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NFL DEJA VU? - SUPER BOWL XLVIII

 NFL DEJA VU? - SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

 NFL DEJA VU? - SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Seattle's Swarming Defense

Paul ‘Mr NFL’ Adamo  -------
Do you believe in NFL Déjà Vu?
The circumstances and hype leading up to the Super Bowl next week is strangely reminiscent in many aspects to the big game played six years ago in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium as the New England Patriots and New York Giants met for the world championship in Super Bowl XLII (42) on February 5, 2008. Additionally, one team headed for the Meadowlands has resurrected an old school concept, believed to be extinct until recently in the National Football League, rediscovered in the far, northwest corner of the NFL landscape. Championship Defense. Both the comparison of this Super Bowl to the one played in 2008 and the Seattle Seahawks emergence as a defensive powerhouse are two backdrops to the big game worth exploring as we lead up to this year's NFL championship game. After a record setting regular season and playoff run, the New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Randy Moss, the day after the AFC - NFC Championship games opened as high as a prohibitive -12.5 favorite. The Patriots had humbled NFL teams scoring a record 542 points, with Brady breaking Peyton Manning's touchdown record with 50 scoring throws as Randy Moss was on the receiving end of a record 23 touchdowns eclipsing the Jerry Rice mark of 22. Adding to the New England hype, the Patriots were a perfect 18-0 and on the verge of football immortality, one win away from matching the '72 Dolphins unblemished season. Everything pointed to a big Patriot win, all the stats, and stars were in line along with what many anticipated would be a coronation as 'The Greatest Team In NFL History'; with a perfect 19-0 season. How could any team slow down and defense this Patroit offense?
But, not so fast sports fan and fantasy point shaver. Enter the defense of the opponent New York Giants, specifically the front '4' of the Giants ---------Michael Strahan, Chris Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Barry Cofield. Completely dominating New England's offensive line from the first Patriot snap the defensive line kept the Patriot vaunted aerial attack in check by putting constant pressure on Tom Brady and shutting down the rushing game. They pushed the offensive line back into Brady's line of sight passing lanes, collapsing the pocket, harassing him as he dropped back and recording 5 sacks, two by DT Chris Tuck. They held the Patriots to a season low 13 points. With the use of a just a few called "zone blitz" packages, the Giants primarily relied on their front "4" to unsettle and frustrate Brady to seal the upset. Their linebackers and defensive backs were able to concentrate on Randy Moss, Wes Welker and the Patriot receiver corp. and their passing game. The No.1 offense and their quarterback in 2007 were defeated by the most complete defense of that season, the NY football Giants. Moss was held in check and finished with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots had 45 total rushing yards. 'Big Blue’s' defense had confused a 'Hall of Fame' quarterback, his record setting offense and pulled off one of the great upset wins in Super Bowl history. One other caveat in this game, the Patriots did not play outdoors, but in the temperature controlled perfect game conditions of the Phoenix Stadium dome.
Fast forward six years to February 2, 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII. This season the Denver Broncos come to the Meadowlands as the No.1 offense in the league, with Peyton Manning surpassing Tom Brady's 2007 record with 55 passing touchdowns; setting the passing yardage mark of 5,246 yards, with the No.1 scoring offense in the NFL and assuring himself a record fifth MVP award. Even more than six years ago with the Patriots and Tom Brady's 2007 season the NFL has become the ultimate "passing league" with records and pin ball machine type statistics the norm versus the exception. Most of the major season passing records in the NFL (touchdowns, yardage, completions, attempts, completion percentage, quarterback rating) have been set in the last six years and in some instances broken twice. The game has moved away from its classic beginnings as a running/defense orientated game. Now to more of a passing, finesse contest; where the team with the better quarterback and receivers, using a myriad of formations and schemes attack defenseless cornerbacks and safeties literally hand-tied by rule changes starting in the late 70's to the present NFL. Aimed at opening up the game, allowing for more points scored and thus greater perceived fan interest as deemed by the team owners and the Commissioner’s office. A game of picks, crossing patterns, back shoulder throws and bubble screens masterminded by quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage utilizing hurry-up, no huddle offenses to run more offensive plays faster than the defense can situation substitute for down and distance. Defenses and many teams running games have taken a back seat to the glamour of the "Super Star" quarterback and the 51-48 highlight game. The game played today is less physical on defense------as how you tackle skill position players, dictated by rule changes from the league office, is sometimes more important than missed tackles.
