Seattle's special teams are statistical marvels. During the regular season, the Seahawks allowed just 3.9 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kickoff runback; Denver allowed 9.8 yards per punt return and a league-worst 29.3 yards per kickoff. Seattle has not allowed a punt return yard in the postseason, Denver has gained 66. If the Broncos score a lot, kick returns will be the least of Seattle's problems. If the Seahawks make the Super Bowl a slow-moving struggle for field position, kick defense could be a game-changer.
TMQ's keys to the game:
1. The Broncos must throw deep, even if that means Peyton Manning holding the ball for more than 2.36748790345 seconds or whatever his average is supposed to be. The drip-drip-drip short passing Denver has lived on this season will be difficult against Seattle's in-your-face press coverage. Nobody covers short better than the Seahawks, and their corners have the green light to jump short sideways throws -- ask Matt Schaub. Manning gave up a pick-six on a short throw in his last Super Bowl appearance, and it proved the decisive snap of the Saints' win. Short and sideways is not the formula for defeating Seattle.
2. Seattle must take the electronic governor off Russell Wilson, who does not need to outperform Manning, but can't just hand off either. The Seahawks' best game this season was a 34-7 defeat of New Orleans in which Wilson aired the ball out, 30 throws for 310 yards. TMQ keeps noting that high-scoring teams tend to peter out at the end; that may happen to the Broncos, too. But Denver is the highest-scoring team ever. Seattle's game plan needs to be aggressive, in case the Jersey Bowl becomes a touchdown festival.
3. The Broncos will be without Ryan Clady, Chris Harris and Von Miller, three of the team's best players. The Seahawks will be missing only Sidney Rice, who is not integral to what they do, and Brandon Browner, who's been an on-and-off presence for two seasons. In the NFL, often the last man standing is determined in no small part by who has the most men standing.
My pick? I journeyed alone to a distant mountaintop -- OK, a distant parking lot -- and the football gods revealed unto me: low-scoring game, Seattle by a field goal. Whoever wins, let's hope both teams honored sports lore and saved the best for last.
The Latest Owls Items: Most sports websites do not provide adequate coverage of the migratory patterns of North American owls. This season, TMQ has run several items bucking that trend. One noted that the snowy owl, normally found in the sub-Arctic, was ranging as far south as Wisconsin. Spoke too soon: Last week a snowy owl was photographed perching in downtown Washington, D.C. The accompanying story reported that a snowy owl was observed recently in Florida. This omen either means the end times are upon us, or peace is coming to the Middle East.