PHOENIX The Seahawks can win their second Super Bowl by being tougher quicker.
And longer. And more persistently.
They can win it by being who they are, and by doing what they do.
No more is necessary, but any less won’t prevail.
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Their face is quarterback Russell Wilson. Their voice is cornerback Richard Sherman.
But beating the New England Patriots will be about their grit and gall and violent nature.
They can win it by handing the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch until the Patriots wither or prove they can stop him.
They can win by having safety Kam Chancellor in place to level a back or receiver with a hit that sends notice to other Patriot backs and receivers.
Chancellor knows the drill, having belted the Denver Broncos Demaryius Thomas early in last year’s Super Bowl, leaving Denver receivers tentative thereafter.
And in the NFC championship game win over Green Bay, the dramatic drives keyed by Wilson and his receivers in the final minutes overshadowed the real cause for the offensive revival: Lynch pummeled the Pack with 120 rushing yards in the second half.
None of this is a secret to New England.
Chancellor is a Seahawks defender that the Patriots “have to account for on every single snap of the game,” according to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s an incredible tackler.”
Sherman thought that Chancellor should have been the MVP of the Super Bowl last season for those hits that raised bruises on the Broncos’ psyche.
“He made impact from the first play to the last play,” Sherman said of Chancellor. “I think he set the tone for the game on the second drive. Once our offense got off the field, we got back on defense, and when he hit Demaryius, he set the tone for the entire game.”
That one can also be set on offense.
Seattle line coach Tom Cable stressed the need to maintain their identity, and dictate to the defense rather than responding to their efforts. And sometimes that takes patience.
“It’s all about finishing,” Cable said. “That’s a process. A lot of teams don’t have the patience to realize that the 2- and 3-yard early runs turn into 4- and 5-yard runs, and then to 6- and 7-yard runs and then explosive runs.”
That process, simply, results in physical erosion.
“Pretty soon,” Cable said, “human beings get tired of being pounded on.”
Guard J.R. Sweezy said the Seahawks see the effects nearly every week when they watch the game videos. Particularly as the game wears on, defenders grow reluctant to take the beating from Lynch’s stiff-arm, lowered shoulders and driving legs.
“Sometimes when you see him get to the second level, guys start thinking about it and they don’t want any part of it,” Sweezy said. “You’ll ask guys on other defenses and they’ll tell you he’s the hardest guy in the league to bring down.”
It wears down the defensive front, too, Cable said of the repeated run blocking. When they get into the second half, the linemen are less resolute at the point of contact.
“And then the linebackers and (defensive backs) come up to make shots at Marshawn and you see them start to kind of turn their shoulders away, and that’s when we think ‘OK, we got ’em.’ ”
The aggressiveness and hard hits create turnover opportunities, and that’s perhaps the best yardstick for these teams’ success. It helped the Seahawks get up early on the Broncos last season, and it’s how Seattle and New England have prospered.
In the last three seasons and postseasons, each team is plus-51 in the turnover/takeaway ratio. The next best team is plus-28.
New England coach Bill Belichick on Friday applauded the Seahawks’ relentless competitiveness.
“The thing that impresses me the most … is just the way (coach Pete Carroll’s) teams play 60 minutes from the opening kickoff to the final gun ... they play extremely hard down after down, week after week, year after year. They compete at a high level every single second they’re out there.”
That’s who they are. And it’s what they have to do to the Patriots.
Because human beings get tired of being pounded on.