Super Bowl 2014: Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks - Exposing a Fraud?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so maybe not a fraud in the truest sense. More likely just dispelling this myth that the 2013 Seahawks defense ranks up there with the likes of the 2002 Buccaneers or the 1990 Giants. In fact, they have more in common with the 1989 Broncos defense than those other two.
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Much has been said all week about how great this Seattle Seahawks defense is and how many problems it will pose for the Denver Broncos, especially given how immobile Peyton Manning is, so I decided to dig deeper into the history of Number 1 defenses against the Number 1 offenses over the last 25 years.

Being a lifelong Broncos fan, I recall briefly how the 1989 Denver Broncos defense was going to shut down the "finesse" San Francisco 49ers offense led by then immobile Joe Montana and I wondered how that defense compared to other Number 1 defenses in the Super Bowl and these Seattle Seahawks.

Going back to 1989 is pushing it because the game has changed so much, but it was the Denver Broncos and this is a Denver Broncos blog, so we'll give it a try. I included the 1990 New York Giants and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this as well, because they both were number 1 defenses that faced either the number 1 offense or the number 2 offense in the league that year. I felt it would provide somewhat of baseline comparison between these Seahawks and the Broncos defense of 1989.

My first question was to compare statistical records of these two teams, then break down their quality of opponents that year. I left out the Giants and Buccaneers on this one, but just know those two teams ranked at or better than both the 1989 Broncos and 2013 Seahawks in most defensive categories.

1989 Denver Broncos 2013 Seattle Seahawks
PPG 14.1 (1st) 14.4 (1st)
Total Yards 275 (3rd) 274 (1st)
Pass Yards 176 (3rd) 172 (1st)
Pass TD 13 (1st) 16 (2nd)
Rush Yards 99 (6th) 102 (7th)
Rush TDs 10 (7th) 4 (1st)
TO/gm 2.7 (2nd) 2.4 (1st)

What started out as a curious exploration of data turned into more peculiar similarities that demanded further digging. It felt like these two teams were very similar, but without the context of "who they played" I could not be sure.

My next step was looking into each of their respective opponents that season and tally where those teams ranked offensively in both Points-Per-Game and Total Yards, since those are really the two best broad-based measures of offensive firepower. This time, I also included the 1990 New York Giants and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this effort, since I felt it would show whether the 2013 Seahawks were truly of that caliber of Super Bowl Champion or if they were more on the side of Super Bowl Fraud.

Opp. Rank 1989 Denver Broncos 1990 New York Giants 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Seattle Seahawks
Avg PPG Rank 17.9 13.9 15.5 19.5
Avg Yards Rank 18.1 13.9 17.8 20.5
Top 5 in PPG 2 6 5 0
Top 5 in Yards 2 6 2 1
Top 10 in PPG 2 9 8 1
Top 10 in Yards 2 7 3 1
Bottom 12 in PPG 7 8 7 7
Bottom 12 in Yards 9 8 6 9

If you ask me, this is pretty damning to the cause of all those Seahawks fans who are convinced they have the best defense in NFL History. In my eyes, they are looking more and more like fool's gold - though I am a Broncos fan, so that might not mean much. It is evident that the quality of opponent just wasn't there for the Seahawks this season, much like it just wasn't there for the 1989 Broncos either.

So that leaves me with one final question, where does that leave the 2013 Denver Broncos? Are they more like the 1990 Buffalo Bills or the 1989 San Francisco 49ers? They are clearly far superior than that 2002 Oakland Raiders team, so it really comes down to the first two.

Honestly, I am not quite sure. The Bills were an explosive team that faltered in the face of a much more physical Giants defense, while the 49ers were an explosive team that exposed the Broncos defense with timing and precision of an historically great offense.

Opp. Rank 2013 Denver Broncos 1989 San Francisco 49ers 1990 Buffalo Bills 2002 Oakland Raiders
Avg PPG Rank 17.5 17.6 16.1 19.5
Avg Yards Rank 20.7 18.5 16.5 18.9
Top 5 in PPG 2 2 3 1
Top 5 in Yards 0 2 2 1
Top 10 in PPG 4 2 4 1
Top 10 in Yards 2 2 4 5
Bottom 12 in PPG 6 10 9 8
Bottom 12 in Yards 11 11 9 8
PPG Against 37.9 27.6 26.8 28.1

This exercise was a mixed bag of I don't know what to think. It's the great unknown, but the one number that stands out like a sore thumb is the sheer volume of points the Broncos have put up this season. It's pretty incredible and if the Seahawks don't find a way to keep up, it could get out of hand quickly for them.

My only real conclusion after all of this is that this Super Bowl will either be a close hard-fought game or a blowout win by the Broncos. I am highly doubtful the Seahawks have the weapons to duplicate their 41-10 preseason faux Super Bowl.

What do you think?

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