Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
03 Feb 2014
compiled by Rivers McCown, Andrew Potter, and Ben Jones
For this year's playoffs, we have a modified format for our Audibles at the Line feature, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. Firstly, the arrival of the playoffs brings with it the return of our usual back-and-forth staff e-mail conversation. Secondly, every game will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #FOAud. We discussed the new format in this post.
After the last game finishes, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning the comments in this feature are often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.
@TCBullfrog: Sweep flea-flicker? What is this, the Pro Bowl?
Aaron Schatz: The Seattle OL just wants to keep this close, don't they?
Danny Tuccitto: Coaches are battling for least valuable challenge award.
Aaron Schatz: BTW, when we said that the SEA defense was as historically great as the DEN offense, WE WERE NOT KIDDING.
Aaron Schatz: Injury to Chris Harris is killing Broncos. Unless they can find a time machine for Champ, they have one dependable corner.
Danny Tuccitto: What was the over-under on when Denver would show up for the game?
@MilkmanDanimal: Beginning to think Denver is playing like this to honor Andre Reed's HOF election #FOAud #smellslikeabuffalosuperbowl
@MilkmanDanimal: The story of this game so far can be condensed down to "Seattle's defensive line is way better than Denver's offensive line."
@RobertGrebel: We've secretly replaced Peyton with Eli. Let's see if anyone notices.
@MilkmanDanimal: Words I never expected to say--"you know, right now the Super Bowl MVP is Cliff Avril."
Danny Tuccitto: The halftime show might as well have been named, "The slaughter continues."
Andrew Potter: Well if you thought the start to the FIRST half was bad...
Aaron Schatz: Looks like Jon Ryan will beat Akiem Hicks to the title "First Regina alum Super Bowl champion."
Danny Tuccitto: You know you've screwed up when the Browns front office is applauding your give-up draw.
Aaron Schatz: This game is going to be entered in @fakedansavage's HUMP festival, because Seattle porn doesn't get any better.
@TCBullfrog: @FO_ASchatz Weren't you saying most of the year how the NFC was much better than the AFC? I just remembered that for some reason.
Vince Verhei: Prediction: Seattle 27, Denver 23.
Aaron Schatz: Challenging a spot is always very difficult but I do think it looks like Russell Wilson got the ball out in front of him and got a first down on that scramble in the red zone in the first quarter.
Well, "don't challenge a spot" 1, "I think he had that" 0.
Tom Gower: That's one of the places where you really can get a good idea of where the spot should be. Plus, it's the first half, where the strategic value of a timeout is probably less, so that's not a terrible challenge. Kicking a field goal when you're "just short" of the line of gain inside the 10-yard line, though? Eh ...
Scott Kacsmar: How often do spot challenges really work? Think Seattle should have just went for it and saved the challenge. Get Denver reeling early.
Aaron Schatz: I like the challenge in some ways because if they got it, we wouldn't have to watch Carroll pussy out and kick the field goal.
I'm liking the extra blockers on third down for Seattle. Way to try to make up for the weakness of the line, believing guys can get open against the Denver secondary (especially everyone who is not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie).
Matt Waldman: So far, the key to this game is working for Seattle: forcing Peyton Manning to take the short stuff and hit the ball carrier hard until Manning grows impatient and tries to force a deeper ball up the seam or deeper outside. Seattle wants Denver to go to Thomas and the running backs more than anyone on the Broncos' offense. Thomas isn't known for handling physical play well and as we've known, Denver gives up more fumbles than any offense in the league.
Aaron Schatz: Also, for Seattle's offense, the lack of Chris Harris, which means Denver has only one dependable cornerback (DRC) unless Champ Bailey can take Willie Wonka's glass elevator to Minusland.
Points to John Fox for going for it on fourth-and-2 in the red zone, especially when Broncos were down 22. No points because Peyton Manning got pressured and threw a bad pass.
And man, that missed DPI on Earl Thomas... Oof.
Vince Verhei: Seattle's pass rush, coverage, and kick coverage have been even better than anticipated. I'm a little surprised that Denver has given up so many short routes and third-down conversions, but the bend-but-don't-break philosophy is more or less working for them. I was expecting more shot plays from Seattle. The red zone struggles are not a surprise.
MVP of the first half is Bruno Mars' pompadour.
Scott Kacsmar: The way Denver played that first half, I get the feeling starting the third with a surprise onside kick would result in another return touchdown and 29-0 score. The only people who ever enjoy a rout are the fans of the winning team. Takes away so much of the analysis and interest in the game. "They got their asses kicked" is simplistic, but there's not much more to add right now.
Rivers McCown: Trindon Holliday is a sneaky anti-MVP candidate. Nearly fumbled and has generally put the Broncos in bad field position.
