RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The pre-Super Bowl clock is winding down. Only two days left to hype America's biggest sports spectacle. And then the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will actually play the game. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is in Phoenix for the pre and post of it all and joins us now to talk about it. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Tom, we thought we'd take a break from talking about Marshawn Lynch's silence and deflated footballs - stuff we've been talking about all week - you know, and actually talk about the big game. It sounds as if it really is going to be big.
GOLDMAN: Yes, absolutely. There's a great deal of anticipation for this. The consensus is these are the best two teams in the NFL. Now, Las Vegas has the Patriots the slightest of favorites, probably based on New England having the more complete offensive unit, with quarterback Tom Brady playing in his sixth Super Bowl, talented pass catchers from tight end Rob Gronkowski to receiver Julian Edelman, a pounding running game with LeGarrette Blount and a very stout offensive line.
MONTAGNE: Defense has been Seattle's strength during its title run last season and then most of this season as well. What impact will the defenses have on this game?
GOLDMAN: Well, the traditional saying, of course, defenses win championships, and that was certainly the case last Super Bowl when the Seahawks obliterated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Now, Seattle has the best defense again - fast and physical and fairly simple in its approach. But the New England defense isn't far behind.
Now, here are their challenges - both defenses need to stop or slow the run. It's a big challenge since both teams have battering rams for running backs - Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and New England's Blount. And then each defense must do what it can against outstanding, yet different, quarterbacks. Brady is the best quarterback in the league at dropping back, setting up and throwing from that safe pocket provided by his outstanding offensive lineman. New England, on the other hand, faces Russell Wilson. He's very dangerous when he runs out of the pocket. He's so smart, always with his head up looking for receivers, who, in turn, become more dangerous when Wilson runs. New England defensive back Kyle Arrington told me yesterday you don't have to be a defensive genius to know that containing Wilson is a key for the Patriots.
MONTAGNE: And, Tom, something new in this Super Bowl - hand signals by the on-field officials. And that's in response to something the Patriots did earlier in the playoffs.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it has to do with New England's use of players who are either eligible or ineligible to catch the ball. Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick showed his knowledge of the rulebook by throwing some tricky plays at Baltimore and Indianapolis in the playoffs that designated certain eligible and ineligible receivers. New England confused those opponents but didn't break the rules. Now in Sunday's Super Bowl, as you say, for the first time the officials will use hand signals to alert the defense exactly which players on offense can or cannot catch the ball. And that will let defenses know which players it has to cover.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman getting us ready for Super Bowl XLIX Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
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