This year's Super Bowl menu features the NFL's best offense versus the league's top defense - an epic matchup enticing enough to make the Football Gods salivate.
It's a clash of football Titans in their own rights. Two teams with contrasting styles yet identical records.
It's the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning with his unstoppable scoreboard-blitzing offense against the Seattle Seahawks young, assertive defense constructed to shut down the best the NFL has to offer.
Defense wins championships - it's one of the oldest football clichés known to followers of the game. But so many times the saying has held true. It will again, and Seattle's defense is the reason why the Seahawks will edge their old AFC West rival and claim their first Super Bowl title in franchise history Sunday, Feb. 2, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
Seattle's defense was made to beat the Broncos.
If there were ever a cookie-cutter example of how to stop Manning, the Seahawks would be it.
Manning, at the age of 37, has defied odds and put together an MVP season for the ages. That goes without saying. The Broncos offense set a new standard in several categories - touchdowns (76), games with 50 or more points (3), passing first downs (293) and second-half points (318). Manning help set the records for points in a season (606), passing yards (5,477) and passing TDs (55).
Denver regularly blew out teams, leaving NFL pundits in awe of its accomplishments.
But the Broncos have not faced a defensive unit nearly as talented as Seattle's.
In fact, Denver simply hasn't faced many strong defenses. Based on defensive total yardage, the Broncos on average played the 21st-best defense every week. The strongest defense they faced was seventh-ranked Houston.
The Seahawks allowed 14.4 points per game - best in the NFL. They gave up 4,378 total yards - best in the NFL. Seattle's secondary surrendered a measly 172 pass yards per game - also best in the NFL, by a whopping 22.1 yards.
Seattle made Drew Brees, as Richard Sherman would say, look "sorry." Twice.
Even more so, Seattle's secondary matches up perfectly with Denver's receiving corps.
Sherman and an underrated Byron Maxwell can handle Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Walter Thurmond should be able to follow Wes Welker, and Kam Chancellor and the linebacking group has made a habit of shutting down tight ends such as Julius Thomas. See: Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis.
Comparing Seattle with the past 10 Super Bowl-winning defenses, the Seahawks rank second in average yards given up per game, third in yards per play, third in opposing team's quarterback rating, fourth in turnovers, first in TDs allowed and second in points allowed per game. Seattle's unit is certainly Lombardi-lifting worthy.
A major piece to Manning's success this season has been his ability to throw from a clean pocket. Denver's line, mixed with its no-huddle offense, has prevented pressure from reaching its future Hall of Fame signal-caller.
Seattle's array of sack artists (Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Clinton McDaniel and Bobby Wagner), combined with Seattle's ability to jam receivers, should be an effective antidote to Manning's rhythm passing game.
As far as Manning exploiting matchups, no weak link exists in Seattle's "Legion of Boom."
In a cold, sub-freezing, possibly snowy Super Bowl XLVIII, it's hard to imagine Manning surgically picking apart Seattle's ultra-physical and athletic pass defense.
History also resides in Seattle's corner.
Remember the 2012 and 2008 Patriots and how unstoppable their offense was? Ask the Giants. How about the 2009 Steelers, who shut down Arizona's prolific Kurt Warner-led offensive attack. Even the offense-driven Seahawks in 2005 were beat by a better defense.
Manning's year may come again, but when Sunday rolls around, he'll finally have met his match.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.