Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY - No matter how Super Bowl XLVIII unfolds, the 2013 Denver Broncos offense will go down as one of the greatest in league history. A Lombardi trophy will likely seal its place at the top.
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The Broncos became the first NFL team to eclipse 600 points in an NFL season. That's all well and good, but of the top-ten scoring offenses in league history, only one has won a Super Bowl - the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
Much of the credit to the offense's success will go to Peyton Manning - and right fully so - but the job offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done creating mismatches and adding new wrinkles to an already successful offense should be applauded.
Manning's supporting cast has been outstanding as well. It's much easier for the 37-year-old quarterback to identify advantageous match-ups with mismatches all over the field. A talented offensive line and a versatile running back have made this unit nearly impossible to stop.
Passing the Ball
Given Manning's reputation as one of football's best minds, the perception may be that he runs a sophisticated offense. But the opposite is true. The offense Manning ran in Indy under Tom Moore and continues to run in Denver is one of the simpler schemes in the league.
Manning leans on a few core passing concepts with very few personnel groupings, and uses his pre-snap read to decide which one is best for attacking the defense. And usually, he's right.
But as NFL defenses have shifted from zone coverages to more man-to-man in recent years, Manning has added to his repertoire. Most notable of those additions are the pick plays that the Broncos have become so adept at running. With targets like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, the Broncos receiving corp doesn't need much help to get open.
The book on beating a Manning-led offense has been creating pressure, but the five-time MVP has been so quick to get rid of the this season, teams have been unable to do so. Manning has taken an average of 2.36 seconds to throw the ball, the shortest in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. As a result, Manning has faced pressure on a league-low 22 percent of his drop backs.
Running the Ball
Knowshon Moreno has revived his career in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,038 yards and ten touchdowns. The former first-round pick has benefited from Manning's presence in the backfield. Teams have to commit has much numbers as possible to stop the Denver passing game, leaving six- and seven-man boxes to run against.
The triumvirate of Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez along the interior offensive line has opened up some big holes for Moreno to run though all season, and they've really hit their stride during the playoffs.
Manning's decision making at the line of scrimmage made the line's job a lot easier. If the defense is well-suited to stop a certain run play, Manning will check to a more favorable call. It's one of the biggest reasons only 16 percent of Denver's runs went for no gain, one of the league's best marks according to Football Outsiders.
Matching Up with Seattle's Defense
The Broncos offense will face a stern test on Sunday, but the Seahawks won't be too difficult to prepare for. Pete Carroll's bunch isn't going to trick you with pre-snap disguises -- they just line up and play, and usually they're good enough to beat you anyway.
Seattle mostly plays with a single safety deep and will play either man coverage underneath or a three-deep zone. Expect to see more of the former on Sunday, as tight man coverage has given Denver the most trouble this season.
One of the biggest strategic subplots will be Seattle'a deployment of safety Kam Chancellor. If the Seahawks leave him deep in coverage, Manning will be more than happy to feed Moreno all game against weak run boxes.
However the Seahawks decide to play it, the success of the Denver offense will likely fall on Manning's shoulders, as it usually does. He is the key to the Broncos offensive attack, which could go down in history as the best ever with a win Sunday.
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