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Why the Denver Broncos’ Offensive Line Could Decide Super Bowl XLVIII

When the Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the game’s best passing attack will match up against the league’s stingiest pass defense.

Why the Denver Broncos’ Offensive Line Could Decide Super Bowl XLVIII

Super Bowl XLVIII will feature two teams that got there with individual units that were the best in the game. For the Denver Broncos, it was about their record-setting passing game. For the Seattle Seahawks, it was about their incredibly stingy pass defense.

In the end, it could be another individual unit that ultimately decides the outcome.

The Broncos’ offensive line allowed only 20 sacks during the regular season to lead the NFL, and were certainly an important unit that helped lead the Broncos to set numerous team passing records. Giving quarterback Peyton Manning ample time to throw the ball allowed Manning to put together one of the finest individual seasons ever produced by a quarterback in NFL history.

However, they’ll be going up against a Seahawks defense that produced 44 sacks, led the NFL with 28 interceptions and were tops in the league with a +20 turnover ratio. Stifling is the word to best describe Seattle’s defense, and that doesn’t even do it justice.

Manning certainly helped his offensive line by releasing the ball faster than any quarterback in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Manning took only 2.36 seconds to throw the ball with each passing attempt.

Quarterback

Avg Time To Throw (Sec.)

Sack % (All)

<2.5 Sec.

>2.6 Sec.

Peyton Manning

2.36

2.9%

62.7%

37.3%

Andy Dalton

2.43

4.7%

65.3%

34.7%

Chad Henne

2.44

7.8%

64.5%

35.5%

Tom Brady

2.46

6.0%

61.5%

38.5%

Carson Palmer

2.47

6.7%

60.8%

39.2%

ProFootballFocus.com

With his lightning-quick release, Manning takes pressure off his offensive line, leading to fewer third-and-long passing situations in which his line is faced with a tougher task.

But Manning also has to deal with a Seahawks’ defensive secondary that provides the best coverage in the league. They primarily use a press-man coverage that features two defensive backs who were selected as first-team All-Pros in cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. Kam Chancellor was selected as a second-team All-Pro as well.

There isn’t a defensive secondary in football history that has ever been able to cover receivers forever, but the Seahawks in 2013 showed that their defensive alignments were easily good enough to shut down opposing offenses easily through the air.

It will be incumbent upon Manning’s offensive line to give him time to throw, and to allow his receivers to find openings in the field. While the Seahawks’ secondary was by far the best in the league, their front seven was pretty good as well. They were fifth in the league in sack percentage at 7.7 percent during the regular season.

It wasn’t just the sacks for Seattle, however. Their defense had the NFL’s highest interception rate at 5.3 percent, with the defensive front seven often forcing rushed passes by opposing quarterbacks.

Seattle features two excellent defensive ends in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They combined for 16.5 sacks during the regular season and have totaled three more in the postseason. Broncos right guard Louis Vasquez and right tackle Orlando Franklin will be tasked with keeping Bennett and Avril at bay. While both are adept in protecting Manning, Bennett and Avril both present a huge challenge.

It’s not often that offensive linemen ever get credit for their team’s success. Manning and his receivers have garnered all of the recognition for a job well done, but the offensive line quietly did an outstanding job.

In Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s that individual unit who could well be the key in leading the Denver Broncos to their third NFL championship. 

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