Broncos, Seahawks set for Super showdown

By By The Associated Press

Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Richard Sherman's Seattle Seahawks were the NFL's best all season, so it's fitting that

they'll meet in the Super Bowl.

Nobody scored as many points or gained as many yards as the Broncos.

Nobody allowed as few points or gave up as few yards as the Seahawks.

And nobody won as many games as those clubs, either.

What a way to finish the season. When the

AFC champion Broncos (15-3) play the NFC champion Seahawks (15-3) on

Feb. 2 at what

could be a chilly MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it

will be the first Super Bowl since 1991 pitting the league's

highest-scoring team in the regular season against the team that

was scored on the least, according to STATS.

It's also only the second time in the last 20 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seed in each conference reached the NFL championship

game.

"It will be a great matchup," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's an extraordinary opportunity to go against a

guy that set all the records in the history of the game."

That, of course, would be Manning, the

37-year-old quarterback who is the only four-time NFL MVP — and no one

would be surprised

if No. 5 arrives the night before the Super Bowl. He established

marks by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, helping

Denver lead the league with 37.9 points and 457.3 yards per game.

Manning is an inescapable pitchman, too, seen Sunday after

Sunday during TV commercials. Hey, there he was selling cars

during breaks in the broadcast of the NFC title game. Expect

even more face time now.

Manning's oft-told tale, certain to be

repeated a million times in the coming days, includes his comeback from a

series of

surgical procedures to his neck, attempts to cure problems that

led him to sit out the entire 2011 season. That also led the

Indianapolis Colts to send him packing despite two Super Bowl

appearances with that club, including a title in 2007.

"It's certainly well-documented what my journey the past 2½ years has been," said Manning, who could become the first starting

QB to lead two franchises to titles, "but this team's overcome a lot of obstacles this year."

None more serious, perhaps, than coach John Fox's absence for about a month because of a heart operation. Other issues included

the fax faux pas that precipitated the departure of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, star linebacker Von Miller's drug-testing

suspension and season-ending knee injury, and the losses of a handful of other starters on defense.

"Being in my 16th season, going to my third Super Bowl — I know how hard it is to get there," Manning said.

He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in

a 26-16 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC

championship

game Sunday. Manning's offense scored on six consecutive

possessions, accounted for more than 500 yards, had zero turnovers

and zero sacks.

Ol' No. 18's opposite number in two weeks, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, provides a real contrast as he seeks his —

and the Seahawks' — first Super Bowl trophy.

Wilson is 6 inches shorter, 12 years

younger, a skilled scrambler in only his second pro season after

slipping to the third

round of the draft; he's a guy who had to transfer colleges to get

playing time and thought about pursuing a baseball career

instead.

"Any time you get to the Super Bowl," Wilson said after Seattle beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 on Sunday, "it's a special

time."

Other members of the Seahawks getting the

chance to introduce themselves to a wide audience include rugged running

back Marshawn

Lynch — fans tossed packs of his favorite candy, Skittles, onto

the field after a 40-yard TD run in the third quarter — and

Carroll, a rah-rah sort who was a title-winning college coach at

Southern California.

And maybe, just maybe, some of Manning's less-heralded defensive teammates — the ones who clamped down on New England's running

game Sunday and limited Brady much of the afternoon — will get their chance to shine, too.

Seattle's defense, led by Sherman, allowed an average of 14.4 points and 273.6 yards, and topped the NFL in takeaways.

On Sunday, the Seahawks forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, including a victory-sealing interception by Malcolm

Smith after Sherman stretched his left hand to tip Colin Kaepernick's pass away from receiver Michael Crabtree in the end

zone.

"I'm the best corner in the game," said Sherman, an All-Pro. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's

the result you're going to get."

Seattle's only other trip to the big game

ended with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. Denver will be

playing in

its seventh Super Bowl and eyeing a third title, to go with those

from 1998 and 1999, when current executive John Elway was

the QB.

In addition to Elway, Manning can match his

younger brother Eli with a second Super Bowl crown. Eli, a spectator on

Sunday

in Denver, won two trophies with the New York Giants, whose

stadium hosts this year's Super Bowl, the first to be played outdoors

at a cold-weather site.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org