Now Carroll’s Seahawks, owners of the NFL’s best defense this season, will try to stop Manning and the Denver Broncos, who featured the league’s best offense this season, in Super Bowl XLVIII.
This was the matchup that had been anticipated before and during the regular season, and it’s the first matchup of the two No. 1 seeds in the Super Bowl since the New Orleans Saints beat Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in XLIV four years ago.
Manning is 1-1 in Super Bowls, and this is the Broncos’ first appearance since John Elway — now the team’s vice president of operations — walked off into the sunset with back-to-back Super Bowl victories in his swan song.
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The Seahawks’ only other franchise Super Bowl appearance was a 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in XL, in 2006.
We’ll have two weeks to break down the big game in depth, but here are some early storylines that will be crucial to this outstanding matchup.
Manning has won a Super Bowl. Lesser quarterbacks have won two, and even three. But there seems to be this belief among the football masses that Manning needs another title to validate his status as the greatest — or one of the handful of greatest — quarterbacks in league history. It’s ludicrous, but it’s tangible. That said, Manning will have the chance to slay those silly demons against a great team.
Oh yeah, that defense
This is the NFL’s toughest, fiercest defense in a few years at least, and knowing the personalities of this group — namely its “Legion of Boom” secondary, led by Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor — they’ll say they are the best defense of this generation. The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens of recent yore might disagree, but that will only fuel the hype and debate. Beating Manning and this special offense would go a long way toward backing the Seahawks’ claims.
The outdoor elements
Hey, have you heard the Super Bowl is outdoors? And do you know it’s cold in New Jersey? Both are true. The Broncos’ high-flying offense must prove it can not only take on the Seahawks’ defense, but also do so in what could be snow, wind and cold temperatures. Cue the Manning-in-cold-temps statistics. They’re-a-comin’.
Russell Wilson has the chance to turn the tables on the veteran Manning. Wilson has been a crafty pro who has impressed nearly every opponent he has faced with his poise, playmaking ability and athleticism. And like Manning, Wilson is made for the Super Bowl spotlight — these two will be media darlings for the next two weeks with their maturity and comfort in front of the cameras. Will Wilson have a healthy Percy Harvin (concussion)? Once more, Harvin's status will be a big talking point.
John Fox’s return
The story of Broncos head coach John Fox’s health has slipped to the margins as the Broncos have continued to win, but his aortic heart valve replacement surgery was a scary thing that kept him away from the team for more than a month. Ably run by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in the interim, the Broncos went 3-1 and hardly missed a beat. But the Broncos rallied around Fox, who has the chance to win his first Super Bowl in the city where he coached as the New York Giants’ coordinator for five years.
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