1)||35-28 WIN at Chiefs||-6.4% (15th)||15||18||1.2||13||0|
|14 (12/8)||51-28 WIN vs Titans||1.3% (26th)||14||78||5.6||25||1|
|15 (12/12)||27-20 LOSS vs. Chargers||8.6% (31st)||8||19||2.4||6||0|
|16 (12/22)||37-13 WIN at Texans||-11.4% (11th)||11||76||6.9||31||0|
|17 (12/29)||34-14 WIN at Raiders||-3.6% (18th)||6||23||3.8||10||0|
|Knowshon Moreno’s Postseason Rushing Statistics|
|Week||Opponent/Result||Opp. Run Defense (Football Outsiders)||Attempts||Yards||Avg. Yards/Carry||Longest Run||TD’s|
|(1/12)||24-17 WIN vs. Packers||8.6% (31st) ||23||82||3.6||14||1|
|(1/19)||26-16 WIN vs. Patriots||4.3% (27th)||14||59||4.2||28||0|
The Broncos tend to use their running game as a change of pace to set up their potent passing attack. But as demonstrated above, they are also heavily involved in the passing game as well. Moreno and the other Denver Running Backs have been targets coming out of the backfield on those swing and screen passes … and they’ve obviously been pretty successful at it.
So, it’ll be incumbent upon Seattle to be wary of Denver’s Running Backs and to keep an eye on them. The Seahawks defense against the run was very good down the stretch. Since allowing 200 yards on the ground to the Rams in Week 8 … and 205 yards on the ground to the Buccaneers at Century Link in Week 9 … the Seahawks run defense has been fairly solid ...Falcons (Week 10 -- 11/10/13)
… 16 Carries … 64 Yards Rushing (4.0 Yards/Carry)Vikings (Week 11 -- 11/17/13)
… 33 Carries … 132 Yards Rushing (4.0 Yards/Carry) … BUT, 58 of the Vikings 132 Rushing Yards in that game came against the 2nd and 3rd String after the starters were pulled at the start of the 4th Quarter. The Vikings managed only 73 yards on 28 carries on the ground total (2.81 Yards/Carry) against the starters.Saints (Week 13 -- 12/2/13)
…17 Carries … 44 Yards Rushing (2.6 Yards/Carry)49ers (Week 14 -- 12/8/13)
… 33 Carries … 163 Yards Rushing (4.9 Yards/Carry). However, 51 of Frank Gore’s yards came on 1 play. Take away that 1 play and the Seahawks limited San Francisco to 32 Carries … 112 Yards Rushing (just 3.5 Yards/Carry).Giants (Week 15 -- 12/15/13)
… 14 Carries … 25 Yards Rushing (1.8 Yards/Carry).Cardinals (Week 16 -- 12/22/13)
… 43 Carries … 139 Yards Rushing (3.2 Yards/Carry)Rams (Week 17 -- 12/29/2013)
... 18 Carries ... 13 Yards Rushing (0.7 Yards/Carry)Saints (Divisional Playoffs -- 1/11/14)
… 26 Carries … 108 Yards Rushing (4.2 Yards/Carry)49ers (NFC Championship Game -- 1/19/14)
… 28 Carries … 161 Yards Rushing (5.8 Yards/Carry) However, Colin Kaepernick was the bulk of that running attack, rushing for 130 yards on 11 carries. Outside of him, San Francisco’s running backs gained a grand total of 31 yards on the ground last week.According to Pro Football Focus
, the Seahawks defensive line ended the season with the 4th most stops in the league. They had tackles Brandon Mebane (+22.7 Run Defense Grade) and Tony McDaniel (+17.4 Run Defense Grade) graded as their 2nd and 4th best run defenders this year. Michael Bennett and Red Bryant both also finished in their Top 12 in terms of Run Stop Percentage among 4-3 defensive ends, so Seattle has the horses to be able to shut down the run in this game and outside of a few instances, they’ve done a good job of doing so (the Seahawks 11 runs of 20 yards or more ranked 10th Best in the NFL this year). Since the Saints game in Week 13 (so the last 7 games including last week’s playoff game), the Seahawks defense has allowed just 6 big plays (3 of them last week) ...
Frank Gore of the 49ers in Week 14 (51 Yards) … [Gore had just 59 yards outside of that run and averaged just 3.69 yards/carry otherwise]
Andre Ellington of the Cardinals (26 Yards) [Ellington gained just 38 yards on 14 carries, averaging only 2.71 yards/carry outside of that run]
Khiry Robinson of the Saints in the Divisional Game (17 Yards) … [Robinson averaged just 3.3
yards/carry on 12 runs]
Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers had 3 this past weekend (17 Yards) in the 1st Quarter … (58 yards) in the 2nd Quarter … and (22 Yards) in the 3rd Quarter.
