James Paradis

Denver's Four Horsemen Collide With Legion of Boom (Part I)

Created on Jan. 26, 2014 5:19 PM EST

One historic passing offense. One historic passing defense. Two somewhat ridiculous yet fully deserving nicknames. On Sunday, Feb. 2, the shutdown Seattle secondary will face off against Peyton Manning and his prolific receiving corps in the Super Bowl. This contest sets up a truly epic final test for the two most high-profile units in football this year. And while the game will inevitably come down to much more than how these two elite groups perform (much like how last week’s New England Patriots-Denver Broncos game came down to much more than just Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning), the rarity of this matchup playing out on the game’s biggest stage is truly a gift from the football gods.

Let’s meet the contenders.

In this corner: The Legion of Boom (L.O.B.)

Named for their propensity for hard-hitting, ball-hawking defense (as well as a collective of supervillains from the DC Comics Universe), the L.O.B. has wreaked havoc throughout the NFL all season long. Perpetually playing with a massive chip on its collective shoulders, this merry band of misfit defensive backs will soon get its chance to show the world just how good it really is. And no one believes in the group’s ability to do so more than …
Hailing from Stanford, where he played alongside Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Sherman has unabashedly made his name as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Originally a wideout, he led the Cardinal in receiving yards as a freshman but eventually found his true calling as a shutdown defender. At 6-3 and 195 pounds, Sherman is one of the tallest corners in the game and boasts freakish athleticism, including a tremendous 43-inch vertical leap that is among the highest among skill-position players in the NFL. Easily the most vocal member of the Legion, he has backed up the lofty plaudits he has bestowed upon himself by leading the league in interceptions over the past two seasons.

Kam Chancellor
A physical beast on the field, Chancellor is known in the L.O.B. as “The Enforcer.” Essentially a linebacker masquerading as a strong safety, he is the tallest and heaviest (6-3, 232 pounds) player at his respective position in the NFL and takes every opportunity to make his presence known. Regarding his role on the team, earlier this season he stated, “I’ve just got to make the (opposing) offense feel me and let them know that I’m going to be here in the box or wherever I may be on the field. I’m out there to be the enforcer.”

Earl Thomas III
Coming off a career year that saw him total 105 tackles, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles, the free safety has been selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls and has thrived alongside his L.O.B. compatriots since the group’s conception in 2011. While Sherman is typically the one stealing all the headlines, many view Thomas as the most talented player in this group. And unlike Sherman and Chancellor, Thomas is somewhat diminutive at only 5-10, continuing a pattern of not being of prototypical size for their positions.

Byron Maxwell (and the rest of Seattle secondary)
The least-known player among the starters, Maxwell took over the cornerback spot opposite Sherman after original L.O.B. member Brandon Browner was hit with an indefinite suspension for repeatedly violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Recording four interceptions in his first four starts, Maxwell has quickly earned his starting spot and has had no problem maintaining the high standards of this unit.

Other than Thomas, who was a first-round draft pick, every member of the Legion of Boom was selected in the fifth round or later, a designation that has only emboldened their antagonistic demeanor. Head coach Pete Carroll, a former safety and defensive backs coach dating back to the 1970s, is seemingly the perfect fit for the feisty members of the L.O.B., employing a coaching style that encourages his players to express themselves on and off the field (Preach, Sherman! Preach!). The charismatic group has taken on an identity that is comparable with the defensive dominance of other famous nickname-donning units, such as the Steel Curtain and Monsters of the Midway. However, to earn a similar place in history among these all-time great predecessors, the L.O.B. must first defeat another star-studded group …

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