The Seattle Seahawks are going for their second straight Super Bowl victory, something that hasn't happened since the New England Patriots did it over a decade ago.
The Seahawks have been fortunate to go through two different spurts of recent Super Bowl contending teams -- first in the era of QB Matt Hasselbeck and head coach Mike Holmgren, and now in the era of QB Russell Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll. The current version of the Seahawks plays at a defensive level unlike any team in the NFL, and they've proven their dominance again for well over four months now.
Why the Seahawks Will Win Super Bowl XLIX
Think Back to Last Year: Any team that has won the Super Bowl in recent history have faced difficulties making it back to the promised land. At the beginning of this season, it looked like the same trend would hold true for the Seahawks. They started the season with a 3-3 record and were looking up at the division-leading Arizona Cardinals.
Then, the Seahawks slowly started to get back to what brought them a title last year: running the ball with RB Marshawn Lynch, and then hard-hitting defense. The result? Going 9-1 over their final 10 games to finish with not only a 12-4 record, but the top seed in the entire NFL. They needed all of those wins in order to leap past the Cardinals in the standings, and they delivered in the face of adversity.
Some people have pointed to the fact that the Seahawks are "pretenders" because that 10-game stretch to end the season was a relatively soft schedule. Who cares about not facing quality opponents, though? Ultimately, the Seahawks' goal was to take care of business in those games, and that's exactly what they did. They did so in such a dominant and smothering fashion that it established them as the favorites to come out of the NFC and advance to the Super Bowl.
Injury or not, CB Richard Sherman is going to put everything on the line in the Super Bowl to ensure Seattle's secondary doesn't let Tom Brady catch fire. Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Just how dominant was the Seahawks' defense over their final 10 games? They allowed an average of just 11.3 points per game. Things got even better during their 6-game winning streak to end the season -- it was a stretch in which Seattle's defense allowed an average of 6.5 points per game! I don't care how soft a schedule is -- when you can do that over a span of 6 games in the NFL, you've got something special going. Even if you go back to last week's game against the Packers, look how many golden red-zone opportunities Green Bay was gifted off of turnovers, yet Seattle's defense kept holding them to field goals, which gave them a chance to pull off the dramatic comeback that they did.
This feels like a similar theme to last year, when Seattle had the best defense going up against the best offense (Broncos). The question in last year's game was whether Seattle could do enough to stop them Denver. I didn't think they could, but the Seahawks stunned the world with a 43-8 massacre. The Seahawks faced a nearly identical circumstance last year that they face this year, with many of the same players. The only difference is that it's another team's name on the other side of the field: Seattle is going to hit, and hit hard.
Speaking of hard-hitting, the Seahawks aren't one-dimensional. Even if everything is going wrong in their passing game, Lynch cannot be stopped and he is a rare breed at running back who can single-handedly turn a game around, particularly when it is do-or-die time.
Per Pro Football Focus' tracking, Lynch broke 101 tackles in 2014, the most since PFF started tracking that metric in 2007. He fires up the defense, as SB Nation discussed in this comprehensive, in-depth review of Lynch's tenure in Seattle:
"Marshawn is the heart of our team," Michael Bennett emphasized on Monday. "The way he runs, he's just so tenacious that it makes a big difference on our team. The tackles that Marshawn breaks, it just makes it very special."
After Lynch's now-legendary BeastQuake 2.0 run, Richard Sherman maybe said it best: "He's really just showing the world that he's a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, continue to say bad, man."
Forget whether he talks to the media or not: the impact that RB Marshawn Lynch has on his teammates and on gameday is unprecedented, and the reason they avoided an upset against the Packers in the NFC Championship. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Over at Field Gulls, our Seahawks affiliate, they analyzed ways that the Seahawks defense can stop New England's top receiving threat in TE Rob Gronkowski. Here is a snippet from their analysis:
While the Patriots love to attack teams, the Seahawks are designed to invite attack. Brady will know where the vulnerable parts of the Seattle defense will be, but Pete Carroll's defense will dare him to exploit them.
The big problem in this matchup for the Pats is that the Seahawks use the fireproof model of roster building, with long athletes all over the secondary. They'll look to address Gronkowski as they would any other tight end, playing their base cover 3/cover 1 defense while dropping strong safety Kam Chancellor on him.
Against the Patriots' dreaded empty formations, the matchup might look like this, with Gronk as the "G" and Chancellor as the "$":
The Seahawks can send Chancellor some help vs. Gronk, but the safety's ability to at least survive this battle without needing lots of extra eyes could determine the game.
The Seahawks' defense is better than ever, and there is a feeling they might have a bit of a home-field advantage in Arizona. For all the critics that Wilson has had as Seattle's quarterback and whether he's a talented enough of a player to be credited for two Super Bowls, those arguments will get weakened by the second with a Seattle victory. They will take out the Patriots just like they did to the Broncos last year. The real question isn't whether they'll win this game -- it's whether they can three-peat.
To see the companion piece of why the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, click here.