Super Bowl XLVIII Preview, Part I: Seattle Vs. Denver

Posted on January 28, 2014 by Joe Platania

SEAHAWKS HAVE LEAGUE'S TOP-RANKED DEFENSE

With so much information about the Super Bowl -- the teams, the matchup and the game itself -- we're again breaking this year's preview up into three parts. 

Just as we did last year, we will begin with this year's designated visiting team, the National Football Conference champion Seattle Seahawks.

Later this week, Part Two will break down the American Football Conference champion Denver Broncos, and our third and final part will contain plenty of historical phenomena about the matchup and the game itself, complete with our score prediction at the bottom of that entry. 

This reporter predicted the exact score of Super Bowl XXV (NY Giants 20, Buffalo 19) and has come quite close on at least three other occasions.

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  • What: The 48th Super Bowl (XLVIII), for the championship of the National Football League
  • When: 6:30 p.m. (EST), Sunday, Feb. 2
  • Where: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, N.J. (82,566)
  • Seahawks: 15-3, NFC West champions, No. 1 seed
  • Broncos: 15-3, AFC West champions, No. 1 seed
  • TV: WBFF-TV, Channel 45 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, booth; Erin Andrews, Pam Oliver, sidelines)
  • Radio: WJZ-FM, 105.7 (Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, booth; James Lofton, Mark Malone, sidelines)

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS

(with regular-season league rankings and averages)

  • TOTAL OFFENSE: 17th (339 yards per game)
  • RUSH OFFENSE: fourth (136.8 yards per game)
  • PASS OFFENSE: 26th (202.2 yards per game)
  • SCORING OFFENSE: eighth (26.1 points per game)
  • TOTAL DEFENSE: first (273.6 yards per game allowed)
  • RUSH DEFENSE: seventh (101.6 yards per game allowed)
  • PASS DEFENSE: first (172 yards per game allowed)
  • SCORING DEFENSE: first (14.4 points per game allowed)

- Because the Seahawks are playing in an even-numbered Super Bowl for the second time in as many appearances, they will again be the designated visiting team and wear white jerseys with white pants. They did wear dark jerseys during Super Bowl XL, because the home-team Pittsburgh Steelers chose to wear white; the AFC champion gets jersey choice for even-numbered Super Bowls. The Seahawks' bench will be on the far side of the field (top of the screen for the TV viewer) and their logo will be in the left-side end zone. 

- During Super Bowl week, the Seahawks will be staying at the Westin Hotel in Jersey City, N.J., and practicing at the New York Giants' facility, the Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford near MetLife Field. The practice news that will be distributed throughout all media outlets will come from pool reports from Sports Illustrated's Peter King and the New York Post's Ralph Vacchiano, the only reporters allowed to attend the Seahawks' practices.

- During 38 full seasons of existence, the Seahawks have made 13 postseason appearances -- three out of the last four years -- and have won eight division championships. Seattle has made three conference championship game appearances, winning two of them.

- Seattle is the only team in the NFL's post-merger history to have switched conferences twice. It began its existence in the NFC West in 1976, moved to the AFC West the following year (where it stayed until 2001), then returned to the NFC West after the 2002 leaguewide realignment.

- The Seahawks advanced to this year's Super Bowl after being the conference's top seed for the first time in team history, earning a first-round bye in the process. The team has been a No. 3 seed on two occasions and a fourth seed on three others, mostly during its quarter-century stay in the AFC.

- Since Seattle last appeared in the Super Bowl, which happened eight years ago, seven different NFC teams have represented the conference during the title game, with only the New York Giants appearing twice. Baltimore stopped the NFC's three-game Super Bowl winning streak last year, but teams currently in that conference -- taking into account the four pre-merger Super Bowls, held before the conferences took their current form -- still hold an overall 24-23 lead.

- There are no Seahawk active-roster players on the current squad that appeared in Super Bowl XL, during which the team fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-10, at Detroit's Ford Field. Seattle is the first team since the Buffalo Bills appeared in Super Bowl XXV -- the first of that team's four straight Super Bowl losses -- to appear in the big game without a single player with Super Bowl experience.

