Before we go about the business of analyzing Super Bowl XLVIII from every possible angle over the next 13 days — from matchups and offensive tendencies to anthem lengths and commercials with really funny animals, we’ll have you covered — we need a starting point, and we also need to bask in the glow of the game we’ve been gifted.
To do that, let’s use numbers. These aren’t necessarily #FancyStat numbers, just the sort which give us that ideal jumping off point. Because even when we begin to just claw at the surface, there’s a lot to dissect in this matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
In no particular order, let’s jump in.
One: That’s the respective ranking for both the Broncos offense, and the Seahawks defense throughout the course of the regular season, and it wasn’t at all close in both cases. While averaging 457.3 yards gained per game, the Broncos were well ahead of the second-place Eagles (417.2) as they set a record for total points with 606 (an even greater gap, with the Bears at 445), and Peyton Manning established new single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks allowed just 273.6 yards per game defensively, which was over 25 yards better than the second-place Panthers (301.2). As far as deserving championship clashes go, it quite literally can’t get any better. Throughout league history the top offense and top defense in a season have only met five times since the merger, and this Super Bowl will mark the first such meeting since the conclusion of the 1990 season. For the record, that game ended like this (avert your eyes, Bills Mafia)…
32: The total points given up thus far in the playoffs by that Seahawks defense, which has included holding Drew Brees to only 34 passing yards over a half of football. Throughout the 18 games they’ve played so far this season, Seattle has allowed only an average of 14.6 points per game. That includes a shutout (Week 15 against the Giants), and two other games when they gave up just seven points or less (weeks 1 and 2 against the Panthers and 49ers).
If we combine our first two numeric revelations and the other accompanying numbers, we get this rather incredible first, one that makes picking a winner pretty daunting…
This is the 1st Super Bowl matchup with top offense in yards + points facing top defense in yards + points allowed.
— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) January 20, 2014
36.4: The average point total for the Broncos through 18 games. Their offense scored 45 or more points in five games, and even in their losses they scored points in buckets, finishing with over 30 in two of those three weeks.
81: The touchdowns scored by the Broncos this year, including the playoffs. That’s an average of 4.5 per game, and yet again when we look back on their regular-season total (76) there’s some real comedy in how many area codes away the second-place team is, a journey which would require at least a four-hour commercial flight (the Bengals were second with 54 touchdowns). Over the past five years the highest single-season team touchdown total was 70, and looking back on the pre-passing boom numbers is also a fun adventure. In 2008, the Saints led with 57 touchdowns.
5.8: The amount of yards per pass attempt given up by the Seahawks during the regular season, another league low with ease. At 8.3, Manning averaged 2.5 yards more every time Omaha! meant pass.
30: The amount of +20 yard passes given up by the Seahawks. Yes, that’s another league low. And yes, Pey Pey’s Broncos amassed 20-yard chunks with little difficulty. They logged a league leading 68 such passes, 50 of which went to wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker.
8: The number of interceptions that have fallen into the hands of the always skilled yet always yammering Richard Sherman, a number which becomes infinitely more remarkable when you remember that he was the least targeted cornerback in the league this year, with only 58 balls thrown his way throughout the regular season.
11: The total interceptions thrown by Manning, even though he led the league in pass attempts during the regular season with 659 (41.2 per game), and over just two playoff games he’s already thrown 79 times. Manning has been interception free in 10 games, which includes not throwing his first pick until Week 5.
18: The total passing touchdowns allowed by Seattle. That’s, oh, 41 below Manning’s individual passing total including January.
30: A repeat number, but this one is the simplest set of digits yet, though it’s the most important. That’s the total number of combined wins the Seahawks and Broncos have as they both head to New York next week. The 2013 Redskins would need 10 years to match that total.
I could go on, and in bits and fits I surely will as we march towards Feb. 2. The further down we dive into this rabbit hole of powerful opposing forces, the more it’s becoming apparent that one side — either the awesome offense or the awesome defense — may have to combust and get embarrassed.