What does it take to win a Super Bowl? As Fran Tarkenton, who has been in Peyton Manning’s shoes thrice, said following the Seattle victory over the Broncos, 43-8. “It takes a village, and they have to be in their prime.”
Quarterbacks can’t do it alone, but the Monday morning quarterbacks seem to think so, which is a reminder of Hank Stram’s quote about NLF analysts. “They don’t know if the football is stuffed or pumped.” In a tight game, the quarterback might well be the difference. What we saw last Sunday was a team with the greatest balance which got all the breaks, Seattle. A village is composed of playmakers. An offensive line which gives its quarterback time to execute. A defense which can put pressure on the passer without having to blitz.
After a championship game, no matter the features of the offense such as being in tune with the spread formations, hurry up styles, you could, if you didn’t know the score in the game, conclude who won by looking at the rushing yardage. Denver rushed for 27 total yards. That stat alone reveals more about the game than any other.
I was among the many, who had the highest hopes for Peyton Manning to win. Before the game, I had called his father, a long-time friend, to extend best wishes. This week, I was reluctant to reach out to him again. It was like having to extend expressions of sympathy, but when I called, Archie sighed and said, “That’s football. It was simply not a good matchup for Denver.” He was proud that his son, Peyton, in essence, got his team to the big game. That was an extraordinary achievement. Any analyst should be aware that the two best teams in the National Football League in 2013 were Seattle and San Francisco. If the 49ers had won the NFC title, instead of Seattle, likely the Broncos would still be singing the blues today.
Things, as Archie said, go in cycles. After the merger of the two leagues in 1966, the American Football Conference had success, after three games, starting with Joe Namath and the Jets and their upset of the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III. Later on, there was a period when the National Football Conference was dominant, winning 16 straight from 1982 through 1997.
Lately, however, the Super Bowl games have been close as opposed for those years when a blowout was more likely than not. The last game was reminiscent of those blowouts of past years, but it is a reminder that in the Super Bowl, if you play better defense than your opponent, you usually win the game. Play defense and run the ball. Fran Tarkenton was recognized in his time for his offensive creativity, but he can articulate succinctly the importance of defense and rushing the football. “I have a Ph.D. on that subject,” he said.
Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowls: 1970 (vs. Kansas City); 1974 (vs. Dolphins); 1975 (vs. Steelers). “You know what our rushing yardage in those three games totaled,” he asked? It was pretty sad. We rushed for 110 yards and gave up, in those three games, well over 700 yards. I like the hurry up offenses in football today. Exciting. But you can always bet that the team which plays defense and runs the football will likely win the Super Bowl. “It is not always about the quarterback. He can’t do it all. It takes a village. You have got to be a team and you have to be in your prime to dominate like Seattle. This is not about Peyton Manning’s legacy. All he did was get his team to the Super Bowl. He couldn’t win it by himself. He has proven that he is the most consistently creative quarterback of our time. I was pulling hard for him because I like him, and, like so many others, like his family. In my opinion if you put him in any championship game with a dominating offensive line, he is the quarterback most likely to succeed.”
Will Seattle dominate the NFL for a spell? Only if the Seahawks remain a village.