The story of Super Bowl XLVIII was the greatest offense in history versus the league’s best defense. It turned out to be a Greek tragedy for Broncos fans and a buffet of excess for 12s everywhere. A big part of the victory was the Seahawks ability to disrupt Manning’s timing and pet plays. There are some early indications that Seattle may be able to have similar success against Tom Brady.
Older guys do not dig the long ball
Manning has never been known for his strong arm, but he has eschewed the deep throw more and more as he has aged and returned from neck surgery. His lethal offense from last year was predicated on timing, accuracy and coordinated underneath routes. He would occasionally mix in intermediate throws, but most of their big plays involved yards after the catch.
Seattle dared Manning to throw over the top with tight press coverage and hulking safety Kam Chancellor patrolling the middle of the field near the line of scrimmage. It was his ability to impact underneath routes, along with the Seahawks fast and skilled linebackers that made life miserable for the Broncos.
Brady from this year is almost a carbon copy of Manning from last year in terms of depth of throw. He actually throws deep a little less than Manning did. The similarities do not end there.
Kill the middle
Manning was heavily reliant on crossing patterns and pick plays over the middle of the field. His tight end, Julius Thomas, was a revelation last year and he was complimented by super slot receiver Wes Welker. Those tendencies show up when looking at Manning’s pass attempts.
Short middle was his comfort zone. There may have been a variety of routes and plays, but an astounding percentage of them ended up in short throws in the middle of the field. Brady is not quite as predictable, but the pattern is very close.
Brady is a little more likely to throw Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman beyond ten yards, but he still strongly favors the middle of the field. None of this means the Seahawks defense will have the same dominant day this time around that they did last year. A lot had to go just right for that to happen, including an opponent that probably did not truly respect what the Seahawks defense was capable of.
Seattle will not sneak up on the Patriots this year. But if they can push Brady out of his comfort zone by sitting on the short middle of the field, they have a good chance to add the pelt of another Hall of Fame quarterback to their wall.