When you bet on the Super Bowl, you have to eventually decide on who you’re going to side with in the ultimate debate: Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Defense. For the past few days, we’ve been singing the praises of Richard Sherman and this Seattle defense for very good reason. They’re undeniably the strongest defense in the entire league, and they’re tutored by a head coach who is known league wide as a defensive backs guru. So which one is better? Let’s break this down.
Seattle owns the top ranked defense in the league by virtually every metric. They allowed just 273.6 yards per game overall (1st), a measly 172.0 passing yards (1st) and just 14.4 points allowed (1st). They also surrendered just 101.6 rushing yards per game and generated 28 interceptions along with 11 recovered fumbles, giving them the most turnovers in the league with 39. To put that last stat in perspective, Philadelphia and Tampa were second in the NFC with 31 takeaways, while Kansas city had 36 and Cincinnati created 31 turnovers. There’s a very strong reason that this team believes they can win the Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Defense fight and it has to do with their amazing consistency against anyone they’ve faced.
Taking things a step further, teams averaged 235.6 passing yards per game this year overall. The Seahawks allowed just one team to throw for more than the league average. Ironically, the person who found the most success in terms of yards gained was Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans in Week 4. Schaub threw for 355 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a 23-20 overtime win for Seattle. Aside from Houston, nobody threw for more than 215.0 yards against Sherman and the Seahawks in the regular season.
And nobody threw more than two touchdowns against these Seahawks all year either. I mean, you know they’re great defensively, but did you know they were that good? Even I was surprised when I dug through the numbers more attentively.
That’s all incredible stuff. But there’s also some bad news here too. The playoffs can be a bit of a different animal, and in basically half-a-game, New Orleans bombarded Seattle for 309 passing yards in the divisional round while Brees avoided turning the ball over via interception.
I also can’t get over what happened in the last few minutes of the game against San Francisco. Up until the point where Kaepernick threw that bone headed interception, he had the Seahawks fearsome defense on their heels. Kaepernick went 6-of-8 in his final drive, throwing for 56 yards in around four minutes. He used a hurry-up and partial no-huddle offense to accomplish this, never allowing Seattle to really set their feet and put the Niners in a position to win that game.
This is important for the Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Defense discussion because nobody executes a fast paced offense better than Manning. And you remember that stat I mentioned where quarterbacks averaged 235.6 yards per game league wide? Well Peyton Manning threw less than 235.6 yards just once this season against the New England Patriots. He also threw for “just” 230 yards against San Diego in the divisional round.
You also have to take a step back and pause with Seattle’s defense and look at the strength of schedule. They lost outright on the road to Indianapolis and Andrew Luck and beat Drew Brees twice. They also dealt with amazing athletes but questionable passers like Kaepernick and Newton and then they faced a bunch of pretty good passers like Eli Manning, Carson Palmer and…maybe Matt Schaub?
My point is this: while they’ve dealt with admirable quarterbacks it’s also worth noting that Seattle has only faced two top-10 passing offenses this year. Of course, they stifled Atlanta (ranked 7th) and New Orleans twice (2nd) but is there any passing game that’s more deadly than Denver’s? It’s unfair to say that to make these comparisons to a certain extent because Seattle can only play who’s on their schedule, but New Orleans’ set of receivers doesn’t come close to comparing to Denver’s.
Denver’s offensive supporting cast needs to be considered in the Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Defense debate. The offensive line allowed the fewest sacks this season, allowed the second fewest interceptions amongst all teams that attempted at least 500 passes, and Peyton Manning threw 16 more touchdowns than runner-up Drew Brees.
The last time the best defense in the league faced the best offense, the Buccaneers blasted Oakland with help from ex-Raiders and then-current head coach Jon Gruden. Seattle has a mastermind behind the wheel in Pete Carroll, but they’re going up against one of the most brilliant on-field tacticians the game has ever seen. In the battle of Peyton Manning vs. Seattle Defense, the advantage goes definitively to Manning.