PHOENIX** – A look at the Seahawks' Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots, including five matchups that could impact the outcome:
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. PT, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
How they got here
The Seahawks went 12-4 in the regular season to win the NFC West and clinch the conference's top seed in the playoffs, where they beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 in the divisional round and overcame a 16-0 deficit to beat the Green Bay 28-22 in overtime in the NFC Championship game; the Patriots also went 12-4 in the regular season to win the AFC East and clinch the conference's top seed in the playoffs, where they beat the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 in the divisional round and the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship game.
NBC (channel 5 in Seattle), with Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Michele Tafoya (sideline).
710 ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 93.7 KIRO, with Steve Raible (play-by-play), Warren Moon (analyst) and Jen Mueller (sideline).
The Patriots' defense vs. Seahawks' running back Marshawn Lynch: After a week of saying little in mandatory media sessions, the Seahawks' Beast Mode back is ready to do his talking on the field. And when it comes to running the ball and finding the end zone, Lynch was eloquent and effusive this season. He ran for 1,306 yards during the regular season, including a career-long 79-yard touchdown run in the stadium where Sunday's game will be played. Lynch then added a career-high 157-yard rushing performance in the NFC Championship game. He also had career-bests in rushing (13) and receiving (four) touchdowns in leading the league with 17 during the regular season. In the postseason, he is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. And that's why containing him in Super Bowl XLIX will fall to the entire Patriots' defense, because one defender cannot bring Lynch down. And the Patriots did allow seven teams to rush for 100-plus yards during the regular season, including 218 to the New York Jets and 207 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
One to watch
eahawks' strong safety Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski: As we examined this week, containing Gronk is not a one-player task – not even for a player as impactful as Chancellor. But the Seahawks' All-Pro strong safety has made a habit of delivering tempo-setting hits. Just ask Denver Broncos' wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was introduced to Chancellor early in last year's Super Bowl. The Seahawks need an encore introduction on Sunday, just to let Gronkowski know he's in for a long game and leave him wondering where Chancellor might be lurking on any given play. Gronkowski caught 82 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and has added 10 catches for 136 yards and two more scores in the postseason. As Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll put it this week, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski is capable of taking over the game. The Seahawks can't allow that to happen, and Chancellor needs to have an impact in making sure he doesn't.
Fun to watch
Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman vs. Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady: It's been almost three years since Sherman inquired, "You mad, Bro?" after the Seahawks beat Brady and the Patriots in Week 6 of the 2012 season. A lot has changed since that game, including Sherman becoming not only the best but the most-productive cover corner in the league. The Seahawks have led the NFL in average passing yards the past two seasons, and this season three members of their Legion of Boom secondary were voted All-Pro – Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas as first-teamers, for the third consecutive season; and Chancellor as a second-teamer for the second season in a row. Some things, however, haven't changed. Brady remains one of the most productive and clutch performers in the league. He will test Sherman, unlike some other QBs this season. And Sherman needs to make him pay, as he did with an interception in the 2012 game.
One tough task
Seahawks' center Max Unger vs. Patriots' defensive tackle Vince Wilfork: The 6-2, listed-at-325-pound Wilfork isn't just a mountain of man, he obviously has some super hero powers, as he recently used one hand to rescue a woman from her overturned SUV. Unger needs to keep all of that in check to get Lynch through the line and to the linebacker level in the running game, and prevent Wilfork from collapsing the pocket in the passing game. When healthy, Unger is one of the best centers in the league, if not the best. His understanding of what the Seahawks are trying to do in the running game and the passing game helps those around him do their jobs better. This likely will be a battle of attrition, and that's where Unger's combination of tenacity and technique should come into play.
Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson vs. the moment: At the age of 26 and in only his third season, Wilson has a chance to win his second Super Bowl. As he has said all week, his goal always has been to win multiple Super Bowls. But even Wilson admits he didn't expect the opportunity to present itself this early in career. To do it, he'll have to beat Brady. Again. Wilson is 10-0 against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, and there's probably not a better indication of how he is capable of rising to the occasion than that. And if there is, it's what he did in rallying the Seahawks to their overtime victory against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. After throwing a career-high four interceptions, Wilson made the throws at the end of regulation and in overtime to put himself and his team in position to make a historic statement on Sunday.
The Seahawks have an eight-game winning streak and also have won 11 of their past 12. … The Patriots have won 12 of their past 14 games. … This is the Patriots' eighth Super Bowl appearance, tying them for the most with the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. … This is the second season in a row that the top-seeded teams in each conference have advanced to the Super Bowl, but only the 11th time it has happened since playoff seeding was introduced in 1975. … The Seahawks allowed an average of 6.5 points and only three touchdowns in their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. … LB Jamie Collins led the Patriots with 109 tackles during the regular season and also leads them with 15 in the postseason. … LBs K.J. Wright (107) and Bobby Wagner (104) led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season and Wagner is the leading tackler in the postseason (19). … Wagner averaged 9.1 tackles during the Seahawks' six-game winning streak to close the regular season. … The Seahawks' last loss came against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, and the Chiefs also beat the Patriots in Week 4.