Super Bowl XLIX: A Game of Critical Matchups
January 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) runs the ball against Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) during the second half in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After witnessing the Seattle Seahawks complete a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the Green Bay Packers and watching the New England Patriots destroy the Indianapolis Colts in convincing fashion, football lovers began to build on the excitement for what should be a high quality Super Bowl matchup.
With both teams representing their respective conferences as the top seeds, both have faced some challenges in their quest to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Nearly a year ago, the Seahawks sat in this very position with a very young, but talented quarterback in Russell Wilson, an established rushing attack featuring Marshawn Lynch and a lights out defense featuring shutdown corner Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor at strong safety and Earl Thomas at free safety.
In 2014, the Seahawks were forced to deal with figuring out how to stop the prolific Peyton Manning and the high octane Denver Broncos offense. They succeeded.
Now, they will be challenged again but this time, the test will be against three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady. The phrase, “three-time Super Bowl winning” makes the matchup between the two teams more anticipated with much pressure being put on the Seahawks as reigning champs.
Seattle will look to win back-to-back Super Bowls while New England will look to win its fourth Super Bowl with Brady at the helm, despite the latest allegations from the NFL confirming 11 out of 12 of their game balls were under inflated by two pounds per square inch of air less than what is required by NFL regulations in the AFC Championship game.
This game will be a test of key matchups and whichever team can create the most impact from these matchups will win in what should be a close game.
Tom Brady vs. Richard Sherman
Sherman, who is battling an elbow injury, was not thrown his way against the Packers in the NFC Championship game, but do not look to see this happen in the Super Bowl. Look for Brady to try his chances with wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman going up against Sherman down the field.
Not to mention, when tight end Rob Gronkowski gets thrown in the mix, it will definitely cause some mismatches for the Seattle secondary. Gronkowski is not your typical tight end as he will run deep routes down the field, getting behind the linebackers and forcing the defensive backs to make a play on the ball. Thomas and Chancellor will have their hands full with the massive tight end.
It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks stray from their usual ways and matchup Sherman, who will not be 100 percent, against Gronkowski in the slot with safety help over the top. It is a luxury the Seahawks can afford to try since the Patriots lack a deep threat at receiver.
Marshawn Lynch vs. Patriots defense
Notice with this matchup, it includes the entire Patriots defense. The running back, who eats a bag of Skittles before every game, has the ability to run over and fly by any opposing defender on the field.
The Patriots are no pushovers in terms of quality linebackers with former Southern Miss standout Jamie Collins leading the way. Dont’a Hightower is another linebacker with tremendous talent, but the duo will have their hands full in containing Lynch.
Seattle is most successful when they establish a consistent running game which then allows Wilson to make big plays through the air or with his legs. Lynch can become explosive at any given moment, whether it’s in the beginning of the game or in the final two minutes of a critical game-winning drive.
The Patriots defensive goal is to keep Lynch from making explosive plays that change the tone and tempo of the game in Seattle’s favor.
Russell Wilson vs. Darrelle Revis
After winning the Super Bowl last year, Wilson began establishing himself and building his resume to become one of the most elite quarterbacks in the game. However, the NFC Championship game was by far one of his worst performances in terms of passing up until the last nine minutes of the games.
For Seattle to win, Wilson must be able to play a smart, turnover free game against a defense where Revis will be looking to make a big play. If Wilson plans to have this type of game, the Seahawks have to establish a strong presence on the ground, taking some of the pressure off of Wilson to pass the ball.
The Patriots must limit Wilson’s ability to use his legs to extend plays and stop the read option, forcing Wilson to stay in the pocket and make clutch throwns. This is not to say he cannot but he sometimes struggles to do this.
Either way, both teams are the best of what the NFL has to offer, despite what critics may say concerning the Patriots at this point in time. One thing is for sure, these two teams will play in one of the biggest and most respected championship games in all of sports on Feb. 1.
The two teams will face off at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. on NBC.