Now, obviously Peyton Manning isn’t exactly Colin Kaepernick in terms of his ability to move. He’s as still in the pocket as a statue -- he’s not going anywhere in terms of his scrambling. That brings us back to Knowshon Moreno.
On the season, here were Moreno’s largest runs and who they came against (according to Football Outsiders) …
Week 2 -- NY Giants … 25 yard run (Giants were 3rd in Defense … 32nd in Offense)
Week 4 -- Eagles … 17 yard run (Eagles were 14th in Defense … 2nd in Offense)
Week 5 -- Cowboys … 16 yard run (Cowboys were 32nd in Defense … 14th in Offense)
Week 12 -- Patriots … 18 yard run (Patriots were 22nd in Defense … 1st in Offense)
Week 14 -- Titans … 25 yard run (Titans were 25th in Defense … 11th in Offense)
Week 16 -- Texans … 31 yard run (Texans were 24th in Defense … 31st in Offense)
By in large, most of those big runs came against some of the poorer defenses in the league.
Back in Week 15, the San Diego Chargers were able to knock off the Broncos in part because they absolutely shut down the run, holding Denver to just 18 total yards on the ground that day. Seattle has had several instances of doing exactly that to opposing teams this year. If the Seahawks can simply play gap disciplined football, Seattle has a good chance of limiting the effectiveness of the Denver running backs due to the overall speed and sideline to sideline coverage ability of that defense.
Let’s turn our attention now to the obvious focus coming in to this game ...Key #2: L.O.B. -- Time to MANning Up! …
Before we get more in depth with Peyton Manning, let’s take a look at his numbers this season ...
|Peyton Manning’s 2013 Statistics|
|Week||Opponent||Opp. Def DVOA (Football Outsiders)||Comp.||Att.||Comp%||Yards||TD’s||INT’s||QB Rating|
|1 (9/5)||49-27 WIN vs Ravens||-11.0% (8th)||27||42||64.3%||462||7||0||141.1|
|2 (9/15)||41-23 WIN at Giants||-18.9% (3rd)||30||43||69.8%||307||2||0||105.5|
|3 (9/23)||37-21 WIN vs. Raiders||13.6% (29th)||32||37||86.5%||374||3||0||135.8|
|4 (9/29)||52-20 WIN vs. Eagles||-0.9% (14th)||28||34||82.4%||327||4||0||146.0|
|5 (10/6)||51-48 WIN at Cowboys||23.1% (32nd)||33||42||78.6%||414||4||1||129.6|
|6 (10/13)||35-19 WIN vs Jaguars||6.7% (21st)||28||42||66.7%||295||2||1||92.9|
|7 (10/20)||33-39 LOSS at Colts||6.4% (20th)||29||49||59.2%||386||3||1||96.1|
|8 (10/27)||45-21 WIN vs. Redskins||-0.7% (15th)||30||44||68.2%||354||4||3||94.3|
|10 (11/10)||28-20 WIN at Chargers||8.2% 23rd)||25||36||69.4%||330||4||0||135.2|
|11 (11/17)||27-17 WIN vs. Chiefs||1.1% (18th)||24||40||60.0%||323||1||0||94.1|
|12 (11/24)||34-31 (OT) LOSS at Patriots||7.0% (22nd)||19||36||52.8%||150||2||1||70.4|
|13 (12/1)||35-28 WIN at Chiefs||1.1% (18th)||22||35||62.9%||403||5||2||118.2|
|14 (12/8)||51-28 WIN vs Titans||8.9% (25th)||39||59||66.1%||397||4||0||107.8|
|15 (12/12)||27-20 LOSS vs. Chargers||8.2% (23rd)||27||41||65.9%||289||2||1||92.4|
|16 (12/22)||37-13 WIN at Texans||8.3% (24th)||32||51||62.7%||400||4||0||113.2|
|17 (12/29)||34-14 WIN at Raiders||13.6% (29th)||25||28||89.3%||266||4||0||145.8|
1/12/14 vs. Chargers … WIN 24-17 … 25 of 36 (69.4%) for 230 Yards … 2 TD … 1 INT …93.5 QB Rating
1/19/14 vs. Patriots … WIN 26-16 … 32 of 43 (74.4%) for 400 Yards … 2 TD … 0 INT … 118.4 QB Rating
Peyton Manning in a word … is Legendary. Over the course of his 14 year illustrious career, Manning is a 7 Time All-Pro … he has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls … and has been the league’s MVP 4 times. He has a career pass completion percentage of 65.5 … and has completed 5,532 passes (2nd most all time) … has thrown for 64,964 yards (2nd most all time) … 491 touchdowns (2nd most all time) … and owns a career QB Rating of 97.2 (2nd most all time). Most importantly, his teams have a record of 167-73 in games he has started. when his team has been down and they’ve needed him to help lead them to victory, he has -- having engineered 4 Quarter comeback game winning drives a mind blowing 52 times. For all of that though, Peyton Manning has but 1 Super Bowl Ring to his name (in 2006). But this year, Manning has been a man on a mission.
The Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning on March 7, 2012 because of grave concerns that his career was all but over. In May of 2011, Manning had undergone neck surgery to alleviate pain and arm weakness that he had been dealing with. That proved unsuccessful however, so he ended up going under the knife a second time in September of 2011 -- this time to undergo cervical neck fusion. The procedure caused him to miss the entire 2011 season and rather than hold out hope that the then 36 year old could regain his old form, Colts owner Jim Irsay chose to turn the page, let the Andrew Luck era begin, and cut Manning.
In 2013, Manning responded to his critics for posting a season for the ages. Manning passed for more yards (5,477) and more touchdowns (55) in a season than anyone in NFL History. He posted a QB Rating of 115.1 and an amazing Total QBR of 82.93 (60 is considered Pro Bowl Level).
The numbers that the Broncos receivers put up this year are absolutely eye popping ...
|(2013) Broncos Top Receiving Targets|
|Receiver||Size||Catches||Targets||Yards||Yards/Catch||TD’s||#Catches of 20 Yds+|
|WR Demaryius Thomas||6’3” 229 Lbs||92||143||1,430||15.5||14||19|
|WR Ed Decker||6’3” 214 Lbs||87||137||1,288||14.8||11||19|
|WR Wes Welker||5’9” 185 Lbs||73||110||778||10.7||10||12|
|TE Julius Thomas||6’5” 250 Lbs||65||89||788||12.1||12||10|
|RB Knowshon Moreno||5'11” 220 Lbs||60||74||548||9.1||3||5|
|TE Jacob Tamme||6'3” 230 Lbs||20||25||184||9.2||1||0|
|RB Montee Ball||5'10" 215 Lbs||20||27||145||7.3||0||1|
|WR Andre Caldwell||6'0" 200 Lbs||16||30||200||12.5||3||2|
|RB Ronnie Hillman||5'10" 195 Lbs||12||14||119||9.9||0||0|
Looking at the numbers above, here is the breakdown of the Broncos top receiving targets and just how well Manning has spread the ball around this year ...
WR Demaryius Thomas ...143 Targets (21.19% of Passing Offense)
WR Ed Decker … 137 Targets (20.3% of Passing Offense)
WR Wes Welker … 110 Targets (16.3% of Passing Offense)
TE Julius Thomas … 89 Targets (13.19% of Passing Offense)
RB Knowshon Moreno … 74 Targets (10.96% of Passing Offense)
Total Team Receiving Targets … 675
Demaryius Thomas runs a 40 yard dash in 4.38 seconds, was 4th in the league in receiving yards (1,430), was 2nd in the NFL in Yards After the Catch (633), 2nd in receiving touchdowns (14), and among the league leaders with 19 catches of 20 yards or more.
Ed Decker was 12th in the league in receiving yards (1,288), tied for 8th in the NFL in touchdowns (11), and also among the league leaders with 19 catches of 20 yards or more.
Wes Welker had 73 receptions, 10 receiving touchdowns (tied for 10th in the league), and tied Golden Tate in catches of 20 yards or more (12).
Julius Thomas had 65 catches, 10 catches of 20 yards or more, and 12 receiving touchdowns this year -- most by any tight end in Broncos history.
Despite statistics and overall measurables that might steal the breath away from many Seahawks fans, Seattle actually DOES have the kind of team that can slow down the Broncos.
Lindsay Jones, who writes for USA Today and has covered both the Seahawks and Broncos, was on with KJR 950am’s Ian Furness on 1/21/14
and talked about the formula that has worked against the Broncos this year. Here were her keys for how to stop (or at least slow down) Peyton Manning and that mercurial offense ...
1) Pressure Peyton Manning but DON’T Blitz -- he usually recognizes what kind of blitz you’re employing before you bring it and will burn you.
2) Drop more guys into coverage than Peyton is used to having dropped against him.
3) Be really physical with the wide receivers. Never let them have a free release off the line of scrimmage. Don’t let them run the pick plays and the rub routes they like to perform.
4) Force turnovers.
5) Put together long scoring drives and keep Peyton Manning off the field.
Now, what team do we know that does all of that? If I were a Broncos fan, I would be a bit worried about this game for the simple fact that you couldn’t have chosen a worse match-up for Denver than Seattle’s Defense. Let’s go through Lindsay Jones’s points one by one in terms of how the Seahawks Defense matches up ...1) Pressure Peyton Manning but DON’T Blitz -- he usually recognizes what kind of blitz you’re employing before you bring it and will burn you.
