JERSEY CITY, N.J.-- Standing on a boat in the Hudson River, talking to a vast thicket of media schlubbery that had been bused via police escort through the Holland Tunnel, the head coach of the Denver Broncos stressed the need for sticking to the routine this week.
Well so much for that.
Several of John Fox’s AFC champions, in fact, would soon express some trepidation just at being on the water at all, even if it was aboard a substantial vessel that looked like it had grown out of the dock behind the Hyatt Hotel.
“I like to stay on land where I belong,” said a giant Broncos player called Terrance Knighton or sometimes Pot Roast. “Not really a water guy. First time on a boat.”
Demaryius Thomas, an uber athletic wideout whose name might ring an alarm due to that 80-yard overtime touchdown he used to chase the Steelers from their most recent playoff appearance, expressed similar concern.
“I don’t like the water,” he said.
The Seahawks presumably like the water.
But the unusual setting for Denver’s Monday new conference actually introduced a theme for the week, that being the question of what — if anything — could unnerve the Broncos enough to lose this 48th Super Bowl, a Super Bowl they really have no business losing.
I can tell you it’s not the Seahawks.
“I don’t even think about the hype,” Thomas said. “My thing is just to do my job. I know they’ve got a great ‘D’; they’re No. 1 in the league. We’ve got the No. 1 offense, so we’ll see how it goes, I guess.”
It’s that kind of quote that makes a police escort out of Manhattan so necessary.
For two teams trying amid over-the-top exposure to stay “on task,” as Fox put it, any successful ramp-up to the biggest game on earth must include high efficiency at separating hype from fact, and it is a learned discipline.
When I first saw this 75,000 figure among the daily blitz of Super Bowl info, for example, I thought it must have something to do with Denver’s record-smashing pass offense. Turns out it’s the number of chicken tenders expected to be devoured Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but 75,000 is, clearly, pure speculation. It’s more of an over/under proposition than a fact.
Denver’s 55 passing touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards, those are facts. Denver’s 606 points and five players with 10 touchdowns or more, those are facts. Moreover, they’re not just facts; they’re firsts. Peyton Manning is the first thrower to put 50 touchdowns and 5,000 inside of one autumn. No NFL team had ever scored 600 points.
So if you’re tuned in ’round 10 o’clock Sunday night and see something like, Seahawks 28, Broncos 26, glowing through the confetti, you’ll know something has gone terribly wrong.
“It’d be very exciting to win here, exciting to win anywhere, but I spent five great years here [as assistant with the New York Giants],” Fox said. “Fans are very much into their football, very passionate. It would mean a tremendous amount to win it here.”
There wasn’t much talk about what it would mean to lose it here, but it would certainly mean, for one thing, that a team that scored on six consecutive possessions the previous time in pulled its pads on, a team that has scored nearly 200 more points than its Super Bowl opponent, had just found these Seahawks somehow unsolvable.
Worse, it would mean that Knighton would be stopped one step short of turning that Pot Roast nickname into real money.
“If we go out and win the Super Bowl, I’m pretty sure I’ll make something out of it,” Knighton said. “If I go out there and make some plays, maybe a Chunky Soup commercial or somethin’ like that.”
Knighton has been as disruptive a defensive line force as has ascended in this postseason, sacking Tom Brady on fourth-and-3 in the conference title game among other acts of violence, but his nickname came when he was a struggling component of the Jacksonville Jaguars five long years ago. The Jaguars were returning to Florida from a game in Seattle when, well …
“It was dark on the plane, everyone was sleeping I thought, and the stewardess was saying, ‘Pot Roast? Pot Roast?’ Like, who ordered it, right?” Knighton said. “So I raised my hand and said my name, and the guy sitting behind me, Clint Ingram, said, ‘I’m gonna start calling you Pot Roast,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ but it’s stuck with me.
“I’m just glad I ordered that instead of Shrimp Alfredo.”
Terrance Knighton everybody!
He’s here all week.
Good luck with that whole staying-on-task thing.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.