- During the regular season, the Seahawks had to play four road games during a five-week stretch in September and October, which is tough enough for a team that already racks up some of the most travel miles in the league. Known for their prowess at their CenturyLink field home, the Seahawks won three of those four road games, falling only at Indianapolis. After its bye week -- the latest on the schedule, falling during Week 12 -- Seattle stumbled to a 3-2 finish, including a rare home loss to division rival Arizona. Seattle played the AFC South and NFC South this year, which meant five of its games started at 10 a.m. Pacific time; the team still went 4-1 during those games.

- Seattle posted its best regular-season record in team history (13-3) thanks in part to a plus-20 turnover ratio, bolstered by a league-high 28 interceptions by 10 different players; the postseason ratio is plus-3. The team's time of possession average was 30:32 per game, 14th in the league, and it converted 37.3 percent of its third downs, 17th in the NFL. In the red zone, the Seahawks scored touchdowns 53.23 percent of the time, tied with Philadelphia for 13th best in the league. Seattle scored 4.2 first-quarter points per game, tied with St. Louis for 20th most.

- In the red zone, the Seahawks were the league's second-best defense, allowing touchdowns 39 percent of the time; only Detroit was better. The team allowed third-down conversions 37.3 percent of the time, 10th best leaguewide. 

- The Seahawks were the NFL's most penalized team in 2013, getting flagged for 128 accepted infractions, a regular-season average of nearly eight per game, and a league-high 1,183 yards. Defensive end Michael Bennett and quarterback Russell Wilson are the team's co-leaders with 10 penalties each. Cornerback Richard Sherman has been flagged five times for pass interference; the Seahawks' 13 interference calls co-led the league with Philadelphia. Left tackle Russell Okung has four holding calls, and right tackle Breno Giacomini has been called for a false start four times.

- Seattle dropped 13 passes in 2013, according to SportingCharts.com, tied with San Diego for the league's fewest. Receivers Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse were charged with two drops each to lead the team. Part of the reason could be that, with 464 pass plays (including 44 sacks allowed) and 509 rushes, Seattle was one of two NFL teams, along with San Francisco, to run the ball a majority of the time.

- The Seahawks and Broncos, who used to be AFC West intradivision rivals, have met during 52 regular-season games, with Seattle winning 18 of those games, including three times from 1996-2010. They did meet during the postseason once, the 1983 Wild Card Round. Seahawks running back and Penn State grad Curt Warner paced Seattle to a 31-7 home win on their way to the AFC Championship Game.

- Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, 62, is the eighth head coach in the team's history. Throughout his four years with Seattle (including the postseason), he has compiled a record of 42-28. Carroll was formerly the New England Patriots' head coach from 1997-99, beating the Baltimore Ravens during his final game there before heading to the University of Southern California and compiling a 97-19 record with two national championships. Carroll is the fourth coach to lead an NCAA champion and make a Super Bowl appearance, following Barry Switzer (Oklahoma, Dallas Cowboys), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech, San Diego Chargers) and Jimmy Johnson (Miami, Dallas Cowboys).

- Starting quarterback Russell Wilson, 25, will attempt to become the first Super Bowl-winning signal caller to wear the No. 3 on his jersey. The only other quarterback to appear in the big game with that number was Oakland's Daryle Lamonica during Super Bowl II. Wilson is 12 years younger than Denver counterpart Peyton Manning, making for the largest age spread between starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.

- Wilson has completed 58 percent of his postseason passes with one touchdown and no interceptions. During the regular campaign, he completed 63 percent of his throws with 26 touchdowns, nine pickoffs and a passer rating of 101.2. He is the sixth quarterback to start a Super Bowl during his first or second year in the league, following Colin Kaepernick, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino.

- Seventh-year running back Marshawn Lynch, acquired as part of a 2010 trade with Buffalo, has averaged 5 yards per carry during the postseason, scoring three touchdowns. During the regular season, he gained 1,257 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Wilson was second on the team in rushing with 539 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring one touchdown. Ex-Penn State quarterback and San Francisco fullback Michael Robinson is the team's lead blocker.

 - The Seahawks can boast three receivers with five touchdowns each -- starting wideouts Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, and tight end Zach Miller. Tate, also the team's return specialist, led the team with 64 catches with a 14-yard per-catch average. Baldwin had 50 grabs and a 15.6 rate, with Lynch getting 36 touches through the air and Miller garnering 33. Baldwin has been a postseason standout, with eight catches for 136 yards.

