James Paradis

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

Created on Jan. 26, 2014 5:22 PM EST

And in this corner: The Four (or Five) Horsemen

Demaryius. Welker. Decker. Julius. Despite the lesser-known nickname, these guys have become household names in the sports community after making headlines week after week for their freight train of a passing offense. Adding the honorary fifth horseman, Knowshon Moreno and his 60 receptions in 2013, this unit has been able to spread opposing defenses to their breaking point all year long. Excelling when they expose weaknesses and mismatches with defensive backs, they may have finally met their match in the Legion of Boom. Representing the two opposite ends of the spectrum for passing offense and defense, the numbers from the 2013 regular season speak for themselves:

Comparing Seattle’s Pass D to Denver’s Pass O

  • Seattle allowed the fewest passing yards this year (2,752; 172 per game) while Denver’s receivers totaled almost exactly double (5,477; 342 per game)
  • Seattle allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (16) while Demaryius Thomas led all NFL wide receivers with 14 receiving TDs (55 total for Denver)
  • Seattle held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low passer rating of 63.4 (Manning had a league-high 115.1)
  • Seattle allowed the fewest points in the league (230; 14.4 per game) compared to Denver’s all-time high (606, 37.9 per game); this disparity between points scored and allowed is the greatest in Super Bowl history (according to footballperspective.com)

Clashing of Styles

It was only a preseason game, but five of Denver’s starters left due to injury, and some of the lasting impacts have carried all the way to the Super Bowl. In its 40-10 rout of the Broncos, Seattle brutalized Denver’s offense, catching the Broncos off guard with its physical play in what was supposedly an exhibition game. This was the Broncos’ one and only taste of the Hawks’ bruising style of defense, and while it was only a preseason matchup, the game undoubtedly lingers in Bronco players’ minds as they head toward a rematch. Denver’s pass-catching crew should expect nothing less from the L.O.B. in the game that matters most.

Seattle’s brand of defense is largely built upon physicality and intimidation, which could prove problematic for Denver’s receivers, a group that generally has had the athletic edge over defensive backs but has struggled at times when bullied and bottled up coming off the line of scrimmage. For instance, Denver’s most dangerous receiving threat, Demaryius Thomas, is a player who totaled the second-most yards after the catch this year (633). He has thrived on screen passes and underneath routes when defensive backs are playing back to defend against the deep ball. However, in games in which he was manned-up and jammed at the line, Thomas had difficulty creating separation, significantly limiting his production and ability to make game-breaking plays.

Seattle will assuredly attempt to impose its will against Denver’s finesse receivers and force Manning into tough passing decisions all game long. The L.O.B. will have to deliver its best performance to thwart this multi-faceted offensive machine, likely requiring some brilliant scheming from Sherman, its ringleader.

Battle of Brains, Not Just Brawn

Just before the postseason began, Sherman wrote a piece http://mmqb.si.com/2014/01/03/richard-sherman-smartest-nfl-quarterbacks/ dissecting “The NFL’s Smartest QBs”, placing Manning atop the list. Not unlike Manning, Sherman is a film-room junkie who lauded Denver’s QB for “the way he makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage” and how “nobody else has both the authority … and the understanding to know when it’s appropriate.” Seattle’s brainy cornerback obviously holds Manning in the highest regard; however; Sherman also mentions one of the QB’s rare weaknesses in this piece, remarking that while “(Manning’s) passes will be accurate and on time, he throws ducks.” Expect Sherman and the rest of the L.O.B. to be on the prowl if and when they see one of Peyton’s patented wobblers flying their way.

Before Seattle had even played its first game this postseason, Sherman had a confident projection for their secondary’s chances to dominate the opposition in the Super Bowl, declaring, “if we make it to that game, I’ll have time to come up with everything. I guarantee you it will be a show.” You can bet that Manning and his horsemen will have some special plans for the Legion of Boom as well. And while there will be plenty going on outside of these matchups, it will truly be a battle for the ages when Seattle’s supervillains come face to face with Denver’s harbingers on Judgment Day at the Meadowlands.
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