“Omaha” versus “You mad, bro?”
Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks is setting up to be a classic contest in which the surgical Peyton Manning will try to perhaps cap off his career and legacy against the brash–and best (ask Richard Sherman)–Seattle secondary that has smothered the league’s best wide receivers all season long.
Simply put, the league’s top offense (Denver) will face the league’s top defense (Seattle). Something has to give.
Manning, the game’s best quarterback this year who set single-season passing and touchdown records, will face off against Sherman, arguably the game’s best cornerback (indisputably so if you ask him) who has shut down the game’s best receivers one-on-one throughout his career.
Manning leads with his actions and is reserved. Sherman, it goes without saying, is an in-your-face player who is never shy to say what’s on his mind. And though he backs up his talk on the field, Sherman makes Manning look downright anti-social or royal, depending on which person is asked.
But on the field, Seattle’s secondary–Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Sherman are Pro-Bowlers–can defend as well as Manning can shred defenses. And it will be a challenge that both sides will probably relish going into the game and during it. Seattle’s defense will probably know all of Manning’s plays and vice versa, and it will be fascinating to observe the chess match that will ensue during the game — and the audibles both sides will call.
On Sunday, Denver iced the game against New England en route to a 26-16 win when the normally conservative John Fox let Manning aggressively win the game with his arm when Denver was leading in the fourth quarter. And Seattle made it to the Super Bowl when Sherman’s deflection of a Colin Kaepernick pass that was intended for Michael Crabtree was intercepted, preserving a 23-17 win by literally a fingertip.
All of the focus and media buzz, especially after Sherman’s crazed post-game interview, will rightfully be on Manning versus Sherman, but do not overlook the physicality of Seattle’s front seven and their ability to pressure Manning in a way New England’s depleted defense could not.
And though Manning beat Brady on Sunday, he faces a quarterback in Russell Wilson who may be this generation’s Brady. Wilson has the all of the intangibles that Brady is known for. Wilson finds a way to win. He makes the big plays when they count. He’s a leader. And he has that “it” factor that makes it seem like he is never out of any game. And because of Sherman’s rant, the focus will be off of Wilson during the next two weeks. The Seattle signal caller will be able to breathe a bit during his first Super Bowl, and that is exactly the way the quarterback who has been underestimated all of his life probably wants it.
I thought the winner of Seattle-San Francisco would win the Super Bowl. Sherman’s rant–by inadvertently taking the white-hot spotlight off of Wilson–may have made it easier for the Seahawks to win their first Lombardi Trophy.