Dominic D’Angelo is a die-hard Seahawks fan who grew up in the heart of 49ers territory. Andrew Wise hails from Denver and bleeds Broncos orange and blue. With their teams facing off in Super Bowl XLVIII, they sat down to talk match-ups, what a victory would mean to each team and more.
Andrew Wise: Are you worried about Russell Wilson, a young quarterback who has never been here before, handling the pressure of a Super Bowl?
Dominic D’Angelo: Absolutely not. If you’ve ever seen Wilson in a game, be it the conference match in Atlanta or an easy win back at CenturyLink, you can tell he’s always got his emotions under check. His face straight even when he’s being flushed out of the pocket. I think this is just his personality, an extension of that humility and confidence he exudes in press conferences. As NFL analysts and announcers like to remind Seattle fans often, Wilson spends a moment before every game finding a spot where he feels comfortable. When he finds this spot, he uses it during the game to control his emotions and bring himself back to center. If he does this, he’ll play the Super Bowl just like he plays every other game of the season - like a champ.
DD: Considering the reputation of Seattle’s secondary, or the Legion of Boom as they call themselves, do you expect Manning to hand the ball off to Knowshon Moreno more than usual?
AW: I definitely respect the Hawks’ secondary. Sherman has a much better shot at containing Demaryius Thomas than your average corner, just because of his size and physicality. That said, this is a passing offense, and while Moreno will get 5 to 10 yards on a draw play every once in a while, he can only be effective when the passing game is a threat. He’s simply not a big-play back. This could totally change if a nasty snowstorm hits at game-time, but I expect John Fox and his staff to stick to their guns and throw the ball a ton. Because as good as the “Legion of Boom” might be, they haven’t come up against a receiving corps with the talent, size and depth that the Broncos have. And Colin Kaepernick isn’t anywhere close to Peyton in terms of taking a secondary apart.
AW: How do the Hawks stop Peyton Manning?
DD: First, I want to say I have tremendous respect for Manning as a play-caller and a playmaker, he truly embodies the age-old comparison of an NFL quarterback to a field general. However, his strength lies in his ability to pass, while the Hawks’ lies in their ability to block and intercept that pass. In essence, what we are about to see on Super Bowl Sunday is almost equitable to two equally weighted trains crashing head on at full speed. Regardless, as a Hawks fan I would be remiss if I didn’t have faith that the Legion of Boom could make Manning’s strength his greatest frustration. Richard Sherman on Wes Welker, Byron Maxwell on Demaryius Thomas, Walter Thurmond III on Eric Decker, with Earl Thomas and Kam ‘Kamtrak’ Chancellor running along the middle - these are some match-ups that I like. Plus, if Manning can’t pass, I have faith that the front seven has the strength to stymie any attempt by Moreno to run.
DD: Do you believe Denver’s front-seven can stop Beastmode?
AW: Two words. Terrance Knighton. This guy is absolutely huge, has had a great season and was all over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship. This line is strong in the middle, averaging only 2.84 yards per carry over the center this season. Lynch is a smash-mouth, straight up the middle kind of runner and our big guys just don’t take too kindly to that. Not only will they stop “Beast Mode,” but Russell is going to be running backwards all game long.
AW: Have Richard Sherman’s antics turned the country against the Seahawks? Is he more distraction than motivation at this point?
DD: I think Sherman’s emotions embody the core of the Seahawks team: a chip on their collective shoulder about being overlooked by the rest of the NFL. For Sherman, the chip comes from being a fifth-round draft pick when he’s clearly the best cornerback in the league. With Russell Wilson, I think being a third-round draft pick really weighs on and motivates him. For Marshawn Lynch, I believe he is haunted by his failed tenure with the Buffalo Bills. The point I am trying to make is that this team has got heart and it’s out to prove that it’s the best team in the NFL. That’s what I think Sherman meant when he decided to act like a pro-wrestler in the interview with Erin Andrews on Sunday. So I guess in answer to your question I’d have to ask, does it matter? This team is hungry and nobody in Seattle thinks Sherman is a bad guy. Will it really affect that spirit if the bandwagoners from all the non-Super Bowl teams dislike Seattle? Those guys aren’t 12’s. The traveling 12’s are going to make their voices heard at the Super Bowl and that’s the only noise that matters.
DD: Manning already won a Super Bowl in 2007. Do you think his hunger for another one is greater than the Seahawks Super Bowl-starved stomach’s?
AW: Manning feeds off the environment around him. In 2007, Indy was desperate for a ring. Denver is just as desperate now. This is a new team and Peyton is a new man. Winning this Super Bowl means redemption. It means proving everyone wrong who wrote him off after the neck injury. For Broncos fans, this is about ending fifteen years of constantly reshuffling, mediocre teams with hopelessly inconsistent quarterbacks. I don’t doubt that there is some substantial hunger in Seattle, but the reality is that this is the beginning of an era of strong Seahawk teams led by a quarterback just starting his career. If it doesn’t happen this year, there will be plenty of optimism about next year. For the Broncos, there aren’t many opportunities left. The immediacy is a lot more palpable. Unless Brock Osweiler turns out to be the next Russell Wilson success story, this year might be the last shot. These fans, and this team, won’t go down without a fight.