On Defense, the Seattle Seahawks DON'T tend to blitz all that much for the simple fact that they don't have to. Last season, a major reason that the Seahawks lost to the Falcons in the playoffs was their inability to generate any kind of pass rush in that game. That was a big problem down the stretch -- and especially become a real issue once Chris Clemons went down in the Redskins playoff game. This past offseason, GM John Schneider made a concerted effort to address that -- and boy did he ever. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have really transformed Seattle's Front 4 in to a pretty scary beast. Though neither are starters (Seattle tends to rotate guys through periodically and according to situation), both cause a heck of a lot of problems when they're in there. Avril has a tendency to create a lot of strip sacks (where he causes the QB to fumble as he sacks him). That's a skill he's had ever since he was in Detroit and he did it yet again this past game against Kaepernick. Pro Football Focus noted
that 22 of the 55 total pressures he’s had this year have translated into hits and sacks, well above the league average. Michael Bennett is a guy I was extremely excited to get, as he's someone who's unique in that he can play both interior lineman or out wide at either defensive end spot. He generates a lot of pressure as well. Both Bennett and Avril were among Pro Football Focus's top 10 defensive lineman in terms of generating pressure. And the Seahawks pass rush doesn't stop there. DT's Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel were not only two of the top run stuffers in the game (2nd and 4th best according to PFF) ... they were also two of the NFL's best pass rushing interior lineman as well. Seattle was one of the best pressure inducing teams in the NFL WITHOUT having to blitz much.
Getting effective pressure on Peyton Manning and moving him off his spot; however, is going to be a challenge. According to Football Outsiders
, Denver’s Offensive Line was #1 in football in terms of their Pass Protection this year. What makes that even more impressive is when you stop to consider that the Broncos lost their starting Left Tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season clear back on September 18th with a Lisfranc Injury … and the man who was scheduled to be the starting Center for this group (Dan Koppen) was lost for the season after he tore his ACL in training camp. Chris Clark (who took over at Left Tackle) and Manny Ramirez (who assumed the starting job at Center) have performed very well, as they allowed the fewest sacks in football (20). Peyton Manning has also helped minimize sacks, as he not only has the fastest release in the game (average of about 2 seconds from snap to release), he is also fantastic at reading defenses at the line of scrimmage, so can help slide the protection to account for oncoming blitzes. Because of that, Seattle’s Front 4 has its job cut out for them this Sunday. It should be a great matchup. 2) Drop more guys into coverage than Peyton is used to having dropped against him.
Part of what makes the Broncos so successful is they are able to overwhelm defenses by flooding them with far more quality receivers than they can possibly cover. When it comes to the passing game though, Seattle has an equally impressive number of defensive players who are extremely adept at pass coverage.
Because the Seahawks don’t tend to blitz that much, Seattle has a major advantage when it comes to pass coverage. They will often drop their linebackers into coverage and those guys are very good at it. Most times, putting a linebacker on a tight end is the kiss of death for a defense -- especially against really good tight ends. But Seattle's linebacking corps is a whole different breed of animal. They are big, fast, and aggressive. K.J. Wright
has been somewhat of a secret weapon when it comes to opposing TE's. He's a big, long (6'4" 246 pounds) and can run. His backup (who rotates in there too), Malcolm Smith
, is in the words of LB's coach Ken Norton Jr. "weapon's grade fast”. He runs a legitimate 4.4 and always seems to be around the ball. Both of those guys helped to really shut out guys like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis -- two of the best TE's in the game. I’d look for those guys in conjunction with SS Kam Chancellor to be matched up against Julius Thomas most of the game.
Last season, Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers walked away with Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Though not much attention was paid to him, MLB Bobby Wagner
absolutely deserved to be in that DROY discussion. He's fast (runs about a 4.46 IIRC), hard hitting, and very instinctual -- he always seems to be around the ball. Last season, Football Outsiders noted that Bobby Wagner he had a tackle or an assist on 27.5 percent of run plays against Seattle (best in the league
) Though Kuechly is going to continue to get his recognition nationally as being the best MLB in the game ... Bobby Wagner is right there with him.
Last year, Bruce Irvin
led all NFL rookies in sacks (8.0) from the LEO position (a hybrid pass rusher that Carroll employs in his defenses). This year, he was moved to Weakside LB to take advantage of his overall speed there. Irvin has responded with a very solid year both in terms of run and pass coverage. When healthy, San Francisco's linebacking corps is the best in the league I'd say bar none. However, I'd honestly have to put Seattle's in the top 3 or 4 in the NFL -- they're that good.
Without a doubt, fans throughout the nation are going to be seeing Peyton Manning facing the best secondary in the league come Sunday. Their nickname, Legion of Boom, really says it all about these guys and what they are all about. They are all big, fast, and nasty defenders -- all of whom can turn, tackle, and cover. They present their own match-up problems for offenses ...Richard Sherman
garnered a whole lot of attention this past week with his self promoting post-game comments of "I'm the best corner in the game" following the NFC Championship Game. But in all honesty, he's completely right (Sherman is the brutally honest type who will call a spade a spade, regardless of who it offends). Sherman, a one time 5th round draft choice out of Stanford, played WR in college. That experience has really translated well to the NFL for him. He studies film like crazy and because of that can often run the route as well as or better than the receiver he is facing. He is not only quick, but often positions himself so incredibly well in a way that only he can make the play. Sherman not only led the league in interceptions (8) -- he had a passer rating against of only 47.3 (best in the NFL).
