RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The Super Bowl is set. The Seattle Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos. The Broncos handily dispatched the New England Patriots. Seattle, in an extremely close game, beat the San Francisco '49ers. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to give us some game day details. Good morning.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
MONTAGNE: Tell us about the Seahawks versus '49ers game. It came down to a rather amazing defensive play.
PESCA: Oh, yes. It came down to that play. This was a great defensive game, in fact, in the first half. There were really three plays that matter that led to points. The score was 10-seven in halftime, I believe, and that was just based on a long pass, a long run, and a turnover. And then in the second half scoring actually increased a little bit.
Last play of the game San Francisco, needing a touchdown to go ahead and really win the game, seconds left, Colin Kaepernick puts the ball at the back of the end zone. And here comes Richard Sherman, deflects it with the back of his hand, pops over to his teammate Malcolm Smith. Interception in the end zone.
After the game Richard Sherman couldn't stop telling everyone how he's the greatest player ever and Michael Crabtree ain't that good a receiver. Hey, look - it was a great play and they deserve to be in it. And Richard Sherman, I suppose, is allowed to exalt.
MONTAGNE: Well, all right. So a real nail biter. Then the game in Denver...
MONTAGNE: ...turned out to be a breeze. How did the Broncos beat the Patriots so handily?
PESCA: You know, it was just a marvelous performance by Denver who, you know, totally stymied the Patriots' offense, which is unusual. Bill Bellichick, the coach of the Patriots, found ways to score, always not against Denver. And then we take it for granted what Peyton Manning did, the Broncos quarterback, throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. That has only happened a couple of other times in the playoffs.
And it wasn't only that. As you watched the game he was such a masterful orchestrator of the offense. There were times when he would audible, you know, changed the play through his voice. And he'd yell - and I picked this up - he'd yell Montana Batman and that would mean a draw play out of the shotgun. And it worked every time that he did it.
They would always get a first down or significant yardage. So even in the non-passing stats he was just, you know, running that offense with precision. This is why it's the best offense, statistically, in the history of the NFL.
MONTAGNE: And what can we expect when these teams face each other?
PESCA: Number one defense in the league versus the number one offense in the league so that should be good. Number one seeds in each conference. That rarely happens - it's only the second time in the last 20 years that the top seeds have faced each other. Peyton Manning actually was one of those other times. Even Las Vegas doesn't know what to do.
You know, early on they said Seattle was going to be the small favorite but of course they're affected by who bets on who. The public loves Denver. They started betting heavily on Denver. Now most places, Denver's the small favorite. But I think that's probably accurate. Small favorite should be the way we look at this game for either team.
MONTAGNE: OK. So the Super Bowl is coming up in just two weeks in the month of February in northern New Jersey, outdoors.
PESCA: Yes. Yes.
MONTAGNE: Will that be a factor for either team?
PESCA: You know, I have noted skittish brides who are less concerned about the weather on their big day than these big tough guys in the NFL. Eww, what if it rains? Eww, what if it snows? And, yeah, weather could play a factor. And at this point, I think I have an obligation to trot out the Peyton Manning cold weather stats and they're far less good than the Peyton Manning warm weather stats.
You know, I think the statistic is he's four and seven in games where the temperature is freezing or below, but there are a lot of caveats to that. All those games were road games and everyone doesn't do as well in the cold. Almost everyone - maybe Tom Brady's the exception. So, yeah, it might be cold. It might be rainy. That might favor the Seahawks. But it's still going to be a very good game, I think.
MONTAGNE: Mike, thanks very much.
PESCA: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Mike Pesca.
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