The NFC Championship was a microcosm of what this season has been for the Seahawks offense. A big play here, a few punts there, lots of field goals, and the occasional turnover, yet still a victory at the end of the day. The Broncos defense has had a similar season. They’ve made some plays here and there and held their own through stretches of games. Yet overall, they’re a unit reliant on their team’s productivity on the other side of the ball. However, while it might be the less attractive matchup in Super Bowl XLVIII, if there is a stalemate between the top offense and defense in the league on Sunday, whoever wins between Denver’s D and Seattle’s O could determine the next Super Bowl champion.
The Seahawks ran the ball 52.3% of the time this season, the 2nd-highest rate in the NFL. There are a few reasons for this. Number 1, they have Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is a punishing runner who wears defenses down and has shown plenty of ability to break a big play. Number 2, their defense keeps other teams from scoring. This means the Seahawks can play it safe on offense knowing they don’t have to force the issue and engage in a shootout to beat their opponent. Number 3, their receiving corps just isn’t that great.
Seahawks receivers have struggled all season to create separation. They don’t win consistently, run great routes, or have the physical ability to dominate opponents. Simply put, they are they weakest unit on the entire Seahawks team.
Seattle’s passing game has had the propensity for the occasional big play this season, but that has largely been on the strength of Russell Wilson’s improvisational ability. Many of the great plays he makes, which are random in nature, do not lead to consistency, which explains why the Seahawks passing attack has been sporadic all season. Overall, it lacks sustainable qualities.
But the Seahawks do not generally have to win games through the air. Because they have the best defense in the league, punting is not a bad thing. They don’t need to score 30 points to come out on top. Instead, they can hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch, let him grind down the opponent and eat up clock, while the defense takes care of business on the other side of the ball.
Denver’s best course of action would be to sell out to stop Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos match up well with Seattle’s passing game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey have the advantage over Seahawks receivers. While Percy Harvin is certainly a wild card who can add some much needed explosiveness to Seattle’s passing game, the Broncos would be wise to force Russell Wilson to have to win this game through the air.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, must do everything they can to keep Denver off balance. They must mix in play-action with designed shots downfield to create big plays off the Broncos’ desire to stop the run. They must make it difficult for Denver to take away their rushing attack.
Obviously, Terrance Knighton has to be neutralized. It would be difficult to imagine anyone on the Seahawks offensive line handling Knighton one-on-one. The big question is, with Knighton probably facing countless double-teams, how much will that prevent blockers from getting to the second level? If Knighton can control the line of scrimmage, his linebackers behind him will be able to shoot up into open running lanes unblocked. This would make it difficult for Seattle’s ground game to get going.
Ultimately, if the Broncos can’t stop Marshawn Lynch, they will not win this game. They know it and Seattle knows it. With that being the case, the odds are that they’ll sell out to stop the run. That could very well leave the game in the hands of the Seahawks passing game.