Over the last two years, the Seattle Seahawks have not managed to dodge the league's best quarterbacks come playoff time. Last season it was a Colin Kaepernick sandwich between a slice of Drew Brees and a slice of Peyton Manning. This year, Tom Brady provides the topper of an Aaron Rodgers' special, laying on a bed of Cam Newton.
I am either hungry or I've created the grossest sports euphemism in history.
The first five of these matchups, including arguably the three best quarterbacks in the NFL (it's probably not even worth arguing against) have gone game-game-game-game-game, set-set-set-set-set, match-match-match-match-match: Seahawks. Those five QBs combined to go 114-of-186, 1,166 yards, 6.26 Y/A, six touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a passer rating of 72.11.
The last four quarterbacks to face Seattle in the playoffs have thrown two interceptions. Kaepernick and Rodgers didn't even crack 200 yards, and Manning, playing on a neutral field, only got over 200 after the game was well out of hand.
Many criticized the Seahawks -- or at least criticized their stats against -- over the final third of the season, because of the competition they faced. Yes, it's true that they faced Ryan Lindley (who tossed for 316 and two touchdowns the following week against the 49ers) and Drew Stanton (who popped off 306 and two scores the week before against the Lions) and Shaun Hill (who dropped a 100+ passer rating in four of his previous six starts) but they didn't just beat these quarterbacks.
They held 'em down like Andre the Giant wrestling Peter Dinklage. Not Tyrion Lannister ... Peter Dinklage.
Their other three starts included two against Kaepernick (the QB that everyone started to question only after he faced Seattle, and who had a touchdown pass in 14 of his 16 games this season -- the only two when he didn't were against the Seahawks) and Mark Sanchez, who threw for 96 yards against Seattle and at least 200 yards in his other eight games.
But I digress. I digress so hard that I trigress.
It is virtually impossible to disparage what the Seahawks have done in the postseason under Pete Carroll, especially over the last two years, though that won't slow down the many who try and dispute their mark on NFL history. You can cry "Foul!" when the game is against Lindley, but you better cry "Fowl!" when the Hawks batten down another quarterback that the nation holds so dear.
If Manning is the greatest of all-time, then you should acknowledge how special it is when the G.O.A.T. goes 34-of-49 for 280 yards, one touchdown and two picks in the Super Bowl.
If Rodgers is the greatest of his generation, then don't blame it on the ca-ca-ca-calfohol when he goes 19-of-34 for 178 yards, a touch and two picks in the NFC Championship.
No quarterback is a great bet against this defense. None. I did not think that Manning would have a good game in the Super Bowl (I said he'd have a touch and two picks before the game, and published it on FieldGulls somewhere) and I was not really at all worried about Rodgers (he's been consistently bad on the road against top 10 pass defenses over the last two seasons) so there really hasn't been a time in the last two seasons when I thought a team would beat the Seahawks because of their quarterback.
But then, Tom Brady isn't your average quarterback.
What Manning, and Rodgers, and Brees have consistently done against pass defenses as good as Seattle's, is pretty much exactly what you'd expect them to do: Play worse. In many cases, play much worse. You could go game by game and see that as great as these future Hall of Famers are, they weren't a match for the 11 (or 12 for the righteous) on the other side.
I can't say that about Brady. At least, not this season.
Brady has faced off against a considerable number of great, good, and average defenses and pass defenses this year -- and he consistently shit all over them. Against the Buffalo Bills, ranked first in pass defense DVOA, Brady was 27-of-37, 361 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. (Brady also faced them for a half of a meaningless Week 17 game.)
Brady faced the Denver Broncos, ranked fifth in pass defense DVOA, and went 33-of-53, 333 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals, ranked seventh in pass defense, Brady was 23-of-35, 292 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Against the Detroit Lions, ranked eighth, he was 38-of-53, 349, two touchdowns, one interception.
He faced the Indianapolis Colts twice, they ranked 10th in that category, and he went a combined 42-of-65, 483 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Not counting that second game against the Bills, the Patriots went 6-0 in these games against top ten pass defenses. Of course, Seattle is ranked first overall in defense and third against the pass. Pass defense isn't necessarily their bread and butter, but the Seahawks have done a considerable amount of "Filling up before the main course arrives" on the Legion of Boom.
And it's good that it's not their b & b because Brady's performance hasn't really wavered against great pass defenses. Brady provides the toughest test of any quarterback of the last two seasons -- possibly even dating back to when they faced Brady in 2012. In fact, Brady's 395 passing yards that day is the most of any QB against Seattle in the last three years, including playoffs.
It took him 58 pass attempts to get there, but still ...
He also had two touchdowns (and two interceptions) and was sacked just once for a loss of seven yards. That game was also in Seattle, and he played as well as any quarterback could hope to play against this defense. Unlike Manning, Brady has played well in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, and there's no reason to think that he'll be the reason that New England loses the big game, if they do.
Most likely the Seahawks will need to find a way to win when they don't give the opposing passing offense the "Denny's special" (double-covered and smothered) and luckily that shouldn't be much of an issue; Seattle was also first in rush defense, first in rushing offense, and 10th in passing.
It should be a good game ... for both quarterbacks.