It’s no secret how the Seattle Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl: they possess the best defense in the NFL. That defense has stifled elite running backs, baited great quarterbacks into throwing interceptions, and produced bone-crushing, fumble-forcing hits all year long.
Now, this defense is on the greatest stage in football, playing the best offense in the league. Football today exists in an age where great offenses are admired more and are seen as the key to winning. But if the Seattle Seahawks can put together another strong defensive performance, like the 12th man has witnessed all season, then this Seattle squad can give weight to the old saying that “defense wins championships.”
This year’s Seahawks defense is insanely good. From the front four pass rushers to the versatile linebackers to the formidable Legion of Boom, it’s one of the greatest defenses assembled in the past several years. They’re a fully cohesive unit, with no real weaknesses when they’re playing their A game. Indeed, this stellar unit will have to be on its A game when it faces Peyton Manning and one of the best offenses ever.
The Broncos have faced great defenses this year, but is there something about the Seahawks’ defense that can stymie this prolific Bronco attack? Quite possibly.
Seattle’s front seven is extremely good at pressuring quarterbacks, particularly the defensive line. The incredible depth of Seattle’s defensive line is also what makes them so impressive. The Seahawks have so many different packages they can throw at opposing offensive lines that opponents never really know who’s going to be lining up across from them for the next snap. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Red Bryant- the list seemingly never ends. And on any given play, any one of the four lining up has just as good a chance of getting to the quarterback as the other three. These guys might recognize that fact, because once the ball is snapped, each lineman shows incredible hunger to get to the quarterback. Their hunger off the line has impressed me all year long, and guys like Avril and Bennett can especially make Manning uncomfortable in the pocket come Sunday, something that hasn’t happened to Manning a lot.
Then come the linebackers, led by tackling machine Bobby Wagner. Wagner, Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright, and Malcolm Smith can all tackle well, but they’re also solid in coverage. Wagner and Wright can handle their zones extremely well, and the 12th man has seen their linebackers grab some interceptions of their own this season (most recently, Malcolm Smith to win the NFC). Manning’s been good this season at picking zones apart in the middle of the field, but Seattle’s linebackers have the athleticism to not get picked apart so easily.
And then there’s the most talked about portion of the Seattle defense- the secondary, the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Byron Maxwell have been called one of the greatest secondaries ever assembled, and it’s easy to see why. Sherman and Thomas are like the Peyton Mannings of defense, in that they’re incredibly knowledgeable before the snap. Sherman especially has a knack for seeing what the offense plans to do before the snap of the ball, and he plans his coverage accordingly to bait quarterbacks and come up with the interception. Thomas has incredible recognition, too, and his speed is what makes him so dangerous. In the blink of an eye, he can be shooting forward to help stuff the run or be closing on a receiver’s route to break up the pass or grab a pick himself.
Maxwell, who replaced suspended Brandon Browner, is tested by quarterbacks again and again, and he consistently becomes a disruptive force. Quarterbacks see him as the weakest link in the Legion of Boom, but he’s proven otherwise this season. Chancellor is the enforcer, the guy who receivers might fear the most out on the field. Chancellor has excellent recognition like the rest, but he’s especially known for his hitting ability. He’s the epitome of tough, and has broken up many a pass with his well-timed, ferocious hits. These four guys together make for a tough nut for Manning to crack.
The Broncos have tremendous talent on offense, especially in one of the best quarterbacks of all time. The Seattle Seahawks have an incredible defense that’s led them to this year’s Super Bowl. If this defense can reign in one of the most exciting and prolific offenses the NFL has ever seen, they will give credence to defense winning championships. It’s a monumental defensive task, certainly, but if any defense can do it, it’s this year’s Seattle Seahawks.