Why Seattle will win: Defense, run game
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In the midst of being reclusive for most of the week leading up to his first Super Bowl, Marshawn Lynch spoke a truth about his Seattle Seahawks.
What they might lack with a roster void of Super Bowl experience, they make up for with an attitude and approach that Pete Carroll has instilled from the moment he landed in Seattle.
"I stay ready," Lynch said. "So there ain't no getting ready."
If there is an overbearing quality Carroll has produced in his four seasons in charge of the Seahawks it's a continuous trend of always being competitive. They don't get blown out. They don't get overwhelmed. They don't succumb in the moment. They treat each week as an individual, singular event.
The Seahawks are trained to operate in this manner and it's why even against Peyton Manning, even against the most prolific, pass-happy offense in NFL history, Carroll's team will not be astounded by what they walk into tonight at MetLife Stadium.
"You don't see nervousness in guys' eyes," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "You don't see guys acting any different than they would on any other day or any other week of the season. They're going out there and following the same routine as they have all season long. You just get the sense that guys are comfortable in the situation and comfortable in the moment because you don't really think about the moment."
Seattle's been on this stage once before, eight years ago with a completely different style of team that was unable to match the physicality of Pittsburgh.
Thing is, this version of the Seahawks look awfully familiar to that Steelers team.
Ben Roethlisberger was in his second season as the Steelers' quarterback, just like Russell Wilson is with Seattle. Roethlisberger was less of a passer at that time because the Steelers had a running game led by Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis that was in the top five in the NFL during the regular season. The Steelers also had a defense that was No. 4 in the league during the regular season.
It might be a painful comparison for Seattle fans, but the similarities are notable.
Wilson can win the game with his arm if needed but Lynch and the running game is always Seattle's priority. The Seahawks defense was the best in the NFL in scoring, total yards allowed and turnovers forced. They are unlike anything Manning and the Broncos have seen this season. Denver faced only two teams all season with total defenses that finished ranked in the top 10 when the regular season concluded.
"This is something that we've been looking forward to. Us being the No. 1 defense, them being the No. 1 offense, I think it's fitting," Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "It's our time to prove why we're the No. 1 defense."
Also not to be overlooked it Seattle red zone defense that was the best in the NFL. It's inevitable that Manning will move Denver's offense. He's one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history because he's been able to find quick solutions to problems defenses present.
But those drives that he converted into 55 touchdown passes during the regular season will be far more difficult to achieve against the Seahawks. The Seahawks allowed 36 red zone drives during the regular season and touchdowns on only 13 of those possessions. The 132 red-zone points allowed by Seattle is the fewest by any team since 2006.
"They pretty much just line up, and say, 'Hey we are better than you, and we're going to beat you,'" Denver wide receiver Wes Welker said. "They do a great job (in different) situations, and getting pressure on the quarterback."
That is where this game will be won. The Denver defense Wilson and Lynch will face is not on the same scale as the problems San Francisco posed in the NFC championship game and that's without mentioning the availability of Percy Harvin and what that could add to Seattle's offense.
Meanwhile it's unrealistic to think Seattle will be able to stop Manning. Thinking otherwise is foolish. But while Manning will be able to lead some drives, Seattle's defense inside the 20 is suffocating. They will force Denver to settle for field goals.
Ultimately, the strength of the Seahawks is greater than the strength of the Broncos:
PREDICTION: Seahawks 27, Broncos 22