Up next: Denver Broncos

Posted Jan 21, 2014

This season’s Super Bowl will feature the NFL’s most-prolific offense (Broncos) and the league’s stingiest defense (Seahawks), and be played in the elements at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

A look at the Seahawks’ opponent in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos:

When: Sunday, Feb. 2, 3:30 p.m. PT, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Record: 13-3 during the regular season to win the AFC West and secure the conference’s No. 1 seed in the postseason.

Postseason: Beat the San Diego Chargers 24-17 in the divisional round; beat the New England Patriots 26-16 in the AFC Championship game.

Where they rank: No. 1 on offense (15th rushing, 1st passing) and No. 19 on defense (7th rushing, 27th passing) during the regular season

TV: FOX (Q13), with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews

Radio: 710 ESPN and 97.3 KIRO FM, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Series: Broncos lead 34-18 in the regular season, including a 31-14 victory in the last meeting on Sept. 19, 2010; Seahawks won the only meeting in the postseason, 31-7 in a 1983 wild-card game – the first playoff game in franchise history.

Star power: Peyton Manning. Is there anyone in the NFL that shined any brighter this season? As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it Monday, “Nobody has ever taken more command of the game than he has, at this stage of his career.” It starts with Manning’s pre-snap routine, which has made Omaha famous as he waves his arms, and points in several directions; flaps his arms, and points some more; steps toward the line, only to retreat; and repeats “Omaha. Omaha” while doing it. But it’s what happens after the ball is snapped that has made Manning famous. This season, he broke the NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55), while completing 68 percent of his passes (450 of 659) and fashioning a 115.1 passer rating. He also had a 112.7 passer rating in the fourth quarter and a 101.8 passer rating on third downs, making him the only QB in the league with a 100-plus rating in all three categories. Then there’s the fact that he had four receivers catch at least 10 TD passes during the regular season – Demaryius Thomas (14), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10). Carroll labeled that situation “crazy.” Also crazy: When Manning threw his first NFL pass in 1998 for the Indianapolis Colts, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was 9 and Carroll was in his second season as coach of the New England Patriots.

Unsung hero: Danny Trevathan. The Broncos also play defense. In fact, they have allowed the fewest average rushing yards (64.5) during the postseason in their wins over the Chargers, who averaged 122.8 during the regular season; and Patriots, who were coming off a 234-yard rushing performance against the Colts in their divisional playoff game. And Trevathan, the weak-side linebacker who was a sixth-round draft choice in 2012, not only led the Broncos with 129 tackles during the regular season, his 88 solo tackles were four more than the total by second-leading tackler Wesley Woodyard, the middle linebacker.   

On the spot: Demaryius Thomas. Say what? The 6-foot-3, 229-pound wide-out has had his way with cornerbacks all season, catching 92 passes for 1,430 yards and those aforementioned 14 touchdowns. But Thomas has not faced a cornerback with the lengthy, athleticism and ability to get into opponents’ heads like Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ two-time All-Pro corner. As Broncos coach John Fox put it on Monday when asked about Sherman, “First off, he’s a just a wealth of talent. He is big, physical, strong, fast – all the things you look for athletically.” In the Broncos’ 15 victories, including a seven-catch, 134-yard effort in the AFC Championship game, Thomas averaged 6.3 catches. In their three losses, he caught four passes in each game. On Feb. 2, it will be the best receiver on the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense versus the best corner on the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.

Burning question: Offense? Or defense? That is the question. The Broncos scored more points than any team in the league (606) during the regular season, with Manning throwing the ball here, there and seemingly everywhere and Knowshon Moreno also running for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs. The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the league (231) during the regular season and then held the Saints to 15 points and the 49ers to 17 in the postseason. So, offense? Or defense? “That statement that defense wins championships has been out there for a long time,” Carroll said. “I don’t know that it ever went away. We’ll find out.”

Numbers to know: 0, sacks allowed by the Broncos in two playoff games. … 30, points allowed by the Broncos in the fourth quarters of their two playoff games. … 3, points allowed by the Broncos in the first three quarters combined of their two playoff games. … 6, third-down receptions by Julius Thomas, the Broncos’ tight end, to lead all receivers in the postseason. … 13, games in which the Broncos scored 30-plus points during the regular season, including at least 50 three times. … 2, games in which the Broncos have scored fewer than 27 points in the postseason.

Familiar faces: Backup C Steve Vallos played for the Seahawks in 2008-09. QB coach Greg Knapp was the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator in 2009. Defensive quality control coach Chris Beake was an assistant coach with the Seahawks in 2008-09. Pro scouting coordinator A.J. Durso worked for the Seahawks from 2005-09.    

The last word: “We’ve got to be prepared for this. This is a powerhouse. Their defense is live, their offense is live. They can get going anytime. We’ve got to prepare for everything. It’s going to be a good Super Bowl.” – Broncos LB Danny Trevathan