Seattle may have built its reputation on defense and forcing turnovers but they will have to move the ball and score points to beat the No. 1 offense in the NFL when they meet the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Here are my keys to the Seattle offense when they face Denver.
1. Establish the run: No team has run the ball more than Seattle during the regular season (509 carries) and their overall run/pass ratio was 52.3 percent run. In the postseason the Seahawks have relied even more on the run with 64 runs and 50 pass plays. Right now Seattle is a 56 percent run team and it is led by Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has 50 postseason carries for 249 yards and three touchdowns and he has moved the chains 11 times.
Denver gave up 101 yards a game on the ground in the regular season as well as 15 rushing touchdowns. Denver's run defense has been much better in the postseason, surrendering just 65 yards a game, and keep in mind San Diego and New England came into Denver as red-hot rushing teams. A big challenge for Seattle is sticking with the run if they are losing the game.
Coach Pete Carroll will not abandon the run if losing by seven points or less. During the season the Seahawks averaged over four yards a carry in those situations. I expect Denver to really overplay the run in this game because Russell Wilson does not pose the same threat as Philip Rivers or Tom Brady. Nonetheless, if Seattle can run for 115 yards against San Francisco they should be able to do at least the same against Denver.
2. Protect Russell Wilson: Russell Wilson has been under some real pass rush pressure over the past five games and it has to stop now. Wilson has been sacked 19 times in the last five games at an alarming rate of one sack every 7.5 pass plays.
Rivers and Brady usually get rid of the ball but they were sacked a total of six times, which equates to one sack every 12 pass plays. Seattle must get Shaun Phillips blocked and hope Robert Ayers and the others don't win too many pass rushes.
I went back and looked at all of Wilson's pass plays in the playoffs and it was clear teams are committed to preventing the bootleg and scramble pass plays. I liked what I saw from the Seattle quick-pass game, especially from the shotgun, and there is just enough good running plays from the gun to keep Denver honest. Percy Harvin can be a critical piece to this equation with the bubble screen game.
3. Get a few explosive plays: Denver is the master of the long drive and Seattle can't afford to count on +10 play drives. In the postseason they have had one +10 play drive while Denver has had six such drives. Whether it's a 40-yard run by Lynch or a 30-yard reception by Harvin, Doug Baldwin or Golden Tate -- the Seahawks need a few quick scores.
4. Win the time of possession: Many teams enter a game with Peyton Manning and feel they have to keep him off the field and win the time of possession. That is more important for Seattle than most teams, but Denver is the master of the TOP in the postseason averaging more than 35 minutes.
Seattle is averaging 30 minutes in the postseason but that will not be good enough in the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson could really help this issue with at least three or four first downs with his scramble skills. Wilson doesn't have a first down run in either playoff game and only two in the last four games.
5. Don't let Terrence Knighton dominate the inside: Denver's massive defensive tackle, Terrence Knighton also known as "Pot Roast" has become a major force against the run and he affects the pass pocket as well. The Denver game plan will rely heavily on Knighton and Seattle must find ways to neutralize him. Seattle likes to run left with Lynch and Knighton will be waiting for him. It may be time to run right and make the big man chase plays.
6. Score touchdowns in the red zone: Settling for field goals against San Francisco was OK in the conference championship game and Steven Hauschka's three field goals was the difference. In two playoff games the Seahawks have kicked six field goals and against Denver those really would have to be touchdowns. In the red zone Seattle only scores touchdowns 56 percent of the time compared to Denver's 76 percent of the time. When you drill down into the red zone issue, Seattle needs to find ways to throw touchdown passes down there. Wilson only has 18 red zone touchdown passes in 18 games while Manning has 41.