Seahawks' defense will take care of Manning

Posted: January 31, 2014

ELI MANNING has more Super Bowl rings than his brother because he is a lesser quarterback.

Jim Kelly didn't win one ring in any of his four Super Bowl appearances because he was too damn good.

Jim Plunkett, Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer have more rings each than Dans Marino and Fouts, Fran Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgenson because they played on defensively dominant teams that more than offset any disadvantage on offense.

I point to these self-evident truths to reinforce yet another one. Peyton Manning will still be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (if not the greatest) after the Seattle Seahawks win Sunday's Super Bowl.

And they will win for the same reason Johnson and Dilfer are Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and Kelly and Fouts - Hall of Famers - are not. Because this time of year, in games played indoors and out, under sun and in the cold, I like the outstanding defensive team over the outstanding offensive one. Any and every time.

Peyton Manning was paid $17.5 million this season. Russell Wilson earned about $700,000. That's a lot of extra cash to spend on upgrades, and Seattle used it to land free-agent defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Avril forced five fumbles and had eight sacks during the regular season. Bennett led the team with 8 1/2 sacks. Both have been incessant pests this postseason.

This is the third time in Super Bowl history the league's top offense has faced the league's top defense. Guess which one is 2-0? Dominant defenses not only make extraordinary offenses seem ordinary. They often enable their ordinary offenses to perform extraordinarily.

Doug Williams, who became the Redskins' starting quarterback five games into the 1987 season, threw for four touchdowns in one quarter of Super Bowl XXII - a quarter in which his defense picked off John Elway twice. The underdog Redskins won the game, 42-10.

Also a backup until injury promoted him, Jeff Hostetler completed 20 of 32 passes for 222 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions in Super Bowl XXV, beating Kelly and the Buffalo Bills when Scott Norwood missed a field goal in the final seconds. Kelly's heroes had scored 95 points in the two games preceding the game against the Giants, but New York's defense allowed the Bills offense only 19:27 of playing time.

Twenty minutes, and who knows?

You'll find a similar story line for Dilfer, and for Johnson.

Beyond Manning, there is not a matchup that favors Denver's offense over Seattle's suffocating defense. The Seahawks' seven-man defensive-front rotation should repeatedly pressure Manning with little blitz help. Remember the Giants the second time they faced the high-octane Patriots in Super Bowl XLII? Remember how often they rushed, bumped or sacked Tom Brady in that game?

Brady's offense, a machine that season, had the ball for a little less than 23 minutes.

I see something like that happening to Manning on Sunday.

If it doesn't, well there's another clue in that ongoing Brady vs. Peyton debate. Because Seattle's front group might be even more talented than that Giants group was.

So run the ball, right? Even if Knowshon Moreno's ribs don't restrict, inhibit or eliminate him, this thought isn't any more promising. San Francisco's Frank Gore ran for 110 yards on 17 carries in a 19-17 victory over Seattle late in the regular season, but 51 of it came on a late scamper that allowed for the winning field goal. In the NFC Championship Game 2 weeks ago, Gore gained 14 yards on 11 carries and broke a finger somewhere along the line.

No, if Peyton is going to win this thing, it will be with the same strategy his Colts used in their loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Manning threw 45 times in that game, amassed more passing yards (333) than he had in his MVP performance against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and might be 2-0 in this game if not for one ill-advised throw late in the game that Tracy Porter took to the house, sealing the Saints' 31-17 victory.

Only two safeties - Miami's Jake Scott in Super Bowl VII and Tampa Bay's Dexter Jackson in Super Bowl XXXVII - won game's MVP award. Still, Moreno's potential limitations, Seattle's in-your-face pass coverage and Manning's cat-and-mouse confidence present a scenario for either Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor to have a trophy-winning day.

Or Richard Sherman. Or maybe they give it to the entire defensive line. If this goes the way I think it will, maybe the Seahawks just copy the Giants' keep-away format and pound Denver's suspect run defense with Marshawn Lynch each time they get the ball, and the recalcitrant back holds up that trophy at the end.

I just can't see Manning doing that.

Not because he isn't great.

But rather, at least in part, because he is.


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

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