Super Bowl 49 Features Greatest Matchup Of All-Time
It’s a matchup for the ages. If you’re a football fan you have to be salivating over Super Bowl XLIX. On Feb. 1, in Glendale, Arizona, the New England Patriots will battle the Seattle Seahawks in the game of the century. Professional pigskin’s ultimate match of the season pits the best team of the 21st century against the defending champions. It will be epic.
The Patriots and Seahawks share a penchant for winning, excellence, and success. They are both blueprints for how you build an NFL franchise.
They also had to overcome naysayers during the regular season. At one point (a Week 4 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, 41-14), pundits were burying the Patriots and telling Tom Brady that it was time to retire. The Seahawks were similarly being dismissed after starting the season 6-4 (oddly enough after a road loss to the Chiefs).
Finally, the teams have two of the best fan bases in all of sports. Both franchises represent an entire region—the Patriots play for all of New England while the Seahawks are the only NFL team in the Pacific Northwest (the closest franchise is over 800 miles away). The Patriots are “Boston Strong” while the Seahawks have the vociferous “12th Man.”
The similarities, however, end there. It’s the differences between the Pats and Hawks that make Super Bowl XLIX one for the ages. Below, BSTLV contrasts the Super Bowl participants in five major categories. As you’ll soon read, the upcoming Big Game will be very interesting.
The Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 28-22 in overtime in one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the NFL. The Hawks rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit, the largest such rally in a conference championship game (it was the third-biggest rally ever in a conference championship game). Quarterback Russell Wilson, who played the worst game of his career, had an inspirational finish as he marshaled the Seahawks to 21-points in the last 2:13 of fourth quarter and halftime.
>>The Seahawks are the first team to win after being down 10 or more points in the final three minutes of a playoff game since the 1986 Cleveland Browns.
>>The Seahawks are the first team to turn the ball over five times and win a playoff game since the 1982 New York Jets.
>>The Seahawks are the first team to throw four interceptions and win a playoff game since the 1981 Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots, on the other hand, did what they always do when they play the Indianapolis Colts. They won big. The Pats easily dispatched the Colts, 45-7 (the game wasn’t even that close). This contest was as bad as the Seahawks game was exciting. Minus Brady’s one interception, he played brilliantly. Once again, Bill Belichick had a flawless game plan, and once again, his team executed to perfection.
Pats vs. Colts – Last 5 Meetings
>>Jan. 18, 2015 – Pats 45, Colts 7 (AFC Championship)
>>Nov. 16, 2014 – Pats 42, Colts 20
>>Jan. 11, 2014 – Pats 43, Colts 22 (Divisional Playoffs)
>>Nov. 18, 2012 – Pats 59, Colts 24
>>Nov. 21, 2010 – Pats 31, Colts 28
The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, is an affable fellow who exudes a grandfatherly charisma—a grandfather that can pull a girlfriend nearly 40 years his junior. You usually see him smiling while surrounded by celebrities and dignitaries. A couple of years ago, an embarrassing video surfaced of Kraft reading lines with his actress-girlfriend. He was trying to help her land a part in a big movie. Kraft joked about the situation.
The owner of the Seattle Seahawks is Paul Allen. He would have not laughed off such discomfiture. If Allen was in better shape he’d have the presence of a Bond-villain. When he walks down the hallway at CenturyLink Field, observers have to step aside and avoid eye contact. That’s not a joke. I used to be a stringer for the Portland Trailblazers (another professional team Allen owns) and that’s exactly what security made people do when billionaire approached.
Bill Belichick is probably the most hated coach in the history of the NFL. You might as well call him Darth Belichick. He seldom says anything of note to the press, is often accused of cheating, and appears to have a lifetime supply of hoodies. Worst of all, he does the one thing that is guaranteed to get him on everyone’s hate list and that’s win all the time—he holds the record for the most career playoff victories. Belichick was even accused of cheating after his team’s recent slaughter of the Colts. This time, in a story broke by Indianapolis reporter Bob Kravitz, the Patriots were accused of illegally deflating the footballs used in the AFC Championship game. The NFL is investigating the matter.
