Every year, it’s every football fan's hope: an entertaining Super Bowl. We all want nothing more than to watch an exciting, if not a well executed, game unfold across some four hours on a Sunday Night to bring the NFL season to a close. Well, most fans just want their team to win, but if that can’t happen, then we want an exciting game.
It stands to reason that this year should be close if not utterly compelling. It’s been uncommon over the last 15 years to have back-to-back uneventful Super Bowls. While Seattle fans surely loved last year’s romp of the Broncos, the game was over quickly, without much fanfare. The years before, however, saw great battles between the Giants and Patriots, a Harbaugh Bowl that involved an impressive comeback and a power outage, and a pair of Steelers appearances that made for dramatic finishes.
So hopefully this year, with two proven teams possessing talent and championship experience, we should have a game that comes down to the very end; although it will be hard to top the NFC Championship game. Perhaps a game-winning drive is in store, orchestrated by either of the two quarterbacks who are no stranger to grasping victory on the final drive.
With the Patriots taking on the Seahawks, we have no shortage of storylines, from the present to the historic, from individual matchups to all-time legacies. We have a great offense against a great defense, with the public and the professionals more or less divided as to what the outcome will be. As we are less than a week away, it’s time to revel in the great stories that this game has presented, including a recent one that made its way high on the list.
Ahead of the final game of the year, here are most intriguing storylines from Super Bowl XLIX.
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10 Pete Carroll Against His Old Team
It’s easy to forget there was someone before Belichick not named Parcells who coached the Patriots. In his first stint in the NFL during the 90s, Pete Carroll dabbled in the AFC East. He was fired after one 6-10 season with the Jets in 1994, and soon became the coach that would succeed Bill Parcells and precede Bill Belichick in New England. He took the Pats to the playoffs twice, but in his third season, despite an 8-8 record, he was fired. Now Carroll is back, having already found great success in college, and while no one needs any extra motivation to win a Super Bowl, you have to believe that Carroll would love to best the team and owner that let him go.
9 Battle of Number Ones
Nothing is ever certain in the NFL, but that there are two number seeds in the big game not only validates the regular season and reinforces the value of home field advantage, but indicates we should have the most competitive, best represented Super Bowl in years. We know that this was the case last year as well, but a beat down of a #1 seed can't possibly happen again. It’s nice once in a while to have a wild card team surge at the right team and make it big, but football purists surely will enjoy this matchup. There have been some controversial calls in the playoffs, but the teams at the top during the regular season have made their way to the Championship, just as the league envisions.
8 Overtime This Time?
We’re due and we all want it. These two teams are especially evenly matched, and one year we'll get an overtime game, because it’s never happened in the Super Bowl. This year produced surprisingly few overtime games, with only 12 heading to the extra quarter, including the Seattle and Green Bay NFC Championship. Last year only had 15, while the year before was up to 22. Still, with 256 games played a year (267 with playoffs), we’re getting roughly 5-10% a year that go into overtime. Well, this is Super Bowl 52, so we should have had at least a couple by now. Statistics say we are due, but what do statistics know? Plus, it will be great to reignite the debate about how best to regulate the fifth quarter.
7 The Two Most Hated Teams?
With vocals players on both side, head coaches that don’t always have the nicest things to say, and fanbases that frankly are a bit too proud of their team, we have two of the most hated teams in the league. Tom Brady is the Golden Boy, but he’s won at football and life enough for some. Russell Wilson might be a little emotional, and in his third year, is pretty young to be playing for his second Super Bowl ring. Then there is the Legion of Boom and other self-promoters on the Seattle defense, and chesty defenders in Darrelle Revis and Vince Wifork on the Pats. And there are more than enough people who’ve been annoyed at Carroll and Belichick. This is all in good fun, though. Well, for some, but there are hordes of people who would love to see either of these teams lose in dramatic fashion. For many, it’s unfortunate one has to win.
