Opposing quarterbacks pay tribute to each other ahead of Sunday’s big game.
Denver’s Peyton Manning is hoping to cap a record-setting season with a historic victory in Sunday’s Super Bowl 48 over a Seattle squad determined to spoil his dreams of a fairytale moment.
The Broncos’ star 37-year-old quarterback set National Football League season records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 passing touchdowns, sparking Denver to a record 606 points and meaning they go into the weekend action as slight favorites.
“He has built this unbelievable legacy and he is one of the best — if not the best — quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Seattle’s Russell Wilson said of his opposite number.
The Seahawks counter with the NFL’s top-rated defense — the self-styled “Legion of Boom” — which forced a league-leading 39 turnovers, and a balanced attack powered by running back Marshawn Lynch and run-pass threat Wilson.
“He’s at the top of the menu,” said massive Denver defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, referring to Wilson ahead of the United States’ biggest sporting spectacle, which is expected to be watched by more than 110 million television viewers in the US alone.
The showdown at the 80,000 MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather city and it is set to be the coldest, with temperatures forecast to dip below the Super Bowl record 39 degrees Fahrenheit (four degrees Celsius) from 1972.
Both teams went an impressive 13-3 in the regular season to share the NFL’s best record. And it’s the first time the league’s top offensive and defensive units have been pitted against each other in a Super Bowl in 23 years.
Manning could become the first starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams, having led the Indianapolis Colts to the 2007 crown. He lost with them to New Orleans in the 2010 Super Bowl.
Uncertainty after four neck operations led the Colts to cut Manning and Denver signed him in early 2012, setting the stage for him to lead the Broncos to their first Super Bowl since John Elway took Denver to titles in 1998 and 1999.
“To try to get comfortable with the new culture you are playing in and surroundings, just to get comfortable, is hard enough,” Manning said. “To actually turn it into some production and help your team get back to this game, it’s hard to do.”
The Seahawks lost in their only prior Super Bowl, to Pittsburgh in 2006.
“Being a Super Bowl champion is like being struck by lightning — it hardly ever happens,” Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said. “That’s why you want to make the most of it when you get the chance.”
To do that, Seattle pass rushers will have to hurry Manning to thwart his precision passing game while the defensive backs, led by the formidable Richard Sherman with an NFL-best eight interceptions, must contain Denver’s speedy receivers, topped by Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker.
“We’ve got to rush the passer. We’ve got to have good coverage as well,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We have to get him to hold the ball and make him go to his second or third option.
“It’s all but impossible looking at the numbers. We’re going to try to do something about that.”
Manning brushes off the notion his legacy might rely on a victory Sunday.
“If I had my choice what my legacy would be, it would be that I played my butt off for every team that I ever played on, I was a really good teammate and I did everything I could to win,” Manning said.
The 12-year age difference between Manning and Wilson will be the largest in Super Bowl history.
Wilson offers scrambling ability and can buy time for his receivers to elude defenders, a valuable asset.
“I don’t know if I prefer him to run it or throw it because he is dangerous both ways,” Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. “One thing we can’t let happen is him to get out of the pocket and buy some time, then we lose our guys, a breakdown in coverage.
“You can still have great coverage when a quarterback scrambles. You just have to be disciplined.”
The Seahawks are not shy about handing the ball to Lynch and having him run time and again at rivals.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t think he can be brought down by one person,” Bailey said. “You don’t see that often in games and he’s tough.
“He’s going to be something to deal with. You see him taking a pounding and he just keeps on going. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s impressive.”