“I think I’ve heard it all.” — Tom Brady’s response when asked about the deflated footballs
Pete Carroll is ebullient and spry despite being the oldest coach in the NFL. He’s effusive in press conferences and not afraid to give one of his players a nice, big hug. Interestingly, he coached the Patriots from 1997 to 1999 and was succeeded by Belichick. Also, Carroll is an actual cheater. He left USC in 2009 as the NCAA was handing down one of its harshest punishments in its (not-so) illustrious history. Carroll is 50-30 as the Seahawks head coach.
Tom Brady is playing in his sixth Super Bowl. That’s an NFL record. In keeping with the “sixth” theme, Brady was a sixth round draft pick by the Patriots in 2000. Now, he’s synonymous with winning. He’s a deadly accurate passer with a coach-like understanding of his offense. On top of all that, he’s an emotional leader who’s not afraid to get in the face of his teammates—to either celebrate or castigate. A victory in Super Bowl XLIX will solidify his place as the greatest quarterback of all-time.
Here’s an amazing stat about Russell Wilson: during his tenure as Seahawks quarterback (2012 through now), Wilson has never lost a game by ten or more points. A lot of that is due to the Seahawks tough defense, but clearly, Wilson keeps his team in the game. He’s a leader, makes great decisions, and can devastate a defense with his arm and legs.
Wilson had the worst game of his career in the NFC Championship but still found the confidence to make big plays down the stretch and lead his team to an improbable victory. You can’t coach that kind of poise.
In their Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots rushed the ball 13 times. In the AFC Championship game, they rushed 40 times for 177 yards. The Patriots will do whatever they need to do to secure a victory. With that being said, in every game but one this season (including playoffs) Brady was the game’s leading passer.
The team is deadly on third down. In the playoffs, they’ve convert 62 percent of their third downs. Defensively, the Pats allowed 20 or fewer points in eight of their last nine games. They’re the smartest team in the NFL, they know how to execute, and seldom beat themselves.
The Seahawks are the most penalized team in the league, until the NFC Championship game only Seahawk fans could name one of their receivers (27th in passing), and they have one of the worst kick return averages in the league. Yet, they’re going to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
The big reason for their success is their defense. If the Jets had the Seahawks defense they would be lauded as the greatest of all time. The Seahawks have led the league is fewest points allowed and fewest yards allowed for the last two seasons. That has only been accomplished three other times in the history of the NFL.
On offense, Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch lead a vaunted rushing attack (number one in the league by 25 yards a game). Their run game is punctuated by an efficient aerial attack. Thanks to their staunch “D,” Wilson and company usually only have to score 20 or more points to win.
Breaking Down The Super Bowl
Before the ball is snapped, the Patriots like to do a lot moving around; they also employ some exotic formations. Seattle’s defense pretty much plays straight up and then reacts after the snap. The Seahawks didn’t get to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC championship game but are usually pretty good about pressuring the QB. Brady is a different quarterback with guys in his face.
The Pats will probably throw quick, short passes and matriculate the ball down the field. The Legion of Boom will give up yards (even though they’re the best pass defense in the NFL) but they finish almost every play with a big hit. Look for the Seahawks to wear down the Patriots wide outs. LeGarrette Blount has been on fire for the Pats in the postseason but no one runs on the Seahawks Defense (minus Jamaal Charles). The Seahawks are third against the rush.
With that being said, the Super Bowl won’t come down to Brady versus the Legion of Boom. It will come down to whether or not Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can put points on the board. In their 18 games this season the Seahawks have allowed 21 or more points just five times. So the Patriots defense needs to force turnovers and keep the Hawks out of the end zone.
If the Pats can make Seattle one-dimensional (i.e. stop the run), they’ll have a great chance to win. If Seattle gets a lead and can use their running game to set up the pass, it will be a long day for New England. Win or lose, the Patriots usually keep the Super Bowl close. This year will be no different. Still, the Seahawks win 23-16.
By David B.