Key matchup: Manning vs. the secondary

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
11:48
AM ET
Peyton Manning threw for more touchdowns and yards than any quarterback in NFL history this season. The Seattle Seahawks were the first team to lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways since the 1985 Chicago Bears.

How Manning and his receivers navigate the stingy Seahawks’ secondary is just one of the key matchups to watch between the Denver Broncos' offense and Seahawks’ defense in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Richard Sherman owns the right side
Sherman has lined up on the offense’s right side on 98 percent of his snaps this season and confirmed at media day he will face whoever lines up on his side.

None of the Broncos’ top three wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker) lined up on the right for more than 52 percent of their snaps, and Manning might be wise to limit his attempts to them when they do line up on that side of the field.



As seen in the chart, the Seahawks allowed only 53.6 percent of passes thrown to the right side of the field to be completed this season, second best in the NFL. Their completion percentage allowed over the middle ranks 25th while the left ranks 12th.

Manning has completed 64 percent of his passes to the right side of the field this season, compared to 72 percent to the left or middle.

Beat the press
The Seahawks showed press coverage on 41 percent of the pass routes run by players split out wide this season, third highest in the NFL. Press coverage is defined as a defensive back lining up within about 1.5 yards of the line of scrimmage directly across a receiver.

When opponents targeted a receiver that started the play facing press coverage, the Seahawks allowed a 47 percent completion percentage and a minus-10 TD-Int differential. When not facing press coverage, receivers caught 65 percent of their targets with a plus-1 TD-Int differential.

Manning has targeted his top three wide receivers almost equally this season when facing press coverage (204 attempts) and not facing press coverage (225 attempts), but Welker is the only one who isn’t greatly affected by a defender in his face pre-snap.

Manning could look to Julius Thomas more if the press proves a problem. Manning completed 74 percent of his passes to the tight end this season.

However, the Seahawks have also been able to limit top tight ends. Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis combined for six games against the Seahawks this season. They finished with 14 receptions on 30 targets and 136 yards in those games.

Yards after catch
What the Broncos do after the catch could be as important as making the catch. The Broncos finished the regular season with the most yards after catch and boast the individual league leader from each of the past three seasons (Demaryius Thomas in 2013, Wes Welker in 2011 and 2012).

The Broncos averaged fewer than 5.0 yards after the catch in all three of their losses this season (eight times total). The Seahawks allowed the fewest yards after the catch this season, limiting opponents to 4.1 on average.

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