Opposite Sherman, Broncos fans will see a very underrated Byron Maxwell.
There was a lot of hand wringing when Brandon Browner went down first with a groin injury and then was lost due to his drug suspension for the remainder of the season. However, the secondary has actually performed even BETTER since Byron Maxwell has been in there. Maxwell is big (6’0” 202 Pounds), very physical corner as well. Coming in to the draft, he had the reputation of being a very hard hitter with great speed and quickness (he had run a 4.37 in the 40).
Since taking over as a starter, Maxwell has 4 interceptions and has been a shut down corner in his own right. He had a passer rating against of 47.8 (2nd in the NFL) in limited duty. Depending on the situation, I’d look for Maxwell and Sherman to be matched up 1:1 against Demaryius Thomas and Ed Decker most of the day.
A key matchup in this game that’s going to be particularly interesting to watch is in the slot -- to see how Walter Thurmond
does against Wes Welker. As you can see from the stats above, Welker is a dynamic receiver and he presents a lot of problems for most teams, as they typically don’t have answers for him. Thurmond, though has been a very good nickel corner this season, as he has a passer rating against of just 67.4 (13th in the NFL -- that was better than either Dominque Rogers-Cromartie [whom the Seahawks Offense will be facing in this game] or the Patriot’s Aqib Talib). Keep an eye on that this Sunday.
And Seattle has good depth all the way down in terms of its DB’s, as Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead
are very much in that same mold. Both are capable corners and displayed very good coverage skills that you’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of next year. Though Lane has had limited duty this year, he’s looked very good when he’s played this year. Heading into the Cardinals game, Lane had a QB Rating Against of just 56.3
-- comparable with Darrelle Revis -- so he is quite capable if the Seahawks choose to go with a dime package this Sunday.
Seattle safeties are elite -- truly the best of the best. What really makes the Seahawks secondary click is the play of FS Earl Thomas.
Thomas has sideline to sideline speed and is a blazing fast runner (he runs a 4.43). He is also a very physical, punishing hitter with great instincts and a nose for the football. Teams think twice about throwing deep often because Earl is back there. He changes the game, as he plays center field and does a phenomenal job of it. Thomas is an All Pro that Manning is going to have to be cognizant of where he is at on the football field at all times.
At the Strong Safety position, Kam Chancellor is the enforcer. Chancellor (who has the nickname “Bam-Bam”), is as big as a linebacker (6’3 232 Lbs), has good speed (4.6), and hits like a Mack Truck. If you like big hits, that shot that he put on Vernon Davis in the NFC Championship Game was a thing of beauty. He is also very good in coverage and was a big reason why TE’s Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis got shut down for the most part when the Seahawks faced them this year. He’s a 2 time Pro Bowler himself and was named All Pro this year as well. Pro Football Focus noted
that so far this Post-season, Chancellor has been targeted 13 times … and has surrendered just 6 catches for 38 yards (a Passer Rating Against of just 21.0). The Seahawks are going to need more of that from him this Sunday, as they will be facing one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
But Seattle has been very good at shutting down even elite quarterbacks this year. Back in Week 13 when the Seahawks faced the Saints up in Seattle, Drew Brees had a ton of problems. At a few points in that game, you could see him trying to go through his progressions … and he couldn’t find anyone open.
Mark Vorkunov of the Newark Star-Ledger in New Jersey made the following observation regarding a potential weakness of Peyton Manning heading in to this game ...
If anyone can lure (Peyton) Manning into his few moments of weakness, it is the Seahawks. Manning has been human this year when facing third down and six or more yards to go, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and garnering a 82.5 QB rating. Seattle, with a stingy run defense (3.9 yards per carry) and a fleet of pass rushers led by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, can put Manning in those situations and then pressure him.
Seattle’s posted a team Passer Rating Against of just 63.4 -- lowest since 2009 and tied with the 2008 Super Bowl winning Steelers. If the same defense we’ve seen all year long shows up against Peyton Manning again on Sunday, that could be just the kryptonite Seattle needs to help rob Denver’s Superman of his powers. 3) Be really physical with the wide receivers. Never let them have a free release off the line of scrimmage. Don’t let them run the pick plays and the rub routes they like to perform.
Denver’s receivers tend to create separation for themselves by running pick plays -- plays in which the receiver throws his body into the defender in order to create space. Pick plays are key for the Broncos and are a major reason why Demaryius Thomas was 2nd in the NFL in Yards After the Catch.
