After Peyton Manning got a leg up in his rivalry with Tom Brady and Seattle got the definitive answer in its rivalry with the divisional foe San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will battle in the 2014 Super Bowl in New York on Feb. 2 at 6:25 p.m. ET.
The two participants in this game are no surprise. They were two of the favorites heading into the season and were their respective conferences' first seed. That certainly sets up for a compelling Super Bowl.
As Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk reported, only four Super Bowls have featured a line of three of fewer points and the Seahawks opened as favorites. However, when you consider that the Broncos have since moved to 1-to-2.5-point favorites, you start to get a feel for how closely matched this Super Bowl is.
We'll discuss the two teams and how they match up below, but first here is everything you need to enjoy the game.
When: Sunday, Feb. 2 at 6:25 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Halftime Performers: Bruno Mars with special guest Red Hot Chili Peppers
How They Got Here
The Broncos finished with the best record in the AFC at 13-3. It was fairly smooth sailing for the Broncos this year, as Manning set NFL single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns.
Denver added a decent rushing attack to that offense and finished 15th in the NFL on the ground.
That offense was more than enough to carry a defense that had its ups and downs.
The pass defense struggled for much of the year and wound up ranked 27th in the NFL. The rush defense, however, was far stiffer and finished the regular season ranked eighth.
Like the Broncos, the Seahawks finished the regular season at 13-3. That was good enough to land them the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Unlike the Broncos, Seattle's smooth sailing this season spawned from the consistent excellence of its defense. Led by a secondary fearsome enough to earn the nickname "The Legion of Boom," the Seahawks finished the regular season ranked first in pass defense and seventh in rush defense.
The offense struggled at times this year. With Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and a commitment to the run, the Seahawks were fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. They were just 26th in passing, though.
In the playoffs, the Seahawks beat the Saints 23-15 in the divisional round and then took down the 49ers 23-17 in a thrilling NFC Championship Game.
Quarterback Russell Wilson knows the work is just beginning, though:
Wilson: "It's definitely hit me we're going to the Super Bowl. At the end of the day, we haven't done anything yet." #SB48— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 20, 2014
Early Look at the Matchup
It's hard to get a much more enticing matchup than this in the Super Bowl. The Broncos feature their record-setting passing offense going up against Seattle's league-leading pass defense.
This will be a classic test for the theory that a great defense beats a great offense. The Seahwawks led the league in points allowed this year and that has worked out well in the big game for teams in the past:
This is 16th time that the defense that allowed fewest pts in NFL has made the Super Bowl since the merger. The previous 15 teams went 12-3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2014
The Seahawks like to play press coverage and line up straight across from their opponents. They rely on physical dominance to beat an opponent rather than exotic schemes.
Meanwhile, the Broncos use a good offensive line and a passing game that features four players who registered at least 778 receiving yards in the regular season to spread opponents out and pick them apart.
The Seahawks will have to play their best coverage of the season to find defensive success in this game.
According to Sporting Charts, Denver led the league with a sacked percentage of just 2.9. Its offensive line figures to slow down a Seahawks pass rush that was fifth in the NFL with a sack percentage of 7.7.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks will be looking to establish their run game against a defense that has allowed just 129 combined rushing yards in the playoffs. That has come against two rushing teams that were rolling over opponents.
The Seahawks' rushing game has looked good in the playoffs. Lynch was in full beast mode against the Saints in the divisional round and then he had 22 carries for 109 yards against the tough defense of the 49ers.
The passing offense has struggled, however. Quarterback Russell Wilson has not thrown for over 215 yards in a game since Dec. 2. Wilson has done what he's needed to to help his team win, but the Seahawks will likely need a little more from the second-year quarterback as they face the Broncos.
Peyton Manning is not going to be stopped. He looks as good as ever, and after his nearly flawless performance this postseason, any criticisms of not showing up for the playoffs have been rendered moot.
With Denver's rush defense playing so well, the Broncos will force some quick possessions from Seattle and the Seahawks' mighty defense will not be able to hold up for the whole game.
Broncos 24, Seahawks 17