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NFL: Seahawks’ top-ranked defense has history on its side

By Clark Judge, Sports Xchange

Somebody remind Las Vegas that defense wins championships. After the Seattle Seahawks opened as an early one-point favorite, the pendulum ... and the money ... swung to the Denver Broncos, but be careful what you wish for, people.

I understand the Broncos have a record-setting quarterback, but I also understand Seattle has the NFL’s top-ranked defense that led the league in interceptions and takeaways and just shut down San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Again.

So what? So, pay attention to history. Peyton Manning is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl after leading the league that season in touchdowns and yards passing. The others were Dan Marino (1984), Kurt Warner (2001) and Tom Brady (2007).

Quick now, what do all three have in common? Yep, they were the quarterbacks nobody could stop ... until somebody did. All three were Super Bowl losers, and therein lies a lesson that shouldn’t be forgotten: Namely, that great defense trumps great quarterbacks. Looks like it’s time for a refresher course.

For all the hype about Brady-Manning XV, Kaepernick-Wilson IV was worlds better.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: From the sad-but-true department, Manning must win this Super Bowl to erase that “Yeah, but ...” paragraph from his resume. Sorry, but that’s just the way it goes.

Make that deja vu all over again for the 49ers’ Jim Harbaugh. That’s two straight years his season ended with a pass to Michael Crabtree in the right side of the end zone. Next time, Jim, just give the ball to Kaepernick and have him run.

No blizzard is forecast for Super Bowl XLVIII. Not yet anyway. But they’re calling for a Skittles storm.

Jim Irsay Note of the Week: This marks the seventh Super Bowl for Denver ... and the sixth with a quarterback drafted by the Colts.

Peyton Manning hasn’t been sacked or pressured in two weeks, and his receivers have been as open as a screen door in July. Just a hunch, but that changes now.

Yeah, Richard Sherman is a terrific cornerback, but someone tell him to put a lid on his act. It’s one thing to make a game-saving stop; it’s another to act like an idiot. Sherman is an All-Pro at both.

Bart Scott, move over. We just lowered the bar for postgame outbursts.

Memo to the Seattle media: Get ready for 24-7 coverage of Sherman. He’s a headline waiting to happen.

According to @TipIQ, the average current ticket price is over $4,100 ... or the equivalent of a month’s rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

For those teams that could’ve had free-agent pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril for a couple of pizzas last year ... take that.

No, I don’t like Jim Harbaugh’s sideline rants, either, but you can’t blame him after those blown calls. Whenever you hear the words “not reviewable,” you know somebody kicked the can.

Please tell me we’re not going to shift our investigative reporters from Omaha to Marshall.

Get ready to wheel out the dreaded cold-weather stat for Peyton Manning. He’s 4-7 in games where it’s 32 degrees or colder at kickoff. Lucky for Manning, the Super Bowl isn’t next Sunday. The forecast calls for a high of 30 ... and, remember, the game doesn’t start until evening.

Maybe it’s just as well San Francisco didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. Fox might’ve shown Navarro Bowman’s gruesome leg injury a couple of hundred times again. Geez, guys, enough’s enough.

For the record, that ends Anquan Boldin’s playoff winning streak at six ... and just in time for Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, who won’t have to recite again why he dealt Boldin to the 49ers.

Dear Santa, Please send me a speed receiver ... maybe two ... who can stretch the field, and please make it soon. I can’t wait much longer. Yours, Tom Brady.

San Francisco was the only team in the NFL not to allow a 100-yard rusher all season. Then Marshawn Lynch showed up Sunday.

It figures the NFC championship game was close. It usually is. In fact, the last seven have been decided by seven or fewer points — including three that went to overtime.

Tell me the last time a Bill Belichick defense surrendered five drives of 72 yards or more and didn’t force a punt on all but one of its opponent’s series. Yep, that’s how bad the Patriots were ... or how good Denver was.

The biggest pass in the Denver-New England game wasn’t by Peyton Manning, and it wasn’t a completion. It was Tom Brady’s overthrow of a wide-open Julian Edelman in the first quarter. That signaled the beginning of the end for a Patriots team that was woefully outplayed, outcoached and outmanned.

