Seahawks up-and-down QB looks to keep pace with Manning, Broncos
NEW YORK — No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense. Peyton Manning's ducks vs. the Legion of Boom. Football's best passing offense against its best secondary, at least in Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's opinion.
That's the much-debated, much-analyzed storyline in a Super Bowl that doesn't match megamarket cities but offers up one of football's classic matchups, the irrepressible offense against the all-resisting defense.
This is about the other Super Bowl — No. 17 (Seattle's offense) vs. No. 19 (Denver's defense). Russell Wilson's fast wheels and Marshawn Lynch's relentless running vs. Pot Roast, Denver's 335-pound defensive tackle, Terrance Knighton.
And perhaps the biggest question of this game within the game is whether Wilson, who is starting a Super Bowl in only his second NFL season, can keep up — not with the speed of the game but the headed-to-the-Hall of Fame quarterback on the other side of the ball.
Wilson, for all of his athletic gifts, ranks only ninth among the 12 playoff quarterbacks in passing yardage. His legs, perhaps the most dangerous of any NFL quarterback this side of Colin Kaepernick, have produced only 16 yards on eight playoff carries. And the Seahawks offense is averaging 20.5 points in its past six games, or 11.5 points per game fewer than Manning's offense.
Wilson said Thursday — the last day for pregame interviews — that he wants to be remembered someday as one of the great quarterbacks in the game. He will take a step toward that if he can outplay Manning, who already is on everybody's short list of all-timers.
“I want to change the game because, if you think about it, there's a difference between being good and being great and changing the game,” Wilson said. “I think guys like Peyton Manning have changed the game in terms of the way he thinks, in terms of the way he processes things. Tom Brady is the same way. He's so clutch. People fear him when he steps on the field. Drew Brees is a guy like that. And one day I want to evolve to that.”
The Seattle offense is evolving, too. The Seahawks like to pound Lynch, one of the game's hardest runners, at defenses to create room for Wilson to manufacture yardage in a decidedly up-tempo offense. The Seahawks are 8-0 when Lynch gets 20-plus carries.
But Denver's run defense was tied for seventh-best during the season and is allowing 64.5 yards per game in the playoffs. Denver's biggest defensive deficiency — a pass defense that was sixth from the bottom — matches Seattle's biggest offensive deficiency: Wilson's inconsistency in the passing game. Wilson's seven sacks are the most in the playoffs.
“But they have an offense that can extend plays, a running back that won't go down, athletic receivers,” Denver backup linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “I think that's what separates them from a lot of West Coast offenses. They have the talent to make things happen.”
The Seahawks hope wide receiver Percy Harvin is the wild card who might contribute a couple of difference-making big plays, despite multiple injuries (hip, concussion) that limited him to 32 snaps all season.
“We already have three or four good receivers out there. I'm just adding to the mix,” Harvin said. “We just think with all of us collectively on the field together, along with them trying to stop the ‘Beast Mode' (Lynch), we just feel collectively that it will be a tough time on defense.”
It also would make for a tough time for Denver's offense, and that might be what the Seahawks offense most needs to do.