The Patriots and Seahawks share a remarkably similar history heading into their Super Bowl showdown in Glendale, Arizona this Sunday (6:30 p.m., NBC).
Both teams are coached by men who didn’t succeed in the NFL on their first head coaching try, as Pete Carroll failed with the Jets and Patriots, and Bill Belichick failed with Cleveland. Both teams are led by quarterbacks who have been doubted and doubted again, as Russell Wilson was thought of as too short to succeed in the NFL and Tom Brady was thought of as an NFL backup at best upon entering the league 15 years ago. Both teams have a bad boy image, as the Seahawks have had multiple PED issues under Carroll’s watch and Belichick has had multiple “-Gates” occur under his guidance.
But more than anything else, once you cut through all the off-field drama, the Seahawks and Patriots are both champions. Seattle is looking for its second title in a row. New England is looking for its fourth in the Brady/Belichick era.
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Controversies aside, Sunday’s football game should be special. The undisputed best two teams in the NFL in the 2014 season will be locking horns for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy one more time.
Beast in the Bowl
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch followed up his “I’m here so I don’t get fined” Tuesday speech with the simpler “You know why I’m here” response when questioned by the media on Wednesday. It’s possible that Lynch knows something we don’t. Lynch could very well be in Arizona to win the Super Bowl MVP award, a prize that remarkably hasn’t been won by a running back since 1998 when Denver’s Terrell Davis was the best player on football’s grandest stage.
Lynch would certainly have been named NFC Championship Game MVP if there was such a thing as he ripped off 157 yards on 25 carries and found the end zone once in Seattle’s unreal, 28-22 OT win over Green Bay a couple weeks back.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have given up big yardage on the ground this season in certain games. The Chiefs ran wild on New England in that famed Week 4 Monday night Kansas City blowout win, and Baltimore’s Justin Forsett dashed for 129 yards on 24 carries in the Pats’ narrow 35-31 win over the Ravens in the Divisional round.
The great unknown
A staple of the Belichick-era Patriots has been their chameleon-like ability to adapt to the competition. The Pats are like that Major League Baseball playoff team that gets hot in October and has a different hero in the lineup step up in each night’s victory.
Look at the Pats’ last Super Bowl win (10 years ago over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXVIII). Deion Branch, not Brady, was the game’s MVP. Getting back to more recent events, running back LaGarrette Blount was the clear standout for the Pats in the AFC Championship Game and slot receiver Danny Amendola broke out of his season-long slump in the Divisional round against Baltimore, catching five balls for 81 yards while scoring two touchdowns.
The Pats, however, may be due for a defensive hero to step up in the Super Bowl. In New England’s first Super Bowl victory in the 2001 season, it was cornerback Ty Law who picked off Kurt Warner and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. If you’re a fan of football lineage there’s this: Current Pats cornerback Darrelle Revis is, like Law, from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. And not coincidentally, they both wear No. 24.
Russell Wilson already owns a tag for being a clutch performer, given his run to a Super Bowl title last year and how he’s gotten Seattle back to the Big Game this season. But Wilson has been downright bad in several of the playoff games he’s played in in his young career. Wilson completed just nine passes and had a passer rating of just 67.6 against the Saints in a Divisional round win last year. Ugly Russell showed up again in this year’s postseason as he finished the NFC title game having completed just 14-of-29 for 209 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. His passer rating was a brutal 44.3.
The Pats defense picked off Andrew Luck twice in the AFC title game and forced him to have a 23.0 passer rating. Joe Flacco played great in the Divisional round against New England, but Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon each intercepted the Baltimore signal-caller.
New England is more than capable of flustering Wilson this Sunday.