Last year, Pete Carroll gave a very interesting interview on 710 ESPN in which he talked about his younger years of being influenced by watching those Raiders defenses of the 1970s. His ideas about defensive backs (and what they should look like) were heavily shaped by watching guys like Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, and others on those teams -- punishing big hitting guys -- which he has (in essence) recreated with the Seahawks. Because of that, the Seahawks secondary might just be the most physical in the game. They will jam receivers off the line of scrimmage and tend to play a lot of man to man coverage. Against the Legion of Boom, pick plays could be suicide, as Seattle’s defensive backs LIKE to get physical with receivers and mess up their timing. If Denver’s receivers are looking for a knock down drag out fight, the Seahawks will most certainly oblige. I’ve seen a lot of defenses throughout the years and I don’t think it’s a stretch whatsoever to put these guys right up there with the most physical defenses that have ever played the game.
Indianapolis had success earlier in the year by being physical with Denver’s receivers and putting fairly constant pressure on Manning, sacking him 4 times back in Week 7. New England’s secondary played very physical with Denver’s receivers during their 1st matchup of the year and were successful using the same formula as well, knocking off the Broncos 34-31 in Week 12. The Patriots against employed the same formula against the Broncos in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, holding the Broncos to just 122 yards of Offense and field goal before Aqib Talib (New England’s top cornerback) went down with an injury on a pick play that generated a lot of controversy since by Wes Welker. After Aqib Talib was lost, the floodgates opened, as Denver racked up 507 yards of total offense and ripped off 23 points after that. 4) Force turnovers.
If there is anything this team is extremely good at … it’s separating the ball from their opponents. And a common theme for the Broncos in the games that they’ve struggled in this year, is that they have turned the ball over and lost the turnover battle.
This year, the Seattle Seahawks Defense ended the season ...
#1 in Total Points Allowed (231 -- an average of 14.4 Per Game)
#1 in Total Yards Allowed (4,378 -- an average of 273.6 Per Game)
#1 in Total Turnovers (39 -- they had 28 interceptions (#1) and 11 fumble recoveries)Those 3 categories (Points Allowed, Total Yards Allowed, and Turnovers) are kind of like the Triple Crown for Defenses. Prior to the Seahawks, the last time a team finished #1 in each of those categories ... was the 1985 Chicago Bears.
It’ll be very interesting to see how one of the best offenses we’ve seen in a long, long time does against one of the best defenses the league has seen in awhile. If the Seattle Seahawks don’t get caught up in the moment … and just continue to be who they’ve been all season long, they have a good chance to be doing their own Super Bowl Shuffle when things are all said and done this Sunday.
Let’s turn our attention to the last of Lindsay Jones’s Points -- our #3 Key to Victory (and undoubtedly the most important one) for the Seahawks in New Jersey this Sunday ...Key #3: Be the Time Lords …
The San Diego Chargers held the Broncos to their lowest point totals of the year each of the 3 times that they faced them.
The Colts and the Patriots both found a way to beat Peyton Manning and the vaunted Broncos offense this year. Why? Let’s take a look at some common factors in these games ... Week 7 (10/20/2013) … Broncos 33 - Colts 39Time of Possession …
Broncos … 28:13
Colts … 31:47Rushing Totals …
Broncos … 20 Carries … 64 Yards Rushing (3.2 Yards/Carry) … 1 TD
Colts … 31 Carries … 121 Yards Rushing (3.9Yards/Carry) … 1 TDTurnovers …
Colts …1Week 10 (11/10/2013) … Broncos 28 - Chargers 20Time of Possession …
Broncos … 21:57
Chargers … 38:03Rushing Totals …
Broncos … 22 Carries … 84 Yards Rushing (3.8 Yards/Carry) … 0 TD
Chargers … 35 Carries … 131 Yards Rushing (3.7 Yards/Carry) … 1 TDTurnovers …
Chargers …0Week 12 (11/24/2013) … Broncos 31 - Patriots 34 (OT)Time of Possession …
Broncos … 38:58
Patriots … 34:06Rushing Totals …
Broncos … 48 Carries … 280 Yards Rushing (6.1 Yards/Carry) … 1 TD
Manning … 19 of 36 (52.77% Comp.) … 150 Yards Passing … 2 TD … 1 INT
Patriots … 31 Carries … 116 Yards Rushing (3.7 Yards/Carry) … 1 TDTurnovers …
Patriots …3Week 15 (12/12/2013) … Broncos 20 - Chargers 27Time of Possession …
Broncos … 21:11
Chargers … 38:49Rushing Totals …
Broncos … 11 Carries … 18 Yards Rushing (1.6 Yards/Carry) … 0 TD
Chargers … 44 Carries … 177 Yards Rushing (4.0 Yards/Carry) … 1 TDTurnovers …
Chargers …0Divisional Playoffs (1/12/2014) … Broncos 24 - Chargers 17Time of Possession …
Broncos … 35:27
Chargers … 24:33Rushing Totals …
Broncos … 34 Carries … 133 Yards Rushing (3.9 Yards/Carry) … 1 TD
Chargers … 18 Carries … 65 Yards Rushing (3.6 Yards/Carry) … 0 TD Turnovers …
Lindsay Jones’s 5th Key vs. Peyton Manning was ...5) Put together long scoring drives and keep Peyton Manning off the field.
