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Super Bowl XLVIII preview: Broncos QB Peyton Manning has ‘duck’ dynasty

Winning with your head

In 2013, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning threw for more touchdowns (55) and yards (5,447) than anyone ever had in an NFL season. But as Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman pointed out this week, they are not always the prettiest of passes. Manning didn’t disagree with Sherman’s assessment. “I do throw ducks,” Manning said. “I throw for a lot of yards and TD ducks, so I’m actually quite proud of it.” Manning has always won with his brain, not his arm, and that’s what he’ll look to do Sunday against the NFL’s top-ranked defense. And Manning’s “Duck Dynasty” consists of an unprecedented five players who caught 60 or more passes and scored 10 or more touchdowns: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno.

Stopping ‘Beast Mode’

Anyone who believes powerful Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch will run over the Broncos’ defense does so at their peril. Denver was seventh in the NFL against the run in the regular season and ranks first in the playoffs after allowing an average of 64.5 yards in two games. The Broncos stopped New England’s 250-pound LeGarrette Blount cold with 6 yards on five carries in the AFC title game warmup for the battle against Lynch. “They call him ‘Beast Mode’ for a reason,” Denver defensive end Shawn Phillips said. “He’s an unbelievable player. We’re up for the challenge. In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. It’s understanding how they’re going to attack us and how to defend it right.”

A leg up?

If the Super Bowl comes down to a last-second field goal and your team has the ball, the question is not whether it’s going to be good – it will. NFL kickers had their best season ever by several important measures, and the two on call Sunday – Seattle’s Steven Hauschka and Denver’s Matt Prater – finished ranked Nos. 1 and 2. Including the playoffs, Hauschka was 39 of 41 (95.1 percent; the NFL average was 86.5), including a perfect 3 of 3 from 50 yards and beyond (NFL average: 66.9). Hauschka’s longest was 53. Prater was 30 of 32 (93.8 percent), and 7 of 8 from 50-plus.

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