JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Now this is a Super Bowl.
It’s not just a super event featuring the teams fortunate enough to survive the NFL’s grueling five-month slugfest. It’s not just a game you will watch because the league can put Roman numerals behind any competition at this time of year and draw a television audience of more than 100 million. It’s not just a reason to throw a party and consume 5,000 calories in four hours.
For a change, the matchup is worthy of the hype.
The Seahawks and Denver Broncos are true dominant teams with dissimilar styles. It’s the league’s best defense (Seattle) against its best offense (Denver). And for only the second time in 20 years, the No. 1 seeds in each conference have made it to the big game.
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In a league legislated for parity, the Seahawks and Broncos — old AFC West rivals — have been atop the NFL virtually all season, peeking each other’s way from afar, all but expecting they would play for the Lombardi Trophy. Denver led the NFL in point differential during the regular season, scoring 207 more points than its opponents. Seattle was second, at plus-186.
Forget what the oddsmakers say. There is no underdog in this game.
“We’re up against it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “But we’ll see how this matchup goes. They have to play us, too.”
The Seahawks and Broncos are as different as it gets, but they’re similar in how they carry themselves. Both teams have the air of a winner. There are no wide eyes. There are no declarations that they must play the game of their lives to win. Both expected to be here, and both believe they merely need to transfer their level of play to this stage, not elevate their game.
And the teams have a healthy respect for each other.
“It’s an extraordinary challenge — historically, it’s as tough as it gets,” Carroll said of playing against Denver’s high-powered offense.
The Broncos averaged 37.9 points this season, setting a season scoring record with 606 points, the NFL’s first team to break 600. Their legendary quarterback, Peyton Manning, established records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55). Even in a pass-happy sport currently obsessed with scoring, Denver’s numbers are stunning.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. “They’re an unbelievable, record-setting offense with a Hall of Fame quarterback. That’s as tough a game as you can get in the Super Bowl. The No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense — it doesn’t happen like this too often, both No. 1 seeds making it. It’s a testament to the hard work of both teams, and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic game.”
The Seahawks’ defensive resume is quite impressive, too. They became the first team since the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears to lead the NFL in the three most important defensive categories: scoring (14.4 points per game allowed), total defense (273.6 yards per game) and takeaways (39).
Denver accepts the Seahawks’ praise for its offense and reciprocates when talking about the Seattle defense.
“They are as good as advertised,” Manning said. “It’s probably one of the more impressive teams in how well they play together as a unit. You see them communicating out there on the field — safeties talking with each other, linebackers talking to corners. That’s not always true of every single defense. That’s a big part of their success. And then you combine that with just a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball.”
This Super Bowl will provide an answer, at least for now, to the age-old question of whether it’s better to build a team around offense or defense. It’s only the fifth time since the AFL/NFL merger that the league’s No. 1 scoring offense has played its No. 1 scoring defense in the Super Bowl. The defensive team has won three of the previous four matchups.
It’s also just the second time since the merger that the league’s No. 1 team in yards gained has played its No. 1 team in fewest yards allowed. The only other time that occurred was Super Bowl XXXVII, when defense-centric Tampa Bay crushed Oakland, 48-21.
“For the fans, I think it’s an incredible matchup,” Denver coach John Fox said.
For the teams, it’s an incredible headache preparing for this one.
Finally, we have a Super Bowl that you can’t overhype.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JerryBrewer