Well, Denver’s opponent won the time of possession … and outgained them on the ground in 3 out of 5 of those games. That brings us to what I believe could be the biggest key to the game -- Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle makes running the ball its #1 priority for the simple fact that Pete Carroll firmly believes that the running game (first and foremost) and good, tough, hard physical defense is what makes championships. Ball control, limiting turnovers on offense, and controlling the time of possession is what Carroll is all about.
In horrible conditions at Century Link Field (40 mile an hour winds and driving rain that made passing very difficult) against the Saints in the Divisional Round, Marshawn Lynch virtually willed
the Seattle Seahawks to victory, running for 140 yards on 28 carries (5.0 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns. Lynch broke an amazing 13 tackles in that game. In fact, on the season, Lynch has broken 99 tackles -- which was 22 more than the 2nd running back on the list, LeSean McCoy. To put it in perspective of how dominant Lynch has been this season, from 2008-2012, the most missed tackles that any running back had was 64.
The 49ers (one of the best run defenses in all of the league) made no bones about it that stopping Lynch was going to be priority #1. The Seahawks responded by making a commitment to the run and Lynch went off, rumbling for 109 yards (5.0 yards/carry) and a key touchdown. He forced 7 missed tackles in that game, showing once again that when the lights are on, Marshawn shines the brightest. And Seattle won the time of possession in the process (31:28 to 28:32).
In this game especially, with how potent Denver’s offense is, I see Carroll and the Seahawks committing to the run more than ever. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos can’t score if they’re not on the field. I think we can count on establishing the run first and foremost as being the game plan for the Seahawks headed into Sunday’s contest. Broncos Head Coach John Fox knows that too, so the question is -- can they stop them? ESPN’s Mike Sando is one who wonders whether or not the Broncos can. On Friday (1/24/14), he joined John Clayton, Brock Huard, and Danny O’Neil on 710 ESPN and noted the following …
Mike Sando on Friday (1/24/14) ...
Sando: “I look at the great offense of the Broncos and the great defense of the Seahawks. I think they’re each going to have their moments. And to me, one of the exercises I did after the game last week was -- just looking at where the Broncos defense and the Seahawks offense fit into the conversation. And when you look at divisional realignment in 2000, there’s been 12 seasons since then. So, 32 teams times 12 seasons means there’s been 384 defenses since then. And this Broncos defense ranks 312th in Points Allowed per Game of all of those. And the Seahawks offense in scoring is 60th. So to me, they have to -- Seattle has to take advantage of that defense and I think they have a good chance of doing it. But that’s probably where this game could be really won for Seattle in a way that no one’s really looking at right now.”
Indeed, the overall numbers for the Broncos Defense are a far cry from those of the Offense …
24.9 Points Allowed/Game (22nd)
356.0 Yards Allowed/Game (19th)
On the season, the Broncos Defense allowed an average of just 101.6 Rushing Yards/Game (Tied for 7th Fewest). However, in looking at the rest of the numbers, one wonders whether or not a lot of that had to do with Denver’s Offense, as teams were having to pass a lot in order to catch up (the 613 Pass Attempts Against the Broncos Defense was the 5th most in the league).
The Broncos Defense also allowed …
11 Runs of 20 Yards or More (22nd)
15 Rushing Touchdowns (Tied for 23rd)
Let’s take a deeper look and take a look at the individual numbers of the Broncos Defensive Players this year ...
