Sports

Super Bowl XLIX: A Battle For The Ages

CHRIS BURTON

SPORTS EDITOR

  For those seeking a Super Bowl victor, here’s a hint: February 2, 2014. Don’t get it? Let me clarify: that was the date of Super Bowl XLVIII. That’s right, folks. Come this weekend, we will have a repeat on our hands, courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks.

   The Seahawks answered questions about how they would handle the defending champion position by cruising to the NFC West title with a record of 12-4. Even more impressive is the improvement in quarterback Russell Wilson’s game between this year and last. According to NFL.com, in 2013, Wilson completed 63.1 percent of his passes, for 3,357 yards, 26 TDs, and nine interceptions. When you consider the fact that Wilson lost his two top targets, wide receivers Golden Tate and Percy Harvin, to trades, you might expect those numbers to go down. In 2014, Wilson only has 20 TDs, but from there, everything gets better. Wilson has the same completion percentage, but 122 more total yards and two fewer interceptions than in 2013. Also, incredibly, he has five more 20+ yard passes, even without his big playmakers. In case that wasn’t enough, Wilson’s running game has far improved. He had 96 carries for 539 yards in 2013, but in 2014, Wilson rushed 118 times for an astonishing 849 yards. You may ask yourself, what do all these statistics mean? Well, if you weren’t able to get through that chunk of numbers (I don’t blame you), consider this: Last year, Wilson was the quarterback that routed the AFC champion Denver Broncos. This year, Wilson took those expectations and improved upon them.

   The Hawks have kept a number of the other traits that served them so well last year, too. They still have Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode, one of the most game-changing running backs in the NFL. They also have arguably the best defense in the league, led by cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. On the 2014 season, this defense combined for 37 sacks, 13 interceptions, and 20 forced fumbles.

   The biggest piece of evidence, however, did not occur this season. In fact, it occurred on Feb. 2, 2014. The similarities between the 2014 Patriots and the 2013 Broncos are noticeable: pocket-passing quarterback relying heavily on the passing game, a glut of talent at the receiving positions, and a running game/defense that is good, but not elite. And, as we can see, the Seahawks’ style of play, with their top rushing game, pass threats and suffocating defense, has really stayed the same. Last year’s Super Bowl could be a near-perfect model for the game this weekend. And if it is, the rest, as they say, is history.

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