By Matthew Asher
It’s a rare thing in the Super Bowl for the top offense and the top defense to face each other. But the football gods have smiled upon us and for just the sixth time in NFL history, the Super Bowl XLVIII matchup is one that should appeal to everyone: Denver’s offense vs. Seattle’s defense.
History may say that the strong defensive team has the edge, but when you are facing an offense that has shattered several prominent NFL records this season, history doesn’t mean much.
The Offensive Passing Juggernaut
Denver’s offense sits on top of the mountain this year in terms of average points per game (37.9), average yards per game (475.3) and average passing yards per game (340.2). Peyton Manning has completed probably the best season statistically that any quarterback has ever had.
Manning set three new NFL offensive records: most points scored in a season (606), most passing yards in a single season (5,477) and most passing touchdowns (55). In Week 1 against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Manning tied the NFL record for most passing touchdowns in a single game (7) and even scored a rushing touchdown of his own against Dallas early in the season.
One of the main reasons Manning has been so successful throwing the ball is that he doesn’t have just one or two (or even three) favorite targets, he just throws the ball to whoever is open. This has led to four different Broncos receivers recording at least 10 touchdown receptions, the first time in NFL history that has ever happened. If you add running back Knowshon Moreno’s total touchdowns, five Broncos have scored at least 10 touchdowns, another NFL first.
The top four receivers for Denver, which include wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas combined for 317 of Manning’s 450 completions (70 percent), 4,284 of Manning’s 5,477 yards (78 percent) and 47 of Manning’s 55 touchdown passes (85 percent).
A Competent Running Attack
A Terrell Davis-caliber runner may no longer be in the backfield for the Broncos, but that doesn’t mean their running backs have been useless this season. Not at all. Denver ranked 15th in the league as their running game averaged 117.1 yards on the ground each game.
In a season of redemption, Knowshon Moreno has led Denver in the regular season with more than 1,500 total yards of offense (1,038 rushing yards and 548 receiving yards) and rookie Montee Ball added another 700 total yards of offense (559 on the ground and 145 through the air).
In their two playoff games, Moreno and Ball have been used more evenly. Moreno still leads the team with 40 offensive touches for 175 total yards and one touchdown, but Ball has added 25 touches for 108 yards of his own.
An Under-Appreciated Defense
Yes, Denver’s defense certainly isn’t on par with Seattle’s but that’s not to say the defense is a liability. In the two playoff games, Denver has recorded six sacks and limited both San Diego and New England to a combined 579 yards of offense, including just 450 though the air and 129 on the ground as well as being on the field for less than 50 combined minutes.
Denver’s defense also forced three three-and-outs against New England. While they may not be known for their lockdown defense, you can’t assume these guys will simply fold when they come across a good offensive attack.
Kickoff for the Super Bowl is scheduled for 3:30 pm PDT.
For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.