Gene Collier: Quarterbacks tell tale of super aspirations



NEW YORK -- Two anxious and violent forces now must finally converge, one aiming to change history, another to validate it, both fueled by what someone once called the audacity of hope.

Yes, I know the Super Bowl is only a game; I was talking about Sunday's elections in Thailand.

As today's column begins, I have just about as good a feel for who will win in Thailand as for who will own the Lombardi Trophy by about 10 p.m. But fear not, a prediction is imminent, if not necessarily eminent.

The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, both 15-3 in the first NFL season to end anywhere in the greater New York/New Jersey area since 1962, must tonight deliver a verdict, provided they can stop talking long enough to decide a championship.

Actually, the sad fact is that you no longer need to shut up and play in this game.

Seattle's scintillating Richard Sherman, who has intercepted more passes (20) since coming into the league in 2011 than any other human, could well decide the outcome, as he did in the NFC Championship Game, but he will not stop talking while he does it. You can forget about it.

"The intensity in practice this week is the same as it's been; you don't see nervousness in guys' eyes; you don't see guys acting any different than they would on any other day or any other week of the season," Sherman said at the end of a week of galloping verbosity. "You just get the sense that guys are comfortable in the situation and comfortable about the moment."

There has never been a moment when Seattle has won the Super Bowl. The Seahawks failed in their only appearance, coming as it did against Yer Stillers eight years ago. That's about the only thing that didn't get talked about this week because no player from that 2005 team is still on the team. But everything else got covered because even Marshawn Lynch talked, after much media hand-wringing over whether he would.

Asked just as his team's media responsibilities expired on Thursday what he thought of offensive line coach Tom Cable when he came to Seattle, Lynch said, "Well, being from Oakland, all I knew about was that he punched people. That's my type of person."

Tell me again why we want Marshawn Lynch to talk.

But if you're wondering how any team as young as these Seahawks, with zero Super Bowl experience, can be so loose in this cauldron, it's basically because all the pressure is on the other guys, most especially Peyton Manning, the Denver quarterback. Maybe you've heard of him.

Manning is paid $26 for every $1 Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is paid, so it's a fair assumption that many people expect Peyton's team to win today. To do that, Manning will have to stay off his back, as he has for this entire sack-free postseason. The Seahawks are desperate, and should be, to put him there, or at least make him think they will.

"We need to move him," said Seattle boss Pete Carroll. "We need to get him off the spot so he has to move, has to adjust. When he's in rhythm and solidly in the pocket -- which he is a great majority of the time -- then you're really dealing with the best he has to offer. He can move. He has a great sense of the pocket. He understands that we know that it will be effective if we get him to move. We'll try to get him out of there as much as we can."

The person most likely to be a fateful disruptor to Manning is defensive end Cliff Avril, the only player in the league with more than 30 sacks and more than 15 forced fumbles over the past three seasons. Disruption is Seattle's best hope because Manning has been nothing less than dominant when left unruffled in the post-season.

He's converted more than 60 percent of his third-down situations (16 for 26) and has enabled Denver to keep the ball for nearly 60 percent of both playoff games. It has something to do with his having completed 57 of his 79 passes, a staggering 72 percent.

Wilson is no Manning, but he is hardly without portfolio. Wilson is the only quarterback in NFL history to have passer ratings of 100 or better in his first two seasons.

"I think guys like Peyton Manning have changed the game in terms of the way he thinks, in terms of the way he processes things," said the 25-year-old Wilson, who didn't hit a wrong rhetorical note all week. "Tom Brady is the same way. He's so clutch; people fear him when he steps on the field. Drew Brees is a guy like that. And one day, I hope to evolve to that."

One day.

But not this day.

Denver 23, Seattle 20.

No clue on Thailand though.


Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.

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