6 Trick Plays
Both teams have already proven this postseason they are more than willing to gamble and use trick plays to win the game. So let’s see them here, this is the stage to let the secrets out. The Seahawks utilized a fake field goal to perfection, scoring a touchdown to begin a rally against the Green Bay Packers. The Patriots meanwhile saw Julian Edelman throw a pass to Danny Amendola to score against the Ravens. Both these coaches play to win (unlike, say, Mike McCarthy, who plays not to lose), so don’t be surprised to see a rogue onside kick, a pooch punt, or whatever else these guys will pull from their proverbial bag of tricks.
5 The Sherman-Brady Beef
He is one the most vocal players in the league, or at least the most vocal person who can actually back it up on the field. When the Pats played at Seattle in 2012, with Seattle coming from behind to win, cornerback Richard Sherman famously said and later tweeted to Brady, ‘U Mad Bro?’ Sherman has never been shy about saying he and his defense are the best. Brady, ever the Golden Boy, has stayed for the most part diplomatic, not really saying much. Now the two will face off on the biggest stage. We often talk about two great quarterbacks playing each other, but that’s not how it actually works in the NFL. Brady and Sherman will actually share the field. Will Brady throw his way? And who will end up catching the ball?
4 Marshawn Lynch
For however little he talks, for however much he grabs his crotch and just throws out money when he gets fined, Marshawn Lynch is a phenomenal runner and might be the last great power back the league will see in a while. The NFL has already increasingly moved to favor passing, with the running game taking a backseat. What’s more, most teams don’t have a singular workhorse, instead splitting time. There is still DeMarco Murray and Jamaal Charles, and even Le’Veon Bell, but injuries, timeshares, and rules that promote passing mean less running across the board. Lynch has provided indelible memories to fans for his fierce, at times unstoppable, running. At 28-years-old, with eight years and nearly 130 games to his credit, he might not have too much more left in the tank. History shows running backs fall by the wayside come 30, and while Lynch is a beast, he has to slow down eventually, so enjoy while you can.
3 Opposing Offensive Approaches
What should prove to be most entertaining, and what may help the undecided pick a side to root for, are utterly different offensive approaches. The Seahawks are simple and static: they use power running with Lynch throughout, and they look for Wilson to make plays rolling out and scrambling. They lack sizeable wideouts and all-star talents, but they will methodically move the ball, ready to take advantage of play action for a big gain. The Patriots, well, they cater to whoever they are playing. They did not run the ball at all in the second half against the Ravens only to pound Indy with Legarette Blount for over 150 yards a week later. They put players in positions to succeed, and are entirely versatile in their formations and play calling. If Seattle takes away Gronk, they will simple create a different scheme to move the ball.
2 The Brady-Belichick Legacy
Let’s put aside DeflateGate for a moment (almost there). This is the sixth Super Bowl appearance for Brady and Belichick, and their shot at a fourth ring. Maybe they have another two years together? They have a chance here to cement their legacy as one of the great coaching-quarterback tandems of all time, a pair of tactitioners that have redefined themselves throughout their careers in order to win. And they have done so, consistently, amid turnover and trades and chaos off the field at times. Even their two Super Bowl losses came at the expense of a couple incredible, nearly miraculous plays. A win, and all those who called for Brady’s benching earlier in the season, if they haven’t already gone into hiding, can do so now. If they lose, however, that’s 3-3 in the big game, and that legacy talk might be harder to convince people of, especially with a new dynasty that appears to be rising in the Seahawks.
Of course. As of this writing, the NFL is still investigating who knew what and when, and it looks like there will be no punishment for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, or the Patriots for the Super Bowl. Surely something will come after, but it seems like they will play in the big game unscathed. Or perhaps all this has been a distraction? Or conversely, maybe all this has been fuel to prove they can win and win big, whether or not they cheat. Should they win, will the game be protested? Or marked with an asterisk? This is such a strange story that former and current players, that analysts and the public, seem so deeply divided and on such extremes. Some say the Pats shouldn’t play in the Super Bowl, others say this is no big deal and everyone does it. For those who like stories and chaos, this is wonderful. The league may not want this around, but it will sure help make this game all the more memorable, and it won’t stop until kickoff, if that.
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