Beast Mode. And big plays. That’s what got the Seahawks to the big game for the second time in eight years. RB Marshawn Lynch has been pretty much unstoppable in the playoffs after a late-season slump. He powered his way to 109 yards and a 5.0 average per rush against the 49ers’ staunch defense in the NFC title game. Denver has stepped up defensively on the ground, led by DT Terrance Knighton and LBs Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard, and will be in excellent shape if it can slow Lynch.
When the Broncos have the ball
Seattle was top in the NFL against the pass, which, of course, is a Peyton Manning specialty. This is likely where the game will be decided. If Seattle’s unequaled secondary led by All-Pros cornerback Richard Sherman — yeah, the guy can talk, but he sure can play, too — and safety Earl Thomas, supported by terrific safety Kam Chancellor and emerging CB Byron Maxwell can handle Manning’s myriad receivers in man coverage, the Seahawks get a huge edge. Manning will look for WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in favorable matchups, especially on the outside, and for slot receiver Wes Welker and TE Julius Thomas over the middle.
Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Denver’s John Fox both took over moribund franchises. Now look where they are. Both are strong motivators, although Carroll does it in more of a rah-rah style his players embrace. Fox, who missed a month of the schedule after heart surgery, is smart enough to keep the reins very loose on Manning.