Super Bowl Teams Are Set, Let the Best System Win
At the end of the day, football fans got the Super Bowl matchup they expected, even if the way we got here was anything but.
Denver Broncos defeated New England Patriots, 26-16
Peyton Manning excoriated his playoff demons yesterday as the Broncos defense took down Tom Brady in the process. Manning threw for 400 deliberate yards, including two long touchdown drives of 93 and 80 yards. Denver controlled possession throughout the game, holding onto the ball for more than 35 minutes and keeping New England out of the endzone until five minutes into the fourth quarter. Brady ultimately threw for 277 yards and was feeling the pressure all afternoon, getting sacked twice and converting just half his team’s third-down attempts.
The Broncos defense also managed to contain LeGarrette Blount, billed as the difference-maker in a game between two legendary gunslingers. The Patriots running back finished with just six yards on five carries, as New England’s only touchdown on the ground came from Brady. Meanwhile, Denver went for the slow-and-steady approach, spreading its offense across various weapons, including explosive plays by Demaryius Thomas, who gave the Broncos a 20-3 lead in the third and finished with 134 yards on seven receptions.
Hopefully we can now put all questions of Manning’s legacy to rest, though that probably won’t happen until he fully answers his postseason critics in two weeks.
Seattle Seahawks defeated San Francisco 49ers, 23-17
The Seahawks’ vaunted defense forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter, while quarterback Russell Wilson finally made a big play when it counted, capitalizing on a 49ers offside penalty by connecting on a 35-yard touchdown to Jermaine Kearse in what would ultimately be the game’s winning score.
San Francisco led early, holding Seattle scoreless in the first and taking a 10-3 lead into the second half, but the Seahawks emerged from the locker room with renewed energy. Marshawn Lynch beasted his way to a 40-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10-10 five minutes into the third, while Richard Sherman and Malcolm Smith made big plays on Colin Kaepernick, including a late-game interception on the 49ers’ final drive. Kaepernick finished with 153 yards in the air to 130 yards on the ground, throwing one touchdown while getting picked off twice.
Doug Baldwin had a big day, hauling in 106 yards on six carries and returning a kickoff for 69 yards that sparked the Seahawks’ comeback from down 17-10 in the third.
Super Bowl 48 will thus be a test of traditional quarterbacking prowess against an old-school, shut-em-down defense. May the best system win.
(Kavitha A. Davidson is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about sports. Follow her on Twitter at @kavithadavidson.)