This is my Sunday column.
This Super Bowl will be nothing like the previous one: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8.
This one will be grim.
The Seahawks won’t blow out the Patriots. The Patriots won’t blow out the Seahawks. Neither team will score more than 20 points. This year’s Super Bowl could come down the final play.
As opposed to last year’s Super Bowl, which came down to the first play. Center Manny Ramirez chucked the opening snap through his legs, past Peyton Manning’s ear and into the end zone for a safety. The game had five seconds of tension until it became a frolic.
If you like frolics, this Super Bowl won’t be for you. You won’t see smiling faces on the sideline. You’ll see worried faces, frustrated faces, angry faces. You’ll see Tom Brady yelling at himself and his teammates. You’ll see Bill Belichick frowning like he ate bad fajitas. You’ll see Pete Carroll chewing Juicy Fruit like a nervous wreck.
Neither team has the offensive firepower to build a big lead early in this game.
The Patriots’ top-two wide receivers — Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell — can’t compete with the Seahawks top-two cornerbacks — Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell.
Edelman and LaFell won’t get open. Brady likes to throw the ball quickly before the pass rush gets to him, but he won’t have that luxury in this game. Brady will have to hold the ball and hold the ball and hold the ball in the pocket. He will take more hits than usual.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is the only player Seattle’s defense has to worry about. You can bet the Seahawks have been worrying about him the past two weeks. You can bet the Seahawks will double cover him and try to force the Patriots to call plays for someone else, like Edelman or LaFell.
You also can bet the Patriots’ defense will try to shut down Marshawn Lynch and the rest of the Seahawks’ runners. I will come back to them.
But first, we have to talk about the Seahawks’ secret weapon. His name is Jermaine Kearse.
You may not have heard of him. He is an ordinary wide receiver during the regular season who has caught just 63 passes and five touchdowns in 37 regular-season games. He is one of the last Seahawks players opposing defenses worry about.
And the Seahawks know it. When they need a big play in a playoff game, they throw to Kearse. In the playoffs Kearse becomes Superman. Kearse caught the game-winning 35-yard touchdown against the Packers in the NFC championship a couple weeks ago, and he caught the game-winning 35-yard touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC championship last season.
The Seahawks have won five playoff games in a row dating to 2014 and, during this five-game winning streak, Kearse has caught four touchdown passes and averaged more than 27 yards per catch. The league hasn’t realized yet how dangerous Kearse can be.
I’m guessing Belichick has realized it, though. He’s no dummy.
Belichick won’t have to double-cover Kearse to shut him down the way the Seahawks have to double-cover Gronkowski. All Belichick has to do is respect Kearse. Take him seriously. Cover him man-to-man with Darrelle Revis, one of the best cornerbacks in football. Kearse can’t beat Revis. Revis is Superman’s kryptonite.
Advantage: New England.
Kearse won’t beat the Patriots. If the Patriots lose, they will lose because they can’t stop Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch didn’t have to do anything the previous Super Bowl. The game was over before he touched the ball. He had just 39 rushing yards the whole game. The Seahawks didn’t need him.
Now, the Seahawks need him more than ever. They won’t have a passing game when Revis erases Kearse. The Seahawks have to win this Super Bowl with their running game, and the Patriots know it.
Advantage: New England.
Beating a good team like the Patriots when they know you have to run the ball ain’t easy. That being said, the Chiefs pulled it off this season.
The Chiefs beat the Patriots 41-14 in Week 4. Jamaal Charles scored three touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards. Knile Davis, the backup running back, rushed for 107 yards.
The Patriots have a strong, sturdy defense. They also have slow linebackers who couldn’t catch Charles or Davis, and won’t catch Lynch, Robert Turbin or Russell Wilson.
The difference between these two great teams is speed — the Seahawks have it and the Patriots don’t.
Football is a speed game. The Seahawks will win 20 to 17.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.