Column: RICK SOLEM
Peyton Manning this, Seattle defense that, when you’re from the Midwest, it really doesn’t matter.
What matters heading into Super Bowl XLVIII is the spread. The drinks. The food. The company.
Some Wisconsin diehards will root for Seattle QB Russell Wilson or Denver RB Montee Ball, but when it’s all said and done, all anyone wants is one last chicken wing before heading home after having watched something that resembles a competitive game with a lot of scoring.
That’s not going to happen.
A lot of people are predicting that this could be one of the best Super Bowls ever. Those people are football experts, and when it comes to the audience watching this game, the only way the general public views this as one of the best ever is if it’s high scoring and someone has a chance at the end.
Everyone watches this game – mostly to talk about the commercials the next day - and anyone with a general knowledge of football probably see it as Manning’s to lose. The weather will be nice, so there won’t be the excuse that his balls have no movement in the cold. He’s had two weeks to study this vaunted Seattle defense’s strengths and weaknesses.
The only problem there, so has Wilson, who isn’t in the same league as Manning when it comes to experience and what to look for, but is one of the more heady quarterbacks – and more gifted athletically.
This one won’t be determined by what No. 18 does for Denver. It will come down to how Denver stops No. 3 for Seattle. How the Broncos contain that 5-foot-11, 205-pound shifty quarterback, Wilson.
It won’t be his arm but the running game will be the key to Seattle’s victory. Wilson’s legs combined with the power of 215-pound Marshawn Lynch.
The Broncos are the No.-1 rated defense against the run, not just because everyone has to pass to keep up, but because of 6-foot-4, 340-pound defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. But it’s hard to see Denver stopping both Lynch and Wilson.
So far, these playoffs, the Broncos have handled the run. So far these playoffs, the Broncos had to play New England’s LeGarrette Blount (250 pounds) and San Diego’s combination of Danny Woodhead (200) and Ryan Matthews (220). And no quarterback with Wilson’s running ability.
Denver is tops against the run but hasn’t really faced many dominant backs or the combination of talent that is Lynch and a shifty quarterback. Just go look at its schedule. Houston was down to a third-string RB. San Diego actually got 127 yards out of Matthews in Week 15. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson is talented – but not in the same way Lynch is built – and Ryan Fitzpatrick was the quarterback. Jamaal Charles was highly successful, even as the Kansas City had to play catch up in both contests.
If it’s a shootout, Denver will have the advantage, but Seattle can’t abandon the run. The Broncos did face Robert Griffin III, but before he got back to utilizing his legs. The closest comparison that Denver has faced in a running QB like Wilson – as funny as this seems – is Indianapolis’ 6-4, 239-pound Andrew Luck. He’s someone you don’t think about as a runner, but he certainly is, and he had four carries for 29 yards and a touchdown in a 39-30 win, in which his team controlled as Denver played catch up.
While everyone sees this one as Manning stamping his legacy, it may just be Wilson that’s starting to write the letter that is his legacy.
In the end, the experts may say this was one of the best Super Bowls ever, the non-football fans that flock to watch – mainly for the commercials – will have forgotten about the game on the car ride home as Seattle will pull out a 24-16 win.