NEW YORK — The talk has finally come to an end.
Both Super Bowl coaches engaged in the teams' last general media session Friday morning, and the message from the Broncos' John Fox and the Seahawks' Pete Carroll was to expect the unexpected.
The Super Bowl might be billed as a blockbuster confrontation between Denver's record-breaking offense and Seattle's top-ranked defense, but Fox warned the outcome might hinge on someone other than Peyton Manning or Richard Sherman.
“A lot has been made of (the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense),” Fox said, “and rightfully so. Both units have been historic in what they've done and we take pride in it. But at the end of the day this is a team game and I remind everyone there's three phases of the game. And my experience in any big game is (it comes down) to who executes best.
“Obviously your star players have to be great. There have not been many championships won in any sport where your big players did not play big. But there always seems to be the unknown guy who makes a critical play, whether it's the kicking game, Lord knows where. My experience is that there's always been one of those events.”
Carroll echoed those thoughts.
“Obviously there's the attraction to the offense and defense. It's a logical matchup to look for,” he said, “but this game will involve so many different aspects that it will be interesting to see if that turns out to be the story. Will it be our defense or their offense? I think it will be like John says. It's obvious that we have this enormous challenge in the great season that they've had and all Peyton has been able to do and accomplish. No one has been able to slow him down. Yet the game will go so many ways and we don't know which way it will bounce but it is probably going to be about one of us taking better care of the football than the other.”
The joint question-and-answer session also included a moment when the coaches were asked about the elements from the opposing team they would like to have. Carroll's wish list was topped by an obvious choice.
“We'd like to have their points. What did you score, 800 points?” Carroll said while turning to Fox. “If we had those points our defense could play pretty well. They have an incredible football team. I also wish we had their altitude to kick the football.”
Fox left it at voicing his respect for the Seattle defense.
“They've got very good speed and have a stable of pass rushers that do a great job,” Fox said. “They cause havoc. On the back end they probably have the most talented secondary in the league, across the board, not just one guy. They have great length and great speed.”
Carroll also voiced his admiration for Fox after hearing the Denver coach talk about his recovery from aortic valve surgery that sidelined him for four games during the season.
“I never had doubts,” Fox said about his comeback. “It's been a long time since I missed a game. It's back to my playing days. As a coach, missing time is not part of your relevance. It was obvious I was going to need medical attention. I had a great medical team. They gave me such a great projection of rehab and how fast I could get back to normalcy. For me it was like a sprained ankle. They said four weeks and I was back to work Monday four weeks after post-op. I feel 150 percent better. I had a valve opening that was the size of a pin head, now it's a 50 cent piece. From a feeling-good standpