Adelaide forward, and American sports aficionado, Josh Jenkins fills you in on everything you need to know ahead of Super Bowl XLIX.
Tom Brady, the Legion of Boom, Beast Mode, Gronk, repeat champions, Patriot dynasty, Belichick, injuries, deflated footballs.
If a Super Bowl couldn’t be newsworthy enough, those story lines mean this game promises to be something special.
After contrasting Conference championship games, these two teams meet to determine both individual and team legacies.
Seattle – the reigning champions – arrive in Glendale, Arizona after, at times, a tumultuous season where a key playmaker in Percy Harvin was shipped out and constant questions over in-house fighting was dealt with.
‘You are only as good as your last play and Wilson made the play that counted, sending Seattle to the big dance.’
After starting the season 3-3, questions arose regarding the Seahawks’ commitment to repeating as champions.
Those questions were answered defiantly and definitively as Seattle reeled off nine of its next ten games to storm to the top of the NFC, securing home field advantage.
With the loudest fans in professional sport behind them, the Seahawks rolled over Carolina in the Divisional playoff game before one of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history last weekend.
As Green Bay stormed to a 16-0 lead at halftime, the Century Link Field crowd sat stunned as Seattle’s season looked to be over at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Russell Wilson and Jermaine Kearse had other ideas – as Wilson lobbed the perfect pass to Kearse, who made a tough catch to send his team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
Wilson’s late-game heroics overshadowed his horrible play throughout the first four quarters as he threw four interceptions and had just seven passing yards at halftime.
You are only as good as your last play however and Wilson made the play that counted, sending Seattle to the big dance.
At Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, Tom Brady and the Patriots cruised to a powerful 45-7 win over the upstart Colts, punching a ticket to Glendale.
The win was not without controversy though, as the NFL has since investigated suggestions the balls provided to the officials by New England were deflated at halftime – hardly a determining factor when the scoreline was so far apart but a potential distraction as the Patriots prepare for the biggest game of the year.
On-field, the Pats have been the best, most consistent team in the NFL since being written off as ‘has-beens’ after a big loss to Kansas City in week four.
New England rolled to yet another AFC East title and slipped past a brave Baltimore team before steamrolling Indy in the Conference championship game.
So, with all that being said, let’s go inside the story lines that will determine who comes away from the University of Phoenix Stadium with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Tom Brady will become the first player in NFL history to start in 6 Super Bowls. pic.twitter.com/tSsrhEQgCx
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 19, 2015
If he was to retire today, Brady would go down as one of the five greatest players to ever set foot on an NFL arena.
But he is a fierce competitor who demands a lot from his team mates and more from himself.
Already with three Super Bowl titles on the mantle and two Super Bowl MVP’s, a victory here cements No.12 among the very best in world sport.
To take that spot however, he will need to overcome one of the great NFL defences in recent memory, the ‘Legion of Boom.’
LEGION OF BOOM
Made up of the Seahawks secondary and highlighted by Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the LOB stands between Tom Brady and a fourth ring.
Sherman is so deadly as the left-sided cornerback that opposing teams rarely even throw in his direction, while safeties Chancellor and Thomas are game-breakers with their ball-hawking skills complemented by their energy and effort in making tackles on running backs, receivers and tight ends.
In ESPN’s E:60 program, Marshawn Lynch struggles to explain what happens when ‘Beast Mode’ takes effect.
Whatever it is, the Seahawks need it more often than not. Without true stars at wide receiver, the Seattle offence goes as Lynch goes and usually it is ‘Beast Mode’ that kick-starts scoring drives.
New England possess Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones and Donta Hightower up front, meaning Lynch will have his work cut out trying to gain yards inside the numbers.
A powerful tight end is a nightmare match-up for any defence, including the LOB.
Too big for cornerbacks and safeties and too fast for linebackers, a 6-7″, 265lb (125kg) running, catching, scoring machine is difficult to deal with.
Gronkowski is a remarkable football player who is both the safety blanket for Brady and the big play threat.
Free safety Chancellor is the most logical matchup for ‘Gronk’ but that will take away from his freelance style where he loves to hit the ball carrier and try pick off any lapse passes.
In Super Bowl 48, Denver entered as warm favourites but Seattle departed as dominant champions.
Twelve months later, the Seahawks will be hoping to become repeat champions, a rare feat in professional sport.
Wilson, Lynch, Chancellor, Sherman, Thomas and Doug Baldwin will be key to repeating but the difference between a one-time champion and a back-to-back powerhouse is huge.
As Seattle hope to go back-to-back and create history of their own, New England will be looking for a stunning fourth championship in the new millennium.
The combination of Brady and coach Belichick has been the constant for those championship drives but this is a new look ball club trying to get that fourth ‘chip.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 20, 2015
Bill Belichick is a law unto himself. Described as a dictator by Tom Brady, Belichick’s greatness is unquestioned and his ability to take away the opposition’s strength is legendary.
Regardless of the controversies that have surrounded him during his time as head coach, Belichick’s ruthless desire and pursuit of success is the cornerstone of the Patriots organisation.
In a game as physical and at times violent as the NFL is, injuries will always be part and parcel of the game.
As we approach the final game of the 2014/15 campaign, all players will have carried – or currently carrying – injury concerns.
None more important than Seattle pair, Sherman and Thomas.
Both All-Pro defenders with game breaking ability, coach Pete Carroll will need his two leaders to be somewhere near 100% healthy if he wants to compete with Brady and Gronkowski.
Just as we thought New England would comfortably cruise into yet another Super Bowl, ‘deflate-gate’ reared its head.
An NFL report has stated that 11 of the 12 balls presented to the game day officials were deflated at halftime in the win over Indianapolis.
What it all means is yet to be determined but it is certainly a disappointing distraction for a team focused on winning an NFL title.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) January 23, 2015
TIP: SEATTLE 23, NEW ENGLAND 22 – They say offence sells membership and defence wins championships, let’s see whether that adage rings true.
MVP: MARSHAWN LYNCH (SEATTLE) – Any amount of ‘Beast Mode’ is too much ‘Beast Mode’ for any opposition to deal with.
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Photo via Flickr – Anthony Quintano