NEW YORK — At some point in the future, President Russell Wilson will look back at the Seahawks’ 34-24 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII as the moment when he realized he had a future in the national spotlight.
His old teammate, Richard Sherman, will recall that the exposure got him on Dancing With The Stars, where his runaway win led to his own late-night talk show and early retirement from football.
Wilson will stack his cabinet with old buddies, most noticeably Earl Thomas, Secretary of Defense.
And his White House press secretary, Marshawn Lynch, will recall how his winning of the Super Bowl MVP award forced him to spend time in front of the nation’s sports media, where he discovered an unexpected love for public speaking.
Here’s how it can happen:
The Broncos will be focused on jamming the line of scrimmage to throttle Lynch, in essence, daring Wilson to beat them.
It becomes obvious that Wilson’s issues on offense down the stretch were the product of playing top defenses. In contrast, Denver’s 27th-ranked pass defense has problems.
The Broncos may be so focused on the danger of Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin that it gives up big gainers to Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Zach Miller.
Harvin has played so sparingly the Broncos may be unprepared for his various deployments. His value could then be greatest as a diversion for Baldwin and Tate, etc.
The Seahawks know there is little chance to shut down Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, but they know how to stop big plays, being the best in the NFL against explosive plays of 20 yards or more. With free safety Thomas serving as a speedy backstop over the top, Manning might be forced to try to nibble away with short gainers.
Although Manning set passer records this season, the Seahawks were easily the best in terms of opponent passer rating at 63.4, allowing one touchdown per game while coming up with a league-high 28 interceptions.
NFL games are won by the team with the turnover advantage; and big games are especially decided by turnovers.
No team in the league is better at this than the Seahawks, who led the NFL with a plus-20 turnover margin. Denver, even with Manning’s spectacular stats, finished the season at an even 0 in turnovers/takeaways.
That indicates a huge and obvious Seattle advantage.
The Hawks’ patented Cliff Avril-Michael Bennett strip-sack pairing, for instance, could strike again for a key early turnover to lead to a short-field score.
The Broncos are likely to try “pick” plays on crossing routes and receiver Wes Welker might then attempt to take out Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. That would result in Welker becoming a bug on Chancellor’s helmet visor.
Getting the lead would allow the Seahawks to put the ball in the hands of Lynch, who has averaged 5 yards per carry in the postseason. And that’s before he worked up a cargo of frustration this week dealing with media obligations.
Games like this are always vulnerable to unforeseen variables, “X” factors. The last time the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl, an unpredictable disparity in penalties created momentum issues for the losing Seahawks.
That could happen again.
Other times, a role player comes up with the unexpected big play. Forced fumbles on special teams by players like Jeremy Lane or Ricardo Lockette could fill that description.
Statistical, history works in Seattle’s favor in some ways. Six previous Super Bowls have pitted the regular season’s No. 1 offense against the No.1 defense, as this Super Bowl does, with Denver dominating the offense and Seattle the defense.
In those six meetings, the better defensive team has won five times.
The Broncos are more experienced, but the Seahawks are young and loose and confident.
They won’t plague Manning as they did his brother Eli (five interceptions when the Giants played Seattle in December at MetLife Stadium). But they’ll get him a couple times.
That will force Denver to become more one-dimensional, which plays into the strength of the Seattle defense.
Seattle’s toughest postseason game will turn out to be the NFC Championship beauty they fought out with San Francisco.
This will be easier, 34-24.