Rival executives break down Super Bowl XLVIII matchup
• Scouting the Seahawks defense: "I think first off you have to try to run the ball against Seattle, in order to slow down that front four of theirs. That's important. Denver is obviously more of a passing team, but even if you are pass-first, you feel like you have to try to run the ball just to calm down that front four, so they can't just tee off on every snap. Because the one thing they do best is to really penetrate and accelerate up the field and wreak havoc, and they've got the speed to do that. So getting some run game against them is critical, even if it's just to get you set up for your passing game.
"Seattle's defense is so good, you've got to get those guys off their marks, get them to look at a few things you're doing and slow them down. You have to make them change direction a little bit. Running some misdirection can work a little bit against them. Maybe you play-action them, throw them off their landmarks, go through your progressions and try to get the ball downfield and make some plays to loosen them up.
"Seattle is so big at corner, but the slot receiver is an important position against the Seahawks defense. A slot receiver like Denver's Wes Welker can be a very productive player against them, because you can move that guy around on them. That way the big corners can't get their hands on him and hold him up at the line. He's got a little better chance to get off the line of scrimmage and find the gaps he needs to get open. And the other thing is, when you throw in cornerback Richard Sherman's direction, he's really, really good at tracking the ball. So you've got to do some blind throws, where it's back shoulder passes, and try to make it difficult for him to turn and get his head around. If he can track the ball, he's going to get there.''
• Scouting the Seahawks offense: "What makes Seattle's offense difficult to defend is that Russell Wilson is so good outside the pocket. You have to try to keep him in the pocket, because once he gets out of the pocket, it opens up so much of the field for him to make plays, either by throwing it or running it. Easier said than done, but you've got to try to contain Russell Wilson. He's a good game manager, a great quarterback, a great leader, all those sort of things. But if you can keep him contained in the pocket, you've got a chance to kind of limit his big plays. Because when he gets out on the edge, he can makes some big throws down the field, and he's able to create big plays with his feet. So you win if you've holding him in the pocket.
"Everything starts with Marshawn Lynch in Seattle's offense. But their skill guys are all really good. [Receiver] Golden Tate's a difficult guy to handle. He's powerful and strong for his size. [Receiver] Doug Baldwin is just so steady at everything he does. I don't think he's exceptional at anything, but I think he's good at everything, and I think that's kind of what makes him underappreciated.
"Then there's Lynch, and he's just a beast. He's about as powerful a runner as there is right now in the league. You've got to gang tackle him. You've got to assume he's not going down, so whenever you've got a bead on him, you need a couple guys running to the ball to help finish him off. Their offensive line has not been able to stay real healthy, but Lynch helps cover up a lot of flaws.''
"Percy Harvin is kind of gravy for their offense at this point, if he can go [for an entire game]. If he can play, he's frightening from a return aspect. He's an elite returner. One of the best in the league. He's pretty scary that way and there's not a defensive coordinator in the league who doesn't know at all times when he's on the field. Making sure you know where he's at is your main concern.''
• A key concern for Seattle?: "They've had some deficiency at times this season stopping the run. Sometimes in games they've built up some good leads and were able to pin their ears back [and stop the run], but they haven't done a great job at that. They're good enough, but that's an area on defense where they can be beaten up a little bit because that's not what they really want to do on defense.
"The other thing that's important to their game is they're going to have to do a great job at the line of scrimmage to disrupt Peyton Manning in his system. They have to disrupt the timing of the passing game and those defensive backs have to get up in the face of Julius Thomas and Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. The Seahawks have got to be the more physical team, because they win with defense. This game reminds me a bit of that Tampa Bay-Oakland Super Bowl [from 11 years ago]. It was the No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense [by yardage], and defense won for Tampa Bay, because the Bucs were aggressive and forced turnovers. Seattle's got to do the same thing. They've got to do a great job with their hands to disrupt the timing of Manning's system.''
• Scouting the Broncos defense: "If you look at the Broncos defense, statistically speaking, what jumps off the page in my opinion is they were very below average against the pass, and not that much better stopping the run. Really in every category, from scoring, to red zone, to sacks and turnovers, everything else was very marginal. Toward the end of the season they were better at stopping the run, but I think they were still 11th or so and giving up over 100 yards per game.
"To me that makes the difference in the game -- Marshawn Lynch and if he can run the ball against Denver consistently. The Broncos have to be able to slow him down and keep Seattle's offense off the field long enough for Peyton Manning to get plenty of possessions and be able to work the passing game. The Broncos defense has been getting very good production in the playoffs from defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. The big guy has had some real aggressive play in the postseason, but I still think Seattle runs the ball against the Broncos. I thought when Denver lost [starting defensive tackle Kevin] Vickerson [to a hip injury in late November], that's when the Broncos started to really suffer in their run defense. That was a big loss for them on run defense.
"But Seattle ought to go into this game feeling like it can run against this Denver defense. That's got to be the Seahawks focus on offense. Because running the ball against the Broncos is the best defense against their prolific offense.''
• Scouting the Broncos offense: "The Denver passing game, with all those receiving weapons, against the Seattle secondary is the part of the game that everybody's going to be looking at on Sunday. That's the most intriguing part of this game. As good as Denver is in the passing game, I don't know if it has a decided advantage in that matchup. Obviously Peyton Manning makes a huge difference, but that Seattle secondary is really good.
"Even with their tight end Julius Thomas and the ability of the Broncos to put a four-wide look out there, the thing Seattle can do is match up big people against everyone. Most teams would have very difficult matchup problems with Thomas and those other receivers, but not Seattle. They can mitigate that because who ever they decide to put on Thomas, they've got enough big bodies to handle everything. Can they cover him downfield at the end of the day, and can Peyton put the ball where it needs to go? He's been able to do that so far this season.
"What Denver's offense does so well is keep people off-balance, and that starts with Peyton. Even their no-huddle, it's not a hurried situation. It's a very controlled up-tempo offense, versus a hurried fast-paced kind of offense. He runs it very controlled and it's very specific in how it attacks a defense, and that's because of Peyton. It's all about his ability to control so many things at the line of scrimmage, and you couple that with the weapons they have on offense and his ability to find the best matchup in almost every situation, and that's what they do best. He puts them in situations and positions to really keep a defense off-balance and off guard, because he'll find the matchup to exploit. The best matchup out there for him, the one you don't want him to find.''
• A key concern for Denver?: "Peyton's got to be able to put the ball where it belongs, and that's why weather matters so much to Denver. If it's windy or really cold [the forecast is for a low of 29 degrees on Super Bowl Sunday], it's a question of whether or not he'll be able to perform and be as precise as he's been all season. The team that runs the ball more has to have an advantage in cold, windy conditions. The Seahawks are more grounded and they have the ability to pound it and play defense. So defense plays a little bit more to their plan than it does to Denver. The Broncos would probably like it to be 62 and sunny.''