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Super #HawksMailbag: Seahawks defense vs Broncos offense the talk of #SB48

Posted Jan 27, 2014

Answering your Super Bowl XLVIII Twitter questions about the club from the Seahawks team hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Welcome to a special Super Bowl edition of our #HawksMailbag here on Seahawks.com, our weekly feature where we answer your Twitter questions about the club.

Sunday's big game features the NFC's first-seeded Seattle Seahawks against the AFC's first-seeded Denver Broncos in an on-the-field battle between the League's top defense (Seahawks) and offense (Broncos).

Several of your questions were concerned with breaking down these No. 1 seeds and units, so let's get down to it.

"You have to beat the best, to be the best."

That quote comes from cornerback Richard Sherman, and that mentality trickles from Sherman and the secondary down to the defense's front seven. Sunday's Super Bowl pits the No.1-ranked passing offense against the No. 1-ranked passing defense. Something's got to give.

Sherman likens Broncos field general Peyton Manning to an offensive coordinator at the quarterback position. He's able to approach the line of scrimmage, read the defense, adjust accordingly, utter a couple "Omahas" and execute.

Five Denver receivers caught 10 or more touchdown passes this season. The Broncos have punted just once in their last three games combined. Manning has not been sacked in the postseason. That's quite the resume for this Denver squad.

History is on the Seahawks' side, sort of. They'll be the 16th team to lead the League in fewest points allowed to appear in a Super Bowl, the previous 15 of which went 12-3. And since 1970, the team with the better ranked defense is 28-15 in the big game, but just 1-6 since 2006. The Seahawks will be looking to buck that last trend this February and prove that defense does indeed still win championships.

It's possible. Quarterback Russell Wilson passed for more than 200 yards in the NFC Championship win over the San Francisco 49ers for the first time since the team's December shutout of the New York Giants. But he's averaged just 167.2 passing yards over his last six games.

Part of the reason why is that six of Seattle's last seven opponents have ranked in the Top 10 on defense, a category where the Denver Broncos finished 19th in the League. That means Super Bowl XLVIII with mark the lowest-ranked defense the Seahawks will have faced since their early November meeting with the Minnesota Vikings - a game the Seahawks won 41-20.

Wilson does feel "due" for big game with his arm, but that's not how this offense operates. They're not going to ask Wilson to throw the ball all over the yard. They're going to use the same formula that's cemented their place in the Super Bowl - run the ball, play good defense, solid special teams, and aim to win the turnover battle while limiting and executing explosive plays down field.

It all starts with stopping the run. That's priority number one for coach Pete Carroll. It even comes before getting after and taking care of the football, which we know all too well has been essential to the Seahawks' success this season, with the club finishing with an NFL-high plus-28 turnover differential.

While the focus has been on a certain 6-foot-5, laser-rocket-armed quarterback who passed for an NFL-record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns this year, believe it or not, the Broncos running game played an important role in the team's historic passing attack.

Denver likes to feed former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno early and often to open up their air attack. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in the regular season (1,038) and rushed for 10 touchdowns. Moreno suffered a rib injury in last week's AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, but he's been a limited participant in practice since, which bodes well for Sunday's game. Expect the Seahawks to key in on Moreno and No. 2 back Montee Ball as they look to slow down the Broncos high-octane offense.

Wide receiver Percy Harvin is clearly capable of making electric plays with the ball in his hands. We've seen that in both games he's played in Seahawks blue and green, hauling in a pair of acrobatic catches, bursting up the sideline for a sizable rush, and ripping off a 58-yard kick return. But it's his actions without the ball that are equally game-changing.

His mere presence in the slot, on the outside or back deep awaiting the opposing kick alters how the other team operates. We've seen opponents slide coverage to Harvin's side of the field, opening up opportunities for fellow wideout Doug Baldwin to battle one-on-one with his defender. We've also seen opponents pooch their kicks to the second- or third-level of Seattle's return team, not wanting any part of Harvin with the football in his hands.

Those are the known problems Harvin can cause. And it's the unknowns that may be even more of a concern for Broncos game-planners. There's so little film of Harvin in Seattle's offense this season that it's difficult to know exactly what to expect.

Communication between defensive coaches and players will be key.

That's the word from Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who says getting calls in quickly to the defensive huddle will be a priority when Peyton Manning and the Broncos operate in "hurry-up" mode. Quinn said the no-huddle offense wouldn't necessarily force matchups problems with Broncos skill players, expressing confidence in his unit to play their same fast and physical brand of football.

That entire group appears ready to go. Wide receiver Percy Harvin was a full participant all of last week. To add more optimism to Harvin's situation, coach Pete Carroll said he practiced again during the team's "Bonus Monday" session at the New York Giants' Quest Diagnostics Training Center, where the club worked out indoors.

Carroll has said wide receiver Doug Baldwin (hip), running back Marshawn Lynch (knee), linebacker K.J. Wright (foot), and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (ankle) should all be fine for gameday if they don't suffer any unexpected setbacks during the week.

At this point, I wouldn't count on it. Coach Pete Carroll has been consistent in his messaging on running back Christine Michael, noting he hasn't been able to fully grasp the team's zone-blocking scheme in his first year. Couple that with the fact that second-year back Robert Turbin has put together a solid season behind the team's "Beast Mode" back Marshawn Lynch, and Michael's play time looks to be limited until at least next season.

General manager John Schneider met with the media last Friday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center and reinforced Carroll's thoughts, saying this past year's draft had an eye toward 2014.

"The way I view it is it’s more about looking toward next year with these guys," Schneider said of the Seahawks 2013 draft class. "And I think they would all tell you they’re extremely excited about next year.”

The 53-man active roster and the eight-man practice squad all made the trip to Super Bowl XLVIII aboard the team plane.

Well, if you've seen cornerback Richard Sherman's "Beats By Dre" headphones commercial, you know he has "The Man" by Aloe Blacc on deck.

Other than that, the locker room is often infused with several Oakland-inspired hip-hop hymns courtesy of running back Marshawn Lynch. And the practice field is a constant mix of classic rock, hip-hop and dance-party house to keep the energy high.

In my opinion? Absolutely it would be, and by a good margin. The only other championship a Seattle team has won in the four "major sports" (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) came in 1979 by a team that unfortunately is no longer with us, the Seattle SuperSonics. That banner came before my time, so in my mind - and I'm sure countless others - a Seattle Super Bowl victory would be one for the record books.

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