Kragthorpe: Seahawks ride old-school bus to Super Bowl

Published January 29, 2014 11:18 pm

Running game, ferocious 'D' Seattle's calling cards
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Newark, N.J.

The Seattle Seahawks seem out of place in New Jersey, and not just because they're nearly 3,000 miles from home.

They've arrived in Super Bowl XLVIII with a style of football that's from an era of much lower numerals. The Seahawks may have modernistic uniforms, but they're a throwback team. Seattle's convergence with the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium will create an intriguing matchup: Old School vs. New Age.

If the Seahawks are "like the NFL used to be," in the words of Fox Deportes analyst Brady Poppinga, the Broncos represent the league of this decade.

"In this age of quarterbacks, yeah, I think it's very refreshing," said Brian Billick of the NFL Network.

Poppinga and Billick both played in BYU's football program, a longtime advocate of the passing game. Of course, Poppinga was a defensive player. And while Billick was a tight end who emerged in the early stages of the BYU offense's development, he once won a Super Bowl with a Baltimore team that in many ways resembles the Seahawks.

Billick was smart enough to work around his quarterback (Trent Dilfer) with a run-oriented offense and gear everything to a ferocious defense. Same story in Seattle. Russell Wilson, the Seahawks' second-year quarterback, is a potentially dynamic player, but coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are not asking much of him at this point.

That's because the Seahawks have running back Marshawn Lynch. Only when defenses become totally preoccupied with Lynch will Bevell call many downfield passes — which explains why they occasionally work. Carroll, whose background is on defense, plays to his team's strengths.

Actually, the Seahawks once intended to look more like Denver. They believed signing quarterback Matt Flynn as a free agent from Green Bay would facilitate a passing offense in 2012, only to have Wilson win the starting job as a third-round draft choice.

So Seattle is in the Super Bowl with a quarterback who earns roughly 4 percent of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's $18 million salary. The Seahawks are effective, generating 26.1 points out of their average production of 339 total yards, which ranks 17th among 32 teams.

"I think there's a tremendous relationship on our team," Carroll said. "We have great respect for both sides of the ball. Our guys know that our defense is very steady and very opportunistic. We capitalize off of that. We wait for those opportunities, so when they arise, we can really maximize them."

Carroll continued, "Then, on the other side of the ball, we are a running football team. We have an aggressive nature. The style of play really complements our special teams and our defense. There's a really good fit."

That was especially true in Seattle's win over New Orleans in the divisional playoff round. In the NFC championship game, the Seahawks blew a wonderful opportunity after a fumble return to the Dan Francisco 6-yard line, fumbling a handoff on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1.

If the Broncos give them any chances like that Sunday, they'd better take advantage. That would enhance Seattle's hopes of staging a minor upset that would serve as a major triumph for traditional football.

When's the last time that happened? The New York Giants won two Super Bowls with great defensive play vs. New England, but they would have lost if not for some nice work by quarterback Eli Manning and the offense.

So the answer has to be Baltimore's 34-7 defeat of the Giants, 13 years ago.

Yet Billick points out that his Ravens beat quarterback Kerry Collins in the Super Bowl after overcoming Brian Griese, Steve McNair and Rich Gannon in the AFC playoffs. "With all due respect to those guys," Billick said, "they're not Peyton Manning."


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Super Bowl

Seattle vs. Denver

Sunday, 4:30 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13