Much of the talk this week has been about the Seattle secondary matching up with Denver’s receivers.
But when the teams send their other units onto the field, there is another matchup to watch. This crucial matchup is between Broncos defensive back Champ Bailey and Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate.
After 15 years in the league, Bailey is finally making his first Super Bowl appearance. He has only played in five games this season but has a big responsibility on Sunday. Although his size will permit him to cover any of the opposing receivers, expect Bailey to spend most of his time on Tate.
Bailey has made a career of defending and intercepting passes. His ability to stick to receivers and prevent big plays has earned him 12 trips to the NFL Pro Bowl.
Seattle’s passing attack isn’t very threatening, but it is able to play off their running game. Tate finished the regular season as the Seahawks leading receiver. He had the most receptions (64) and yards (898). It is Tate’s big-play ability that will draw the attention of Bailey.
Tate has 12 catches for 20 or more yards. He also finished No. 16 in the NFL in yards after the catch (451).
That is what makes this matchup so crucial. If Bailey can shut down Tate, about a quarter of Seattle’s passing attack becomes a non-factor. Doug Baldwin is the only other Seattle receiver to hit 50 catches and have more than 400 yards.
With the return of Percy Harvin, shutting Tate down becomes more of a necessity for the Broncos. Harvin played in just two games this season, including one in the postseason.
That is how important Tate has been to quarterback Russell Wilson. All of his numbers came without the threat of Harvin lining up on the other side.
If the game on Sunday turns into a passing frenzy, this matchup becomes even more important. There is no telling how Harvin will hold up on the gridiron. Take Tate out of the game and it becomes even more difficult for the Seahawks to be successful offensively.
Both Bailey and Tate are making their first trip to the Super Bowl, and both are looking to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
It should be fun watching these two duke it out for four quarters.