Best offense vs. best defense is Super matchup

  • By Rick Gosselin The Dallas Morning News
  • Monday, January 27, 2014 5:32pm
  • SportsSports

NEW YORK — We’ve certainly seen our share of offensive juggernauts in the NFL’s modern era.

The West Coast offense of Bill Walsh, Air Coryell in San Diego, the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis and the mad bombing of Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

We’ve also seen our share of suffocating defenses. The Dallas Doomsday, Miami’s No-Names, the Steel Curtain, the 1985 Bears, the 2000 Ravens and the 2002 Buccaneers immediately come to mind.

But rarely do we see great offense and defense on the same field.

We will on Sunday.

The best offense in the NFL will take the field against the best defense in the Super Bowl.

Pro Bowlers abound with quarterback Manning, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas and guard Louis Vasquez for the Denver Broncos and defensive backs Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks.

Such encounters are rare in the playoffs.

The NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense has squared off against the No. 1 defense in the postseason only six times in the 48-year Super Bowl era. This game marks just the second such meeting between the two No. 1s in a Super Bowl.

In the 2002 season, the Oakland Raiders wheeled into the Super Bowl with an offense that averaged a league-high 311 yards and 28.1 points per game. The Buccaneers showed up with a defense that allowed a league-low 252 yards and 12.2 points per game.

Defense wins championships — at least it did that night as the Bucs prevailed, 48-21. The Tampa Bay defense actually scored more touchdowns (three) than the Oakland offense (two).

But defense wins championships on most days, in fact. The NFL’s No. 1 defense holds a 3-2 edge against the No. 1 offense in the five other playoff meetings.

Defenses of the 1992 Cowboys, 1982 Dolphins and 1976 Steelers joined the 2002 Bucs in beating top-ranked offenses in the postseason. Offenses of the 1980 Chargers and 1989 49ers came out on top against top-ranked defenses in the other two playoff meetings.

The Broncos became the first team in NFL history to score 600 points this season as Manning set records for passing yards and touchdowns. Denver hit 50 points in three games and rang up 40 or more in three others.

That offense is why the Broncos have been installed as a two-point favorite over the Seahawks.

But defense deserves more respect in February.

The NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense has played in 11 Super Bowls and carved out an 8-3 record — and that includes a five-game winning streak. The last top-ranked defense to lose in a Super Bowl belonged to the 1982 Dolphins.

Top-ranked offenses, by the way, are 8-6 in their 14 Super Bowl appearances, including a 1-3 mark since 2000.

The Seahawks are certainly a worthy opponent for the Broncos. Seattle allowed an average of only 273.6 yards per game this season. But what the Seahawks did best — better than anyone else in the league, in fact — was keep the opposition out of the end zone.

The Seahawks finished first in the league in scoring defense at 14.4 points per game. Seattle allowed only 20 offensive touchdowns all season. As a point of reference, the Cowboys allowed 15 offensive touchdowns in December alone.

The Seahawks shut out the New York Giants and held five other opponents in single digits on the scoreboard. New Orleans brought the NFL’s fourth-ranked offense into Seattle this season and left a 24-7 loser.

The Seahawks led the NFL in takeaways (39) and interceptions (28) and finished seventh in sacks (44). Seattle also allowed only one 300-yard passer and three 100-yard receivers all season. The only 300-yard passer (Matt Schaub) came in September, and the last 100-yard receiver (T.Y. Hilton) came in October.

Manning led the NFL with 12 300-yard passing games, including four 400-yard days. His receivers led the NFL with 12 100-yard games, including six by Demaryius Thomas.

Manning is averaging 342 passing yards per game. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 172 passing yards per game. Manning passed for 16 touchdowns in September. The Seahawks allowed 16 TD passes all season.

Something has to give — and this late in a season, it’s usually the offense.

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