It is official. On February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks will play for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII. For some, the next logical step may be for the team to bring the trophy to Seattle for the first time ever.
After all, the Seahawks were among early NFC favorites, rolled to a 13-3 regular-season record and earned the conference's No. 1 seed thanks largely to the league's No. 1 defense (273.6 yards per game allowed).
This defense—highlighted by its “Legion of Boom” secondary—allowed just 14.4 points per game during the regular season and only 16 points per game thus far in the postseason. Of the team's three losses, none were by more than a touchdown.
However, the Seahawks may not be able to lean entirely on their defense if they are to actually take home the trophy in the second Super Bowl appearance in the franchise's 38-year history.
This is because Seattle's opponent on Super Bowl Sunday will be the Denver Broncos, who paved their way to the big game with the league's No. 1 offense (457.3 yards per game).
Actually, Denver's offense wasn't just the league's best this season, but one of the best ever.
|Total Off||Pass Off||Run Off||Total Def||Pass Def||Run Def|
During the regular season, the Broncos averaged a remarkable 37.9 points per game while their quarterback—a guy named Peyton Manning—set new records with 5,477 yards passing and 55 touchdowns.
This isn't to suggest that the Legion of Boom isn't up to the task of battling Manning and his cadre of receiving weapons—which includes Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas—or that the Seattle defense isn't superb, because it is.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Seahawks rated higher than any other team in pass rush and pass coverage.
However, it is worth noting that Manning and Co. have shown the ability to produce yardage and points very, very quickly and against some solid defenses. The team scored 62 combined points in two games against the Kansas City Chiefs, who had PFF's second-best defense.
It is also worth noting that Denver's average of 36.5 points per game (including playoffs) is significantly higher than Seattle's (25.7).
In other words, the Seahawks are going to have to find a way to limit Denver's scoring opportunities while creating opportunities of their own—even if the defense does perform at the same high level it has all season.
Fortunately, Seattle appears well-equipped to handle both of these challenges.
While the Seattle offense is clearly not on the same plane as Denver's, the unit has played at a nearly elite level for much of the season. Statistically, the Seahawks had the league's ninth-best scoring offense (26.1 points per game) and third-best rushing offense (136.8 yards per game) during the regular season.
This tells us that Seattle is capable of putting up points at a rate that keeps the team competitive even when the defense surrenders nearly twice its game average in points.
Against the Broncos, however, an ability to score may not be enough. An ability to produce long, sustained drives may be even more important.
Seahawks-Broncos is No. 1 scoring offense vs No. 1 scoring defense, No. 1 total offense vs No. 1 total defense and matchup of No. 1 seeds.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 20, 2014
A strong rushing attack should allow the Seahawks to take care of the football—the team had a plus-20 turnover differential during the regular season—and control the pace of the game. However, they will be going against a Denver run defense that allowed just 101.6 yards per game during the regular season and limited the New England Patriots to 64 net rushing yards in the AFC title game.
This means that overall offensive efficiency will be extremely vital and the Seahawks will need a clean game from quarterback Russell Wilson. The Broncos have punted just twice this postseason, so it is important for Seattle to keep the ball for as long as possible.
Keeping Manning off the field and out of rhythm for long stretches may ultimately give the Seahawks their best chance of keeping pace with Denver offensively and on the scoreboard.
Of course, having the league's top defense isn't going to hurt.