QB Peyton Manning already has one Super Bowl title, but he is going to really need this one for his legacy to be a winning quarterback in the biggest game of his career. His Denver Broncos have five massive keys which they really need to keep track of in Super Bowl 48 if they are to beat the upstart Seattle Seahawks, who are hungry for their first ever Super Bowl in franchise history.
Key #1: Champ Bailey can’t be taken advantage of – We all know that Bailey is a future Hall of Famer, and he’s probably a first ballot Hall of Famer at that. However, over the course of this season, the 35-year old spent a lot of time playing in the slot and playing on essentially a snap count as to not wear him out for the end of the game when it mattered most. However, when DB Chris Harris tore his ACL two weeks ago, Bailey was forced into action full-time as an outside corner along with DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Bailey did a great job against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, but his team wasn’t on the field all that long, and he didn’t have to deal with the punishment of defending the run all that often. That’s all going to change this week against the Seahawks, who are clearly going to keep the ball on the ground 25-30 times in this game at minimum. It’s not just the passing game where Bailey has to be sharp. He has to stay focused and be able to contribute to stopping the running game as well, and that’s going to be the most interesting item for us to watch defensively for the Broncos.
Key #2: Denver has to prove that it can run the football – Even though the Broncos had an average running game this year, we think that was more of a product of playing against some of the worst defenses in the league in the AFC. In fact, Denver didn’t have a single game this year where it played against a team ranked better than 10th against the run on the season. RB Knowshon Moreno doesn’t need 100 yards in this game, but the threat of the ground attack has to be there. Just as the New England Patriots often had just six in the box and kept everyone else out in coverage, we have to think that the Seahawks are going to end up doing the same sort of thing for a good chunk of the Super Bowl. When that happens, Manning is badly going to need to keep track of his surroundings and feel free to audible into runs. Moreno absolutely has to take advantage when his number gets called. This will become an ugly game if Manning has to put the ball in the air 50 times to win.
Key #3: Manning has to shut up the naysayers about his lack of Super Bowl and cold weather success – Manning has already told reporters to stick it once this season after he managed to win a big time game in the cold against the Washington Redskins. Now, he’s going to have to do it again on the biggest stage of his career. For as great as that game was last week against New England, Manning did it in comfortable weather conditions. This is now the third time that the future Hall of Famer has made it to the Super Bowl, and he only has two career touchdown passes in the big game. The defense really propelled the team to the only Super Bowl victory for the Indianapolis incarnation of the Colts, but in this one, Manning is going to have to prove himself that he can get the job done against the best defense he has faced in the biggest game of the year in one of the coldest conditions he has ever played in. Win this game, and Manning will put all of those demons to rest. Lose it though, and there is always going to be this hole in Manning’s resume that suggests he can’t really play in the cold or in the big one.
Key #4: Manning can’t be afraid to challenge Richard Sherman – It seems like a contradiction of what the Broncos really should be doing. Sherman is probably the best cornerback in the NFL right now, and the fact of the matter is that Manning has four receivers at his disposal which can all do an equal amount of damage to any square inch of the field. However, Manning can’t be afraid to just shut down one side of the field where Sherman is, as that would cause all sorts of problems with zone blitzes and other odd formations which could really screw him up if he only has eyes to the other side of the field. Once the Seahawks figured out last week how to keep QB Colin Kaepernick in the pocket, they figured out that he was just a one-read quarterback, and once that one read was gone, he tended to make a bad decision. The ultimate bad decision came on what was effectively the last play of the game, one where Sherman picked off Kaepernick to send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. No one will accuse Manning of being a one-read quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, but if half the field is shut off due to Sherman, Seattle is going to have a number of players in position to cause him some harm, and that’s where the mistakes will tend to happen.
Key #5: Jack Del Rio’s defense has to avoid giving up the big time play – This is what Denver has done particularly well this season. The Broncos just haven’t allowed all that many big plays, and that has given the offense the opportunity to just dink and dunk their way down the field. Believe it or not, Denver is quite comfortable playing a game where there are just seven possessions on either side, and it feels as if it can pull that off, it will find a way to score enough points to win the game. It’s avoiding those big plays which will really be the key. Seattle doesn’t pull off a ton of 20+ yard plays, and if the Broncos can keep it under say, three of those over the course of the game and keep any 60+ yard touchdowns from happening, there is a great chance that they are ultimately going to win the Lombardi Trophy.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.