When the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots reported to training camp in the last week of July 2014, each had high hopes for the 2014-15 NFL season.
The 2013-14 Patriots, after capturing the #2 seed in the AFC for the second consecutive season, fell to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game and hoped to rebound and redeem themselves with the promises of the new season. The Seahawks, meanwhile, sought to prove their critics wrong once again by setting their sights on obtaining a second straight Super Bowl title.
After a season full of hotly contested matchups and drama, Seattle and New England each find themselves one game from NFL glory. On February 1, in front of the 80,000 fans at AT&T Stadium and millions of fans watching from home, the Seahawks and Patriots will engage in the final test for NFL supremacy.
Here are four reasons why you won’t be disappointed with this year’s Super Bowl.
1. This Game Will Cement Legacies
The great thing about having to two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and coaches facing off is that because winning multiple championships is so rare, the winner is sure to go down in NFL history. Tom Brady has a chance to win his fourth ring, which would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for the most titles won by a quarterback. If the debate between Brady and Manning as the greatest of our generation has not yet been decided, a win here would cement the former above the latter, and give Brady an even stronger case as the greatest of all-time.
On the other hand, if Russell Wilson wins, he’ll become the first quarterback to win two titles in his first three years as a starter, and the first to repeat since, go figure, Tom Brady. The Seahawks would position themselves comfortably to be dubbed a dynasty, perhaps marking the end of the Patriots’ decade of dominance. With Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts defeating Manning’s Broncos, a Seattle win could truly indicate the beginning of a new era for the NFL.
2. The Patriots’ Competitive Nature
Last year’s Patriots team (though they weren’t nearly as dominant as this year’s team) made it to the AFC Championship, where they were defeated handily by the same Broncos team that was crushed 43-8 by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Many New England fans will tell you that had Rob Gronkowski not been hurt earlier in the season and had the Patriots beaten the Broncos, Super Bowl XLVIII would have been a much more intriguing contest.
This year’s game is an opportunity for the Patriots to back up claims made last year and knowing Tom Brady’s competitive spirit, be sure that they won’t just roll over. Brady also has an opportunity to avenge his team’s 2012 loss to the Seahawks. In a recent interview, the quarterback said he did not even realize that Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was taunting him after the game. Whether or not this is true, Brady certainly does not want to give Sherman the opportunity to do the same once again. Although he has a knack for padding his public perception and downplaying grudges, Brady is surely chomping at the bit.
3. Seahawks’ Brick-Sized Chip
At this point, everyone knows better than to underestimate the Seahawks. After a slow start this season, many analysts and fans alike were prepared to write off last year’s domination as a fluke.
And yet, here they are again, a #1 seed playing for a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
Yes, Russell Wilson is more likely to run for 100 yards before throwing 300. And yes, the Seahawks receivers aren’t all that great. And no, they’re not built on hyped-up draft picks with the right pedigree.
Nevertheless, this team has found a way to keep on winning.
The crazy thing is, we know all these things about the Seahawks and now know not to underestimate them, but they still play like everyone is sleeping on them. Doug Baldwin, after winning the NFC Championship, took offense when Deion Sanders called the Seahawks’ receivers “aiight,” going on a postgame rant not unlike Sherman’s last year.
Well Doug, to be fair, you guys are “aiight.” No Seahawks receiver set any records for touchdown catches, yards or receptions this season. Jeremy Kearse, although he did catch the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship, was the target of all four of Wilson’s interceptions, and the direct cause of at least one.
So it’s not the quality of the players that sets this Seattle team apart, it’s the intensity with which they play. These guys will play every single down like it’s their first and last. In a league in which you never know when your career may be abruptly ended, maybe it helps to have guys that have had to work harder than most to get to where they are.
4. Differences in Styles
Everyone knows the Patriot Way: keep your mouth shut, do your job, on to the next one. Everyone also knows the Seahawks Way: talk it up, get in their face, hit hard, look back.
After Pete Carroll, now the Seattle head coach, left New England in 1999, current coach Bill Belichick brought his now famous taciturn personality to the team. The Patriots have become a no-nonsense, meticulous squad. Tom Brady is renowned for his work ethic and dedication to studying his opponents. The team is known for its complexity and the obligations placed on its players. Many have not been able to catch on the Pats’ system (see Chad Ochocinco), and some, from the outside, claim that the Patriots are cheaters (see John Harbaugh). But for those who are on the inside and get it, there is nothing left to do but rave about the system. Yes, the Patriots are hated, but (at least I think) it’s because they’re so good, and have been for so long. Apart from “Spygate,” which can be debated in its own right, there’s little you can say against the Patriots in terms of sportsmanship and personality.
On the other hand, the Seahawks thrive on being hated; it plays into their own underdog perception of themselves. They are, probably apart from Russell Wilson, the most individually disliked group of players in the NFL. There’s a reason nobody wants to recognize Richard Sherman the best cornerback in the league, even if he is: because he insists that you do so.
The Seahawks go out of their way to make people hate them, and then use that as fuel for their fire. In all truthfulness, its quite an ingenious method.
In the end, it’s going to be the brash and abrasive Seahawks clashing against the formal and tight-lipped Patriots. On February 1, only one team will carve its name on the halls wall of NFL history, but one thing is certain: this game is sure to live up to its hype.
Photo Credit- Anthony Quintano, Wikipedia