Enter the 2013 edition of the Seattle Seahawks. A defensive orientated team with Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch spear heading a ground game; on one side of the ball a group of players echoing a return to the great defensive teams of the 60's - 80's. Playing a simple base 4-3 defense, using very little cover 2 or zone pass schemes; just basic, tough man to man coverage by their corners and safeties and a dominant pass rush by their front "4". The best defense in football, which in the NFC championship game defeated the second most physical team in the NFL, the San Francisco 49 'ers. What separates Seattle from the other defenses throughout the league is that they are a "complete" defense with a secondary the best in the NFL complementing a strong front "7". Cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and safeties Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor are recognized the benchmark secondary in the NFL evidenced by the fact only Maxwell was not selected to the All - Pro team this season. In today's pass happy NFL, almost as important as having an elite quarterback and receivers to throw to for any NFL organization is a big smothering, secondary that can blanket the opponent’s top receivers, and play the run equally as well. This is the answer for any of today's high powered NFL offenses. Seattle's defense is exceptionally quick, swarming, pursing, with a sideline to sideline, gang tackling mentality.
In Super Bowl XLVIII Peyton Manning and the Broncos will face a defense they haven't seen this season playing a style built to stop passing offenses and frustrate quarterbacks and receivers. A defense built to blanket Bronco go-to receiver Demaryius Thomas, TE Julius Thomas along with Wes Welker and Eric Decker. A critical factor and advantage in this game for the Seattle defense will be that they will be freed from the need to "spy" a mobile quarterback, like Kaepernick in last Sunday's game (Kaepernick, 130 yards rushing). The Seahawks will fashion their defensive game plan to attack the pocket and an immobile Manning. It always is an advantage for an 'attacking' defense if they have no concern or hesitation in their pass rush. Facing a non running threat from the quarterback position allows them to play more freely with abandon. Seattle will also be able to add blitz packages against Manning, if they so choose, something they were reluctant to use against the mobile Kaepernick and his ability to escape-sprint a pass rush. Peyton Manning does not rollout, use bootleg action like Kaepernick and the Seahawk's own Russell Wilson, or throw on the run. What he has shown is a tendency this season, because of his well documented neck problems, is 3 or more throws in almost every game that bring back NFL memories of Joe Kapp. The ball-hawking Seahawk secondary which gets their hands on more throws than any other------- tipping, deflecting, and intercepting passes (NFL best 28 interceptions) will play a big part in this game. Look for the front '4' of DE's Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and DT"S Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane to be as effective as the Giant front and meet consistently seven yards deep behind the Bronco center Manny Ramirez. No doubt, ' The Sheriff ', known for his preparation and with two weeks to prepare, will change his formation and play tendencies shown in the AFC championship and throughout the season. He will use formation and personnel groupings to spread the Seahawk defense, try to isolate a matchup advantage, employ quick drop, short timing patterns and use a screen and draw package to slow down the Seahawk pass rush. But this time picks, crossing patterns and Wes Welker running interference will not be enough. In the end, like his counterpart Brady faced in Arizona against the Giants, Peyton Manning will be defeated by a CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE. Both of this generation's greatest quarterback's will have been defeated in the Super Bowl by a talented unit harder to find every year in the NFL.
The NFL takes a detour backward to 2008, and a return to D-FENCE. The possibility of game day bad weather conditions may also add to the Bronco's misery along with the return to the lineup of Seattle wide receiver and deep threat Percy Harvin. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 24 - DENVER BRONCOS 13

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