*Lost for the season due to injuryBroncos Players Lost for the Season …
|2013 Broncos Defensive Playmakers|
|Player||Size||Tackles||Tackles for Loss||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||INT’s||Passes Defensed|
|WLB Danny Trevathan||6’1” 240 Lbs||128||7||2.0||4||3||10|
|MLB Wesley Woodyard||6’0” 233 Lbs||84||4||1.5||3||1||4|
|SS Duke Ihenacho||6’1” 207 Lbs||73||2||0||3||0||7|
|*CB Chris Harris*||5’10” 199 Lbs||65||5||0||0||3||13|
|FS Mike Adams||5’11” 200 Lbs||64||5||0||0||1||7|
|*S Rahim Moore*||6’1” 195 Lbs||44||0||0||0||2||6|
|LDE Malik Jackson||6’5” 293 Lbs||42||6||6.0||1||0||4|
|CB Kayvon Webster||5’11” 198 Lbs||41||1||0||1||1||10|
|SLB Nate Irving||6’1” 245 Lbs||41||8||1.0||0||0||1|
|RDE Shaun Phillips||6’3” 255 Lbs||35||3||10.0||2||1||5|
|*LB Von Miller*||6’3” 250 Lbs||34||7||5.0||3||0||1|
|RCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie||6’2” 193 Lbs||31||3||0||0||3||15|
|RDT Terrance Knighton||6’3” 335 Lbs||31||2||3.0||0||1||1|
|DE Robert Ayers||6’3” 274 Lbs||29||2||5.5||1||0||0|
|S David Bruton||6’2” 217 Lbs||23||0||0||0||0||0|
|LB Paris Lenon||6’2” 240 Lbs||22||0||0||0||0||2|
|*DT Kevin Vickerson*||6’5” 328 Lbs||22||6||1.0||0||0||3|
|LB Mitch Unrein||6’4” 306 Lbs||20||1||0||0||0||0|
|LDT Sylvester Williams||6’2” 313 Lbs||19||4||2.0||0||0||0|
|*DE Derek Wolfe*||6’5” 285 Lbs||16||3||4.0||0||0||0|
|CB Champ Bailey||6’0” 192 Lbs||14||0||0||0||0||3|
|CB Quentin Jammer||6’0” 204 Lbs||14||0||0||0||0||3|
|S Omar Bolden||5’10” 195 Lbs||14||0||0||0||0||0|
|CB Tony Carter||5’9” 175 Lbs||13||1||0||0||1||6|
LT Ryan Clady
C Dan Kloppen
LB Von Miller
DT Kevin Vickerson
S Rahim Moore
DE Derek Wolfe
CB Chris Harris
As you can see, Denver’s Defense has taken an amazing amount of hits -- which makes it all the more impressive when you think about where they find themselves currently.
Still, the Broncos have playmakers on that defense and if they make as much of a commitment to stopping the run as I believe they’re going to in this game, Lynch could have some tough sledding. Pro Football Focus has a very insightful stat that gives us a real insight into what could be THE biggest matchup of the day ...
The Seahawks are oddly one of the best teams when running to the middle left at 4.53 yards per carry, but one of the worst when running off left guard at 2.90 yards per carry.
The Broncos, in turn, are one of the best teams defending against the middle left, allowing 2.63 yards per carry, but one of the worst when defending against runs off left guard at 5.26 yards per carry.
Source:https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/01/27/32-observations-super-bowl-xlviii/RDT Terrance Knighton vs. LG Michael Bowie/James Carpenter/Paul McQuistan and C Max Unger …
Experts who know the Broncos well consistently say that Terrance Knighton
is the best player on that Denver Defense and will be a real key to Sunday’s game. Though the measurables may not be there in terms of sacks, tackles for loss, etc. “Pot Roast”, as his teammates call him, has been a real impact player for the Broncos this year. Pro Football Focus
had Knighton rated as their 9th Best Defensive Tackle this season (+24.1. Brandon Mebane, by the way, was their #1 rated DT) despite playing just 53% of their snaps this year. Knighton had 38 pressures during the regular season, sported a Pass Rush Productivity grade of +9.1, and had a Run Stuff Percentage of +8.0 this year. Since the Post-season began however, Knighton has been on fire, as he has a Pass Rush Productivity of +10.8, a Run Stop Percentage of +17.4, and an overall grade of +7.8 -- all highest among defensive tackles. The privilege of containing this guy falls to Max Unger
and Seattle’s Left Guard by committee. Pete Carroll believes in “always competing” for jobs every week, and the Super Bowl doesn’t appear to have altered that philosophy of his whatsoever. Will he and the coaching staff go with rookie Michael Bowie
(who has shined when he has been given the chance) … or with the rotation of James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan
? Will Carroll go with youth and skill … or with experience in this one? That’s the question. Officially, Seattle comes in to this game as the #8 Run Blocking team according to Football Outsiders.
However, those numbers don’t really tell the story. After a Pro Bowl season in 2012, Max Unger has struggled this season. Whether it’s because of the strained pectoral muscle he was dealing with earlier this season or some other ailment, Unger just hasn’t been himself, as PFF noted he doesn’t have a positive run blocking grade this season. Not only that, they claim that he had his two worst days of the season against both the Saints and 49ers in the playoffs. Unger had one of his better run blocking games of the season the last time Seattle was at MetLife Stadium back in Week 15 -- and they can certainly use that kind of performance again this Sunday. Neither James Carpenter nor Paul McQuistan have a positive grade this season in either run or pass blocking. Conversely, Pro Football Focus had Michael Bowie rated
as the Seahawks best lineman (+7.1) this year. Seattle desperately needs Unger and whomever ends up starting at LG in this game to have their best performances of the year.
Players like RDT Terrance Knighton, RDE Robert Ayers, and WLB Danny Trevathan can be problematic towards an opponents’ run game. When it comes to the running game for Seattle in this game, Pro Football Focus noted the following ..
The Broncos’ run defense just once allowed a running back with 10 or more carries to reach 5.0 yards per carry [Alfred Morris in Week 8], and has not had more than five missed tackles on a runner all year.
Because Denver will undoubtedly not allow Marshawn Lynch to beat them, I believe that someone else will ultimately have to …Continued on Next Post Below ...