The Denver Broncos stand to match up in an interesting way on defense against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. Their strength, stopping the run, matches up against Seattle’s strength, wearing defenses down with Marshawn Lynch on ground.
Those runs by Lynch, to use an overwrought boxing analogy, are the body blows. The knockout punches come in the form of big plays in the passing game. Enough of those passes come in the midst of Russell Wilson‘s brand of “organized chaos” that the Broncos need discipline on each edge up front.
Let me emphasize that this analysis assumes that the Denver safeties, especially Duke Ihenacho, will struggle to be in the right place on these potential big plays. Ihenacho can be an asset in run support, but the visual of Golden Tate cockwalking into the end zone with Ihenacho in his dust should worry us all.
Back to the guys up front. The success of Shaun Phillips‘s game is predicated on his fundamentals and discipline. He sets the edge and stays in the right place. When Wilson is rolling out on play action or improvising, that discipline on the edge is huge. It doesn’t prevent Wilson from setting up those big plays, but it makes it more difficult.
Robert Ayers isn’t a key player in that they need him to generate a ton of pressure on Wilson as much as they need that same discipline on the edge opposite Phillips. This onus falls on Ayers more than it does Jeremy Mincey by virtue of the number of snaps they will play.
Pressure on Wilson will still matter, and we saw what a difference it makes for the rest of the defense when sacks and pressures come in Denver’s win over the Patriots. But the Broncos need to be fundamentally sound to try and limit the space in which Wilson has to improvise to try and prevent big plays.
If one of those key plays involves Ayers, his success or failure will have an impact on the team’s chance to win.