From Jacoby Jones to Desmond Howard to Devin Hester to David Tyree, the game’s biggest stage has welcomed a wide-variety of breakout special team performers that have been a part of some of the most iconic moments in Super Bowl history.
And yes, there’s plenty of room here to include kickers like Adam Vinatieri and Jim O’Brien. Without their clutch performances, who knows if their respective teams would have been crowned champions.
The lesson here is a simple and definitive one: special teams matter.
If either the Broncos and Seahawks don’t believe this to be true, it will cost them on Sunday.
In fact, with returner such as Trindon Holliday, Percy Harvin, Jermaine Kearse and Golden Tate on the field Sunday, there’s almost a guarantee for a game-changing special teams play.
Let’s look at how Seattle’s special teams match up:
Kicker: Steven Hauschka
Unbeknownst to the casual fan, Hauschka and Broncos kicker Matt Prater are actually good friends off the field. Similar to quarterbacks, I guess kickers share a similar kinship in regards to the pressure that stems from playing the position. Both kickers have been cool operators during their careers, which means there’s no indication of a Scott Norwood situation will occur at Met Life Stadium. However,
Without the mile high air, Prater does come down a notch, so what we have in this position breakdown is a straight wash. Both are capable of hitting game winners and both are capable of hitting 50-plus yard field goals. The real question is: how will they fare in keeping the ball out of the hands of Holliday and Kearse?
Punter: Jon Ryan
Broncos punter Britton Colquitt hasn’t been used much this postseason, which is indicates just how good the Broncos offense has been in their two playoff games. Nonetheless, expect to see a lot more of him Sunday as Seattle’s defense is known for shutting down offenses and welcoming opposing punters on the field.
The real difference here though doesn’t have to do with opportunity, it has to do with skill set. Both punters have remarkably similar stats so it’s hard to give an edge to either side, but I do think Colquitt has the stronger leg and an extremely impressive track record of keeping it away from the other team’s most dangerous playmaker.
Punt returner: Golden Tate
The Broncos still don’t know what’s going on with this position, despite Eric Decker’s postseason success. This means that Seattle wins by default, although this doesn’t mean Decker can’t etch his name in Super Bowl lore with a game-changing return — he certainly can. Tate is simply more explosive in the open field and more used to the task of fielding punts though. And with Seattle’s run-first offense, he will be more rested in these type situations than Decker, who is an integral part of Denver’s offense.
Kick returner: Jermaine Kearse, Robert Turbin
Kearse had success against Denver in the preseason, a moment I’m sure all Bronco special team players remember. The kick coverage unit highlighted by players like safety David Bruton, linebacker Steven Johnson and tight end Jacob Tamme will help contain Seattle whenever they get a return chance. Similarly though, the Seahawks have a great kick coverage unit and will plug up any holes for Holliday.
It’s hard to forget though that Holliday took one back at Met Life in week 2 against the Giants. He’s comfortable and confident — two things all kick return guys need to be successful
On to the game pick….
Prediction: Broncos 24, Seahawks 23
Can you say instant classic? I bet not as fast as you can say “best ever” — as in, best Super Bowl ever. When it’s all said and done, I think that’s what we will have to savor and celebrate with.