JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The Seahawks’ drive to Super Bowl XLVIII has been fueled by the doubters.
Those who wondered four years ago if Pete Carroll wasn’t simply running away from trouble at USC instead of being a serious threat to guide the Seahawks back to the promised land.
Those who questioned whether Richard Sherman could play cornerback in the NFL, relegating him to a fifth-round pick.
Those who barely batted an eye at the NFL potential of players such as receiver Doug Baldwin (an undrafted free agent), safety Kam Chancellor (a fifth-round pick many figured was better-suited to be a linebacker) and, most famously, quarterback Russell Wilson, whose 5-foot-11 height dropped him to the third round of the 2012 draft.
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And those who still questioned, even when all those disparate parts began to come together near the end of the 2012 season to take the Seahawks to the divisional round of the playoffs. Could Seattle really live up to the 2013 preseason hype?
Now, finally, it’s the ultimate chance for the Seahawks to shut everyone up.
Beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in a game that begins at 3:30 p.m., and the Seahawks will forever have the ultimate football answer to every question — a Super Bowl ring — the first in the franchise’s 38-year history.
As they prepared for the Super Bowl this week in New Jersey, they thought often about the moments when making it here began to become a reality.
Wilson recalled walking off the field after the divisional playoff loss last year in Atlanta and beginning to mentally prepare for 2013.
“Doing all the things it was going to take to have a great offseason,” he said.
Safety Earl Thomas remembered an early-season meeting when the Seahawks decided on a “Leave No Doubt’’ mantra that is never far from their thoughts.
“We are going to outhit every team we play and leave no doubt that we are the best,’’ Thomas said.
But while they readily admit to loving to quiet doubters, they also know a key to succeeding in the caldron that is the Super Bowl is that they never doubted themselves.
At those early-season meetings it was made clear — this was a Super Bowl or bust season.
At one meeting, Wilson told his teammates “Why Not Us?’’ rephrasing the words of his father, Harrison, who often told his son to pursue his biggest dreams with the mantra “Why Not You?’’
“This is what we were supposed to do, in my eyes,’’ Thomas said. “That’s just how I see it. I don’t get too excited about this because I expected it.’’
Or as Carroll, who said he still sees no reason a Super Bowl didn’t happen sooner, said Friday: “We’ve been preparing for this moment for years.’’
“Our language, since the first meeting we had when we arrived, was to get to this point,’’ Carroll said. “It was to talk about the preparation it would take, to be mindfully ready to be available for this opportunity, and to make the most of it when it comes. When this season began, the expectations had really elevated based on the year before. It just set us to the next level of expectation.’’
So, they insist, there won’t be any issue getting caught up in all that is the Super Bowl.
“Just be calm and be us and play with a sense of swagger, but play with a sense of poise, too,’’ Wilson said of Seattle’s emotional game plan for the Super Bowl.
They say the game will be decided by what happens between the lines. Or as Thomas said “football is football.’’
Specifically, can Seattle’s defense, and particularly its Legion of Boom secondary, contain a Denver offense led by Peyton Manning, who threw for an NFL record 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards this season?
Seattle is likely to play a nickel defense as its base, thrusting nickel corner Walter Thurmond into a key role, also putting the onus on its defensive line to at least make life uncomfortable for Manning, even if sacking him often might not happen (Manning was sacked just 18 times during the regular season, and not once in two playoff games).
The Seattle offense, meanwhile, will try to replicate the formula of the two playoff wins, riding the back of Marshawn Lynch (249 yards in victories over the Saints and 49ers) to set up big plays in the passing game.
Wilson hasn’t been spectacular in the playoffs (58.1 percent for 318 yards) but also hasn’t thrown an interception, and against the Broncos will throw to a receiving corps getting a boost from the return of Percy Harvin.
“I think he should be able to contribute in a good way,’’ Carroll said late in the week.
Harvin’s return from a concussion meant every player on Seattle’s 53-man active roster was deemed healthy and ready to go.
So there will be no excuses.
And, the Seahawks are confident, that by the end of the night there will be no doubts.
|Great Super Bowl performances|
|A look at some statistical stars of the past 47 Super Bowls:|
|Tim Smith, Washington (1988)||204 yards||2|
|Marcus Allen, L.A. Raiders (1984)||191 yards||2|
|Kurt Warner, St. Louis (2000)||414 yards||2|
|Joe Montana, San Francisco (1989)||357 yards||2|
|Tom Brady, New England (2004)||354 yards||3|
|Doug Williams, Washington (1988)||340 yards||4|
|Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1989)||215 yards||1|
|Ricky Sanders, Washington (1988)||193 yards||2|
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.