Five Super Bowl story lines that have nothing to do with “Deflategate.”
1. Coaching opposites, yet similar
Not sure you’ve picked up on this yet, but that Bill Belichick guy tends not to overlook anything that could present his team with an advantage. So check out this teeny, tiny edge that perhaps the Patriots coach has already begun exploiting in the game-planning phase: Belichick has four former Seahawks on his roster and practice squad. Pete Carroll has one former Patriot. “They played with those guys [in Seattle],” Belichick said during a conference call with reporters early in the week. “They certainly can give us some insight into some specifics.” Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner is the most significant of the former Seahawks on the New England roster. The others: defensive tackles Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga, and practice squad offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann. Browner said Belichick and Carroll are “on two different sides of the spectrum but, at the end of the day, they’re both very intelligent.” “In the three years I was there, I never seen Carroll chew anybody out,” Browner added. “Bill has a way to chew you out but praise you at the same time.” The former Patriot in Seattle is defensive tackle Landon Cohen.
2. Legion of Boom busted?
There never has been an injured NFL player who hasn’t talked tough and guaranteed that he’ll be on the field for the next game. But there have been injured players who have done all that and either missed the next game or not played nearly as effectively as they normally do. Seattle has no two players who are more important than cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. In the NFC title game, Sherman suffered a sprained and hyperextended left elbow while Thomas dislocated his left shoulder. Both finished the game. Thomas played with a brace, while Sherman played while being unable to straighten his arm. “We got tape for the warriors,” Sherman told reporters before guaranteeing that half of Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom secondary will play in the Super Bowl. They’ll play. But will they be the same players?
3. Belichick & Brady: The obvious legacies
No one can predict how Belichick and Tom Brady will be remembered decades from now. “Spygate” and “Deflategate” will leave some sort of lasting tarnish that’s bigger than a footnote but smaller than the headline. These two will be making their sixth Super Bowl appearance in 14 seasons. A victory would be their fourth. That would tie Brady with Terry Bradshaw (4-0) and Joe Montana (4-0) among quarterbacks. Belichick would tie Chuck Noll (4-0), whose last game as an NFL coach was the 1991 season finale against the Cleveland Browns against a rookie head coach by the name of Bill Belichick. Noll won that game, evening his record against Belichick at 1-1 before retiring.
4. Seattle D: The sneaky legacy
The 1976 Steelers, the 1985 Bears and any other historically great defense you can think of will have to scoot over to make room for this Seahawks defense if Seattle successfully defends last year’s Super Bowl title. If that were to happen, Seattle will have beaten Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls in an era dominated by passing. In the past two postseasons, Seattle already has beaten four of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Drew Brees (23-15), Manning (43-8) and Aaron Rodgers (28-22). Those three combined for four interceptions and three touchdown passes in those losses. Seattle’s defense also has led the league in fewest points allowed, total defense and pass defense the past two seasons.
5. Don’t forget about Russell
Poise and perseverance are two powerful elements of playing quarterback against today’s NFL defenses. At halftime of the NFC title game, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had two completions, 14 yards, three interceptions and a 0.0 passer rating. He was awful. He went on to throw a fourth interception and post the second-lowest passer rating (44.3) of his career. But in Seattle’s last three possessions against the Packers, Wilson went 6-for-7 for 134 yards, one rushing touchdown and the perfectly thrown, walk-off touchdown pass in overtime. If Seattle wins, the 26-year-old Wilson will have won two Super Bowls in his first three seasons as a starter. The last guy to do that? Brady, who didn’t become a starter until his second NFL season (2001).