Josh Katzenstein's ultimate Super Bowl preview
The Seahawks are looking to become the ninth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and a victory over the Patriots would earn them the coveted dynasty title.
The previous back-to-back champions have some commonalities.
■A Hall of Fame quarterback — Green Bay's Bart Starr, Miami's Bob Griese, Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw, San Francisco's Joe Montana, Dallas' Troy Aikman, Denver's John Elway and (eventually) New England's Tom Brady.
■Legendary coaches — Green Bay's Vince Lombardi, Miami's Don Shula and Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll, among them.
■A power runner — Miami's Larry Csonka and Pittsburgh's Franco Harris, among them.
■An overpowering defense — Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain comes to mind.
As for the Seahawks, they have Pete Carroll, already an all-star coach, and quarterback Russell Wilson, who will be on the fast track to super-stardom with a second title.
Down the line, the Seahawks simply fit the mold of a back-to-back champion.
1967-68Green Bay Packers
Coach Vince Lombardi and QB Bart Starr cemented their legacies by winning the first two Super Bowls in blowout fashion. In Super Bowl I, Starr threw two TDs to Max McGee to beat the Chiefs, 35-10. The following year, the Packers forced three turnovers, including a 60-yard INT return for a TD by Herb Adderley, in a 33-14 victory over the Raiders.
Coached by Don Shula, the 1972 Dolphins remain the only team in history to finish a season undefeated, going 17-0. Miami beat Washington, 14-7, in Super Bowl VII thanks to two INTs by Jake Scott. In Super Bowl VIII, FB Larry Csonka led the way with 145 rushing yards and two TDs in a 24-7 victory over the Vikings.
Super Bowl IX began arguably the greatest dynasty of the Super Bowl era, the first of four titles in six years for coach Chuck Noll. The Steelers beat the Vikings, 16-6, with three INTs and Franco Harris' 158 rushing yards. The next year, Pittsburgh's vaunted defense again had three INTs, and Lynn Swann's 161 receiving yards led to a 21-17 victory over the Cowboys.
After a two-year hiatus, the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl and knocked off the reigning-champion Cowboys, 35-31. Terry Bradshaw was excellent, throwing for 318 yards and four TDs. In Super Bowl XIV, Pittsburgh scored the last 14 to beat the L.A. Rams, 31-19, as Bradshaw once again eclipsed 300 yards.
1989-90San Francisco 49ers
The only team with its victories under different coaches, Super Bowl XXIII with Bill Walsh and Super Bowl XXIV with George Seifert. In the first, Joe Montana hit John Taylor for the winning touchdown with 34 seconds left to beat the Bengals, 20-16. In the second, the 49ers dominated the Broncos, 55-10, as Jerry Rice had seven catches for 148 yards and three TDs.
Jimmy Johnson coached the Cowboys to back-to-back titles to become the preeminent team of the early 1990s. Super Bowl XXVII was a blowout, 52-17 over the Bills, with Troy Aikman throwing four TDs, two to Michael Irvin. Dallas beat the Bills again in Super Bowl XXVIII, 30-13, with Emmitt Smith running for 132 yards and two TDs.
After losing his first three Super Bowl appearances, John Elway final became a champion under coach Mike Shanahan. In Super Bowl XXXII, Terrell Davis scored his third rushing TD with 1:45 left for a 31-24 victory over the Packers. Elway led the Broncos the following year with 336 yards, a rushing TD and a passing TD to beat the Falcons, 34-19.
2004-05New England Patriots
The most recent dynasty featured the same two men who will lead the Patriots on Sunday, coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, Adam Vinatieri hit a 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to lift the Patriots to a 32-29 victory over the Panthers. Brady had 354 passing yards and three TDs. The next year, against the Eagles, Deion Branch's 11 catches for 133 yards and three INTs were the highlight of a 24-21 victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Offense: Get Gronk the ball
Bill Belichick surely will have something up his sleeve to try to beat Seattle's No. 1 defense, but New England's best play is any one that puts the ball in TE Rob Gronkowski's hands. Against the Bears in Week 8, Gronkowski lined up next to the right tackle and ran a post pattern, breaking his route toward the middle after about 7 yards. QB Tom Brady found him for about a 15-yard gain before Gronkowski stiff-armed a defender and turned it into a 46-yard TD.
Defense: Cover challenge
In many ways, New England followed Seattle's lead this offseason, building a secondary that could cover guys long enough to give their pass rushers time to get to the quarterback. Darrelle Revis likely will cover Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner likely will be on Jermaine Kearse, and both cornerbacks are capable of eliminating receivers, as they proved against the Lions in Week 12. S Devin McCourty is strong in coverage, and Patrick Chung is great in run support. The Seahawks will need to run well to win, and having Vince Wilfork in the middle of the defense always makes that tough for opponents.
Offense: Unleash the beast
Seattle QB Russell Wilson doesn't run much during a zone read, but that threat creates opportunities for RB Marshawn Lynch. In the NFC Championship, the Seahawks ran the play to perfection as Wilson handed to Lynch, who ran between the left guard and left tackle for the go-ahead 24-yard TD. The play was made easier because Packers DE Julius Peppers froze as he expected Wilson to keep the ball.
Seattle's Legion of Boom certainly earned its nickname, and even though the secondary does hit hard, it covers well, too. CB Richard Sherman is one of the best, and most quarterbacks won't even throw in his direction. S Earl Thomas is the new version of Troy Polamalu, running everywhere to make plays, and Kam Chancellor is the enforcer, meaning he'll likely be asked to lay some hard hits on TE Rob Gronkowski. As long as CBs Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane play well, QB Tom Brady will struggle to find open receivers, and the Patriots could be afraid of what happens after the catch.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
When the Patriots have the ball
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Undoubtedly the best tight end in the NFL — and possibly the best offensive skill player in the league — Gronkowski is just about impossible to stop. He blocks well, catches well and breaks tackles with ease.
Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seahawks
Everyone knows about the secondary and the deep pass-rush unit, but Wagner might be the most important player on the defense. He missed weeks 7-11 with injuries, and the Seahawks haven't lost since. Tackling LeGarrette Blount and chasing Shane Vereen out of the backfield will be his primary duties.
When the Seahawks have the ball
Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks
The second-year tight end doesn't dazzle in any way, but the best way to beat the Patriots secondary is with the tight end — Colts TE Coby Fleener had seven catches for 144 yards in Week 11. Look for QB Russell Wilson to use his safety valve regularly.
Rob Ninkovich, DE, Patriots
He doesn't have great size or athleticism, but Ninkovich has used savvy play to finish with eight sacks in each of the past three seasons. He is solid in coverage, too, which gives New England versatility.
This should be one of the tightest Super Bowls in recent years as the teams match up very well. Ultimately, the game will come down to which defense can make more stops, and Seattle's is built perfectly to beat Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots. Plus, it's hard to imagine Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson playing two bad games in a row.