Super Bowl XLVIII Preview: The Denver Broncos

Published: Feb 01, 2014 13:57pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Feb 01, 2014 @ 01:57pm EST

 

For just the fifth time in Super Bowl history, the number one offense will take on the number one defense in a matchup that has the potential to be an all-time classic. Much of the discussion seems to be about Peyton Manning and what will or won’t happen to his legacy if he does or doesn’t guide the Denver Broncos to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. While blanketing football fans with constant coverage of Manning’s legacy and that narrative is gold for clicks on the internet, let’s face it – his legacy is already cemented as, arguably, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history whether he wins another Super Bowl or not.

Historically the highest scoring offenses do not fare well in the Super Bowl. In fact, the eight highest scoring offenses in NFL history have not won it all, and that’s excluding this Denver Broncos team of course. But this Broncos offense isn’t just a high-scoring offense; this Broncos offense is historically good and they have the numbers to back it up. They averaged an NFL record 37.9 points per game and are the only team in history to score more than 600 points in a season. That’s more than just historically good, that’s historically dominant.

Yes, the Broncos are facing a defense that is ranked number one in virtually every defensive category known to man. Yes, the Broncos are going up against some defensive backs in Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor that have size (6’03”), a decent amount of speed, and play very aggressively to the point you could call what they do to opposing receivers assault.

For most teams going up against such size in a defense’s secondary would be pretty brutal, but the Broncos shouldn’t be concerned because they have plenty of their own size to negate any advantage the Seahawks secondary would otherwise have as a result. Wide Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both match the size and physicality of Sherman and Chancellor. Tight Ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme are both taller and more physically imposing than anyone in the Seahawks secondary.

So you see, size is not and should not be a concern for the Broncos offense.

Another aspect of the game in which Peyton Manning and the Broncos should feel pretty comfortable is in pass protection. The Broncos offensive line, even after losing Pro-Bowl caliber Left Tackle Ryan Clady and their top two Centers, allowed just 20 sacks during the regular season. Even when being blitzed, 177 total drop backs in the regular season and playoffs, Manning has only been sacked twice. He does so well at getting rid of the ball quickly that it’s nearly pointless to bring that extra attacker.

Manning has torched opposing defenses when they bring an extra pass rusher to the tune of a 61.5% completion rate and a 105.6 QB rating (including the playoffs). He’s, obviously, even better when he’s not being blitzed and isn’t under any pressure as he’s completed 70.9% of his passes for 52 touchdowns and a 119.4 QB rating. Needless to say, Manning can’t really be stopped and you can barely slow him down.

One strategy might be to hone in on his top receiver but even that would be a flawed way to go up against Manning because he spreads the ball around so well. Here is how he has distributed things among his top four receivers during the regular season:

Demaryius Thomas: 107 catches, 1,618 yards, 16 TDs
Eric Decker: 94, 1,393, 11
Wes Welker: 83, 854, 11
Julian Thomas: 79, 949, 12

Obviously Demaryius Thomas is the number one receiver on this team and the one guy who can make magic happen at any moment, but even if you try (good luck with that) to take him out of the game Manning has three other top receiving options. Furthermore, Demaryius Thomas is too physical of a receiver to be bullied on the field.

Breaking things down even further, the only real tendency Manning does have in the passing game is to attack the middle of the field on short dump routes. Outside of that, the ball is evenly distributed among his set of receivers very evenly and without hesitation.

Naturally much of the focus has been on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos passing offense but they also have a solid run game with Knowshon Moreno and a respectable defense.

Their defense, specifically, is one of the best at stopping the run and for a Seattle Seahawks offense that asks an awful lot of running back Marshawn Lynch to carry much of the load that could be a real issue. Then there is how the Broncos defense chooses to handle quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, Wilson has struggled quite a bit since Week 14 of the regular season and has yet to regain that ‘swagger’ he once had. That’s not to say he doesn’t have confidence in his abilities as a quarterback, but it does appear to be that defenses have finally figured out how to stop him in his tracks.

What we’ve seen of Wilson since that Week 14 game against the San Francisco 49ers is that you can throw various exotic blitz packages at him fairly often, forcing him to dump the ball off short over the middle or behind the line of scrimmage, and he’s prone to turning the ball over or throwing an incompletion. After all, Wilson completes just 44.8% of his passes when throwing under pressure so there’s really no reason not to bring the heat.

What this all adds up to is a classic match-up between the best offense in NFL history versus the number one defense in football, though nowhere near the Baltimore Ravens year 2000 defense, and all signs pointing to Peyton Manning and his offense being able to stay ahead of the Seattle Seahawks dominant defense just enough, en route to a Super Bowl victory. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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