- Kearse, a Seattle-area native who played at the University of Washington, had four touchdowns among his 22 catches, and ex-Minnesota receiver Sidney Rice had three scores out of 15 receptions. Another ex-Viking, Percy Harvin, played in two games all season because of head and hip injuries, but he is expected to play in the Super Bowl.

- Right tackle Breno Giacomini is the graybeard of a young offensive line; a former Green Bay practice-squad player, he is in his sixth NFL season. Left tackle Okung, the team's 2010 first-round pick, is in his fourth year. Guards James Carpenter (2011 first round) and J.R. Sweezy are in their third and second seasons, respectively. Center Max Unger, regarded as one of the league's best, is a Hawaii native who played at Oregon. Despite the line's pedigree and strong play in the past, Wilson was sacked 44 times, a high number for a mobile quarterback.

- Defensive coordinator and ex-Salisbury State defensive lineman Dan Quinn has put together a 4-3 unit that rivals the Cincinnati Bengals' for its depth and versatility. The team's two sack leaders, ends Michael Bennett (8.5) and Cliff Avril (eight), are listed as backups on the depth chart. Avril is a former Detroit Lions standout enjoying rare postseason exposure during his sixth NFL season. The starting ends are kick-blocking ace Red Bryant and 10-year man Chris Clemons.

- The team's starting defensive tackles, eight-year veteran Tony McDaniel and 2007 third-round pick Brandon Mebane, weigh a respective 305 and 311 pounds. Former Cincinnati Bengals backup Clinton McDonald is one of the backups in the middle, and he has contributed 5.5 quarterback sacks, the most among Seattle's defensive tackles.

- During the 2012 draft, West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin was seen as a big reach for the Seahawks. But he converted from defensive end and was seventh on the team this year with 31 solo tackles, contributing two sacks as well. Seattle took Utah State's Bobby Wagner during the second round of that same draft; he had a team-high 120 total tackles (72 solo) and contributed five sacks. On the side opposite Irvin is 2011 seventh-rounder Malcolm Smith from Carroll's former USC teams; his 34 solo stops were sixth on the team.

- The hard-hitting, blanket-covering secondary, nicknamed the "Legion of Boom," sports three starters at 6-foot-1 or taller -- cornerbacks Byron Maxwell (6-foot-1) and Richard Sherman (6-foot-3), as well as safety Kam Chancellor (6-foot-3). Safety Earl Thomas, who is the shortest at 5-foot-10, has a team-leading 78 solo tackles; he also snared five interceptions. Sherman's eight pickoffs led the league, and Maxwell and Chancellor combined for seven. Thomas, Wagner, Chancellor and Sherman were a respective first, second, third and fifth on the team in tackles, which is usually not optimum for any team to have its defensive backs ranked so highly.

- Placekicker and former Raven Steven Hauschka -- a waiver pickup from Denver in 2011 -- converted 33 of 35 field-goal tries in 2013, meaning that he had one fewer miss than Baltimore counterpart Justin Tucker. But one of his two misses was from the 20- to 29-yard range. Canada native Jon Ryan (Saskatchewan) is the team's punter, grossing 42.7 yards per punt with five touchbacks and 28 of 74 inside the coffin corner. Ryan, despite getting good hang time, had two punts blocked this year.

- Punt returner and receiver Golden Tate was one of the league's best punt returners, carrying the ball back at an 11.5-yard pace with a long return of 71 yards. Punt coverage allowed a 3.9-yard average and forced 30 fair catches out of Ryan's 74 punts. Ten different players ran back kicks for the Seahawks this year to a 21-yard average; Kearse led the way with 13 returns. Kick coverage allowed runbacks at a 24-yard pace.

- Besides Quinn and his Salisbury connection, other Seattle coaching notables include former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable (offensive line); offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who is frequently mentioned whenever a coaching job opens elsewhere; former Baltimore Stallions linebacker Travis Jones (defensive line); ex-Dallas linebacker Ken Norton Jr. (linebackers); and former Baltimore Stars assistant Carl Smith (quarterbacks). 

- One of the most notable celebrities in the Seattle fan base is the team's owner, Microsoft founder and Seattle native Paul Allen, who purchased the team in 1997. He also owns the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders. As of March 2013, Allen's net worth is $15 billion.

Also See:

Joe Platania is in his 20th season covering professional football.

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