Like most NFL players, I’m watching the Super Bowl today from somewhere other than on the field. (I’m typing this from Mexico right now, as it turns out.) So I’ll take this chance to analyze the big game. Here are six things to watch out for at Super Bowl XLIX.
Richard Sherman is faced with what seems like quite the conundrum on Super Bow Sunday: be there to witness the birth of his first child, or be on the field as the Seahawks make a run at back-to-back championships. To many sports fans and non-sports fans alike, this may seem like a dilemma. But as an NFL player, the decision seems simple. You’ll be there for every waking moment of your child’s life from here on out, but you never know when you’ll be back to America’s biggest sports spectacle.
I’ve heard of an NFL coach (on a sub-.500 team) asking a reserve player to move the delivery date of his first-born to accommodate the schedule of a late season game. That is a bit absurd. The Super Bowl, though? I’m having a hard time remembering the day I was born, but I can assure you I would’ve grown up and been more worried that my pops missed the apex of his professional career for my delivery. Sherm’s got plenty of Little League games, graduations and a wedding to attend. Richard Sherman has a good problem — a #FirstWorldProblem — and whatever choice he makes is the right one.
How do the Patriots use Jamie Collins? He’s been one of the more dynamic, exciting emerging players in the league this year. Will the Pats use him to spy Russell? Will he be used in coverage on Seahawks tight end Luke Willson? With Revis locking down whoever he covers, the Patriots will have a safety help out on the next best threat. That could make Luke Willson an X factor for Seattle’s offense. Collins will have a tough test in the run game as well as in coverage if he is tasked with the underrated Luke Willson.
With all the hype surrounding Marshawn Lynch this week for all the unimportant reasons, I can only hope that the media’s judgment won’t be clouded in the future when they’re deciding on Marshawn’s induction to Canton. The people irked by Lynch’s lack of media compliance will have you believe that he’s hurting his relationship with the fans. They’d argue that the media is the conduit between Marshawn and the consumers. But that doesn’t jive with reality. It seems to me that Marshawn’s popularity is at an all-time high. If the Seahawks win tomorrow, it will be in large part thanks to having the best back in the game. He is the straw that stirs the drink offensively in Seattle. In a league where, in recent years, it’s common to hear people talk about how the running back position has lost value, Marshawn Lynch continues to defy that logic. It’s interesting to think that a lot of people second guessed him coming out of Buffalo. I’d say he’s resurrected his career nicely. And his relationship with the media continues to have nothing to do with it.
Today, offenses have it easy. There are a litany of rules that make it tough on defensive backs and linebackers in coverage, not to mention on defensive linemen rushing the quarterback. The game in 2015 is engineered so that the ball will cross the goal line early and often, because evidently people love touchdowns (speak for yourselves, I like a game with a baseball score). But that old adage about defense winning championships still rings true. Seattle has led the league in defense for three years running. That defense has again put them in a position to win a championship. They don’t trick you, either. They line up with a single high safety and man up on the outside and dare you to beat them. No zone blitzes, nothing. I’m not a fan of comparing players or units across generations, but Seattle should be in the conversation along with the Steel Curtain, Tampa Bay and Baltimore as among the best defenses in recent NFL history.
Kam Chancellor’s last 24-48 hours have turned into an ice, compression and elevation fest. The knee injury he reportedly sustained at practice on Friday — the last practice before the Super Bowl — likely isn’t serious enough leave the 12s sleepless in Seattle. But boy, as a player, would it be frustrating to have this happen at this time. Making it to January 30th without a major injury, in a sport where everything can be taken away from you in a second, is very fortunate. Bruising his knee, or whatever caused him to wrap his leg, in a casual “fast Friday” practice must have felt like bad luck for Kam and the team. But Kam is a tough guy and the injury sounds minor. It’s not comfortable, but it’s probably nothing that adrenaline, etc. — and football’s biggest stage — can’t mask. Either way, keep an eye on Kam because he’s a tone setter for the Seahawks D. The Seattle Secondary may be the walking wounded — add Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas to this list — but that’s still a pretty damn good group, even a little banged up.
Brady’s Magic Number
If New England is going to win the Super Bowl, they can’t do it throwing the football 40 times. A few folks have speculated about Brady’s magic number of attempts. I say 30. If he throws more than 30 times, the Pats are in trouble. Under 30 will mean they found a balanced attack.
Oh, and I can’t forget the Super Bowl ads. Today marks the one day each year that I will cry over a Budweiser Clydesdale. Maybe they’ll have Gary Busey riding one. Busey, the horse whisperer. That’d be a winner.
Photographs by USA TODAY SPORTS