Countdown To Super Bowl XLIX: Seahawks vs Patriots

It’s finally here: Super Bowl XLIX. And the teams that will square off at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday have been in the NFL’s biggest game before – the Seahawks just last year and the Patriots seven times, but they’re back for the first time since after the 2007 season.

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GLENDALE, Ariz.** – Super Sunday greetings from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Seahawks are about to attempt to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the team they're playing – the New England Patriots, who did it after the 2003 and 2004 NFL seasons.

After two weeks of hype and hoopla, and hashing and rehashing every possible storyline in a matchup overflowing with them, it's almost time for the teams to decide things on the field in Super Bowl XLIX.

'Deflategate' and "I'm just here so I don't get fined." One quarterback, Tom Brady, who already has defined his legacy; against another who is just getting started in Russell Wilson. All that defense that the Seahawks will throw at the Patriots versus all that offense that the Patriots will throw at the Seahawks. How will the Seahawks contain All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in one corner, how will the Patriots control All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch in the other corner. The two best cornerbacks in the league – All-Pros Richard Sherman of the Seahawks and Darrelle Revis of the Patriots, and their contrasting styles – leading two of the best defensive backfields in the game against two groups of underrated wide receivers. Sherman's elbow injury, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas' shoulder injury and the knee that All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor tweaked in Friday's practice trumping the concerns about Brady's cold.

And two proven winners in the biggest of games and their polar-opposite demeanor on each sideline in the Seahawks' Pete Carroll and the Patriots' Bill Belichick, who replaced Carroll as the coach in New England.

And this is the matchup that has been anticipated since before training camps opened back in July. The Seahawks and Patriots emerged from the regular season with 12-4 records and as the No. 1 seeds in each conference. Each survived a scare in the postseason – the Seahawks somehow pulling out an overtime victory in the NFC Championship game, despite spotting the Green Bay Packers a 16-0 lead and trailing 19-7 with less than four minutes to play; the Patriots winning their divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens, after rallying from 14-0 and 28-14 deficits.

But none of that matters now.

And leave it to Chancellor to deliver the impact assessment: "We've got to go out there and prove it again – how good this defense is, just how good Russell Wilson is."

That, in 25 words or less, is what this Super matchup in this Super Bowl boils down to. It's time for the Seahawks to prove, one last time this season, just how good they are against a team that is out to do the same.

The Seahawks have not lost since Nov. 16. The Patriots have lost twice since Oct. 5. Each team has continued to find ways to win despite losing players who were so important to them being able to do it. For the Seahawks, that includes nose tackle Brandon Mebane for the past nine games; All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner for five games at midseason; tight end Zach Miller after playing in only three games; center Max Unger for 10 games during the regular season; and nickel back Jeremy Lane for seven games early in the season. The Patriots, meanwhile, lost leading rusher Stevan Ridley and linebacker Jarod Mayo for the season after they played in only six games.

But here these teams are – the two best teams in the NFL – in one last game to decide which team is the best. Who will emerge as the Super team?

We're about to find out, as kickoff and televised coverage on NBC is set for 3:30 p.m. in Seattle, 4:30 here, and 6:30 in New England.

Photos of the pregame comings and goings of Super Bowl 49 in Gelndale, AZ.

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