Tom Gower: The Broncos can't run the ball, even with Seattle playing a lighter box. They, specifically Orlando Franklin, are getting beat badly in pass protection. Peyton is the best pass pressure-avoiding quarterback since probably Dan Marino, but there's only so much he can do and we're seeing the limits of that tonight. Of course, not being able to threaten the defense vertically doesn't help, though if Seattle cheats on the wide receiver screens too much I'm sure they'll try at least one deep shot off a fake screen.
They haven't played that badly on defense -- the only Seattle touchdown came off a short field, and Seattle's generally enjoyed good field position, much better than the Broncos -- but the way the offense has been thus far they would have had to be perfect. Good tackling on Marshawn Lynch, generally, but it's kind of irrelevant given the other side of the ball.
Scott Kacsmar: I was close.
Aaron Schatz: This is going to be the shortest FO Super Bowl Audibles ever, right?
I'm starting to wonder if Pete Carroll knows all of Peyton Manning's audibles and played him in practice.
Rivers McCown: Not really a lot to say that hasn't already been said here.
The only interesting thing to me at this point is if the Seahawks defense and Steven Hauschka will be enough to win me the Scramble fantasy playoff league.
Cian Fahey: Historically productive offense.
Historically good defense.
Vince Verhei: Seattle forces their third fumble, gets their first recovery. I want everyone to know that I am thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying this game.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, it turns out that the league's top offense did not in fact cancel out the league's top defense.
Cian Fahey: I'd like Jermaine Kearse or Percy Harvin to win the MVP so I win money...but I actually think Richard Sherman deserves it. Manning hasn't even looked his way besides one underneath in route and one deep ball that was basically a throwaway.
Scott Kacsmar: They should just let the Seahawks accept the MVP award as a team. Not sure we've seen many games where a team was this good in every phase of the game.
Vince Verhei: Seattle's offensive line, which everyone (including me) expected to struggle, has barely let a defender get a finger on Wilson.
Aaron Schatz: They did hold a bunch and the run blocking was mostly awful, but yes, they did pass block well.
I don't even have any trenchant end-game comments to wrap up Audibles with. That was like 30 minutes of game and three hours of anticlimax. Congratulations to all the Seattle fans.
Tom Gower: Game over. 43-8. Not the sort of entertaining, competitive game those of us who weren't fans of either team were rooting for. This was a hard game to break down, because a lot of it depended on how the individual matchups ended up working out, something we could guess about but didn't know for sure until we'd actually get to kickoff. And, when they did, Seattle won all of them. They won the physical matchups with the Broncos receivers. Julius Thomas was a non-factor. Eric Decker was practically invisible. Wes Welker had a couple catches but wasn't the factor over the middle I thought he might be. They couldn't run the ball at all, as Seattle played great run defense. The running back screens didn't work at all -- more credit to the defense.
Did the defense play well enough to win? I thought they were fine, not perfect but good enough if the offense had been reasonably effective, at least until the team went down four scores. They struggled then, particularly with tackling (the Kearse touchdown, whoof), so yeah. And of course Seattle's big special teams edge was another factor, as we thought it might be, but it pales to what happened in the big strength versus strength matchup.
Congratulations to the Seahawks. Fans, enjoy your title. Winning is great.
Rivers McCown: In retrospect, I find it incredibly funny that we were so willing to declare this game over at halftime after what we've been telling ourselves all season. I guess something just felt much more dominant about the Seahawks in this game than it did for, say, the Chiefs against the Colts in the Wild Card Round. Or the Patriots against the Broncos in the regular season.
My congratulations to Vince Verhei on his team's achievement. It's pretty nuts that this is one of the youngest teams in the league and it's already at this height. I don't envy the extension decisions John Schneider will have to make in the future.
Aaron Schatz: Congrats to our old buddy Doug Farrar, too, who was the first Seahawks fan on staff, right after the 2005 team almost made it to the pinnacle and fell short. Not this time.
Vince Verhei: As the resident Seattle, uh, resident on staff, I feel like I should be contributing some big emotional wrap-up piece on what this means, but I'm finding it very hard to do. Maybe it's because I'm a professional writer now (to some degree) it's because I've been basically expecting this for a year, maybe it's because the game was such a wipeout, but as the clock ticked to zeros, there was no real sense of elation. By and large, I was done with the emotional outbursts after Harvin's kickoff return. So when the game was done, I just felt peace and relief. I'm smiling, and I'm happy, but that's about it.
And then I saw the Facebook video of my cousins, two grown men in their 30s, hugging and weeping. And I saw Big Lo (the giant fat guy with the "SEA-FENCE" sign in the end zone of every Seattle home game) crying on TV. And I think maybe this just hasn't sunk in yet and it'll hit me later.
231 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2014, 6:15pm by LionInAZ