For the first time in three years the Super Bowl doesn’t have the Seahawks in it.
Unless you want to include the mayor proclaiming Friday “Beast Mode Day” for Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch in Oakland part of Super Bowl 50. Lynch’s hometown is across San Francisco Bay from Sunday’s title game between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos in Santa Clara, California.
Or if you count this, which came from Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday:
No one is counting Ryan Murphy. The Broncos sent their rookie safety, Seattle’s seventh-round draft choice last May out of Oregon State, home from the Super Bowl. This week Santa Clara County sheriff deputies detained then released him as part of a prostitution sting in north San Jose, near the Broncos’ team hotel.
Sunday’s game should come down to Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Denver’s zooming, lethal pass rush against quarterback and likely league MVP Cam Newton throwing behind Carolina’s season-long stonewalling of attacking defenses. Miller, the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft right behind Newton, had 2 1/2 sacks in the AFC title game, when Denver hit Tom Brady a remarkable 20 times.
Tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers were supposed to be the weaknesses of the Panthers’ offensive line. But they -- with the help of two tight-end formations and maximum-protection schemes -- frustrated Seahawks’ premier pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in the divisional playoff game last month. That -- and, oh yeah, those two interceptions Russell Wilson threw in Seattle’s end -- were large reasons why Carolina led 31-0 by halftime on Jan. 17. After that game the Seahawks’ defense kept talking about all the max protection the Panthers used.
They used the same schemes with tight ends and backs “chipping” to help to stymie Arizona’s constant, flying blitzes in the NFC championship game the following week, too. The Panthers have allowed more than two sacks in just four of its 18 games this season, noteworthy with how much Newton extends plays and scrambles outside those supposedly weaker tackles.
That’s the key to Super Bowl 50: Can the Panthers’ protection of Newton again be as stellar as it has been while they’ve led the league in scoring and won 17 of 18 games this regular and postseason? Or will Miller’s and Ware’s speed off the edges plus the blitzing from Denver’s No. 1-ranked defense led by aggressive, veteran coordinator Wade Phillips do what they did to Brady and finally get through Newton’s fortress of protection?
I say no, they can’t and won’t. Newton enjoys the same time to throw that’s made him an MVP this season. Most of his throws will go to big-time tight end Greg Olsen, who is primed for a monster game of catches in the holes behind all those blitzes and attempts by the Broncos to get to Newton. And the Panthers win their first Super Bowl championship.
Call it 23-17, dropping Denver to 2-6 all-time in the biggest game -- and sending quarterback Peyton Manning, closing in on 40 years old, likely into retirement to end a legendary career.
By the way, for what it’s worth -- and for entertainment purposes only(!) -- I came across from espn.com that teams wearing white jerseys have won 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls. That includes the Seahawks in their rout of Denver in Super Bowl 48 two years ago.
Denver is the designated home team for Sunday’s game, but has chosen to wear white. The Broncos are 0-4 in Super Bowls when they wear orange.
Enjoy America’s unofficial national holiday on Sunday.