This is how good Manning’s been in the playoffs: Denver punter Britton Colquitt has been called on to kick just once ... period ... in two games.

Belichick had every right to blow a gasket when cornerback Aqib Talib was hurt. It’s not just that Talib is his best defensive back; it’s that he was picked by Wes Welker, and no flag was thrown.

Wonder if the NFL was behind Bruno Mars’ request to have the Red Hot Chili Peppers join him at halftime on Super Bowl Sunday ... you know, just to make fans feel as if there’s heat somewhere.

Five things we learned

1. The Broncos wish CBS was doing Super Bowl XLVIII. They’re 8-0 with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms working their games.

2. There’s no home-field advantage this season for a Manning at MetLife Stadium. Ask a Giants fan who suffered through the year. He’ll tell you.

3. Bill Belichick no longer owns Peyton Manning. Not only is that the second straight time Manning conquered the Patriots’ coach in a conference championship game, but the last four times they met, Manning completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and six interceptions — shredding Belichick’s defense for 400 yards passing Sunday, including seven completions of 21 yards or more.

4. When Julian Edelman is your go-to receiver, your ceiling can’t be high. New England desperately needs to draft a wide receiver who can stretch the field.

5. Never stick a mike in Richard Sherman’s face after a game-winning play. You may regret it.

Just asking but ...

What in the world did Michael Crabtree do to Richard Sherman?

Since when did Terrance Knighton become Geno Atkins?

Can we get an APB on the New England pass rush?

Anyone seen LeGarrette Blount?

Is Michael Crabtree “the best catcher ever,” as Jim Harbaugh once said, or “a mediocre receiver,” as Richard Sherman now contends?

Five guys who have some explaining to do

1. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Going back to the 2012 playoffs, he drew up game plans that netted New England three points in five straight quarters. That’s hard to do when Tom Brady’s your quarterback. Oh, yeah, and while we’re at it, there’s this: You win your previous three games by running the ball, averaging 212 yards per on the ground. So you come into Denver, where San Diego won last month by, yes, running the ball, and do ... what? Try to win by throwing? To Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Austin Collie? Puh-leeze. Go to the back of the class, Josh.

2. New England coach Bill Belichick. He’s supposed to be a master of adjustments, but there were none in a second-half where the Patriots’ defense had zero answers for Peyton Manning. Yeah, I know, his best defensive back, Aqib Talib, was out, but one guy shouldn’t sabotage an entire defense. And this defense never showed up, with Manning completing five passes of 25 yards or longer, and Denver never punting after its opening series.

3. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. You barely challenged Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman all day. So why try to beat him to the end zone with 30 seconds left? “I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman bellowed afterward. He’s probably right. So why go after him when you absolutely, positively can’t afford a giveaway?

4. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He takes a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-1, then he loses the ball on a strip-sack. On his next possession he throws an interception on the second snap, and you know what happened on the last possession. You shouldn’t survive mistakes like that in Seattle, and he didn’t. “I cost us the game,” he said afterward. When you commit three turnovers, yeah, you probably did.

5. Referee Gene Steratore. How do you blow that fumble call at the goal line? The NFL is going to look into changing the rule on “non-reviewable calls,” and it should. Replays showed clearly that San Francisco should’ve had the ball.

Numbers that may mean something

0 — Danny Amendola catches vs. Denver

0 — Peyton Manning sacks in the playoffs

2 — Vernon Davis catches vs. Seattle

3 — Tom Brady touchdown passes in his last four games

3 — Peyton Manning 400-yard playoff games

4 — Marshawn Lynch 100-yard games vs. San Francisco in his last six starts against the 49ers

5 — Anquan Boldin TDs in his last seven playoff games

5 — LeGarrette Blount touches vs. Denver

7 — Colin Kaepernick turnovers in his last two games in Seattle

27-9 — Russell Wilson’s starting record

Clark Judge, a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange, has covered pro football for four decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selections Committee.