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Super Bowl 2014: Extinction Level Event

The passing game is alive and well, but a meteor looms heavy in the sky.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

I was expecting that to happen.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>I think there&#39;s a fairly good chance that we make the Broncos look silly.</p>&mdash; Hey guys it&#39;s real (@BestGuyAround) <a href="">January 23, 2014</a></blockquote>

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I was expecting that to happen because the Broncos are the old model. The outdated model. Pete Carroll looked at teams like the Denver Broncos, made note of their dimension and their shape, and crafted himself a team in their perfect negative likeness. Every advantage that teams like the Broncos have enjoyed over the past decade and a half: gone. Pete Carroll knows what you are good at, and he is glad that you are good at it, because every atom of this team was designed to stop it. From nucleic acid to eye black. Pete Carroll built himself an apex predator.

Things we all know: The cornerbacks look and play like wide receivers. They love it when you throw 50 times a game, because they want the football. The single high safety sees the field like a quarterback. He loves it when you make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, because it tells him what you were thinking coming out of the huddle and what you're thinking now. The linebackers are dying for you to run your screens because they know they can't be blocked by your "athletic" tight ends and wide receivers. And the defensive line? They love you, in particular, pocket passer. All they have to do is make a 5-yard by 5-yard square living hell, and the boys behind them will take care of the rest.

So, no, Sunday was not a surprise, because Peyton Manning's passing attack was only the latest dinosaur to choke to death on the asteroid dust raised by the Seahawks. A very clear picture has emerged. Elite quarterbacks should be worried. Since 2012, Seattle has faced the top-tier elite signal callers in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Drew Brees: Playoff Edition, and Peyton Manning: Super Bowl Edition. They went 0-5.

Win/Loss record is only a part of the story. First, a baseline:

QB Career Numbers
Passer Rating
Completion %
Yards Per Attempt
Brady 95.7 63.4 7.5
Brees 95.3 65.9 7.5
Manning 97.2 65.5 7.7
Rodgers 104.9 65.8 8.2

These guys are unbelievable. The smallest sample size of the group belongs to Aaron Rodgers, who has still maintained those numbers for five and a half seasons. The real deal. So what did they do against Pete Carroll's defense?

QB Numbers vs SEA
Passer Rating
Completion %
Yards Per Attempt
Brady 79.3 (-16.4)
62 (-1.4%)
6.8 (-0.7)
Brees (reg season)
77.4 (-17.9)
60.5 (-5.4%)
3.9 (-3.6)
Brees (postseason)
86.3 (-9)
55 (-10.9%)
7.1 (-0.4)
P. Manning 73.5 (-23.7)
69 (+3.5%)
5.7 (-2)
Rodgers 81.5 (-23.4)
66 (+0.2%)
5.7 (-2.5)

Um. They didn't have a great time. The Elite quarterback lost an average of 18.1 passer rating points, completion percentage dropped by 2.8 points, and they lost a stunning 1.84 yards from their average pass attempt. They combined for an average line that looks like this:

Average Elite
vs Seattle
Passer Rating
Completion %
Yards Per Attempt

In other words
Passer Rating
Completion %
Yards Per Attempt
Christian Ponder
career numbers

Look, it's been a privilege watching these guys play. They are phenomenal at surveying a defense, throwing accurate passes, moving within the pocket and winning a metric crapton of games in the process. They are responsible for the greatest aerial attacks in the history of the sport. But over the past 18 months, all of them have been put on notice. The Super Bowl was just the latest example. What happens when the Number 1 Offense takes on the Number 1 Defense? Life lessons and soul-searching.

Nothing will change overnight. Traditional passing teams will continue to light up the scoreboard and pile up yards on lesser competition. But at practice facilities in Denver, in Foxborough, in New Orleans and Green Bay and across the country, the dinosaurs will begin to worry. All due respect to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the Seahawks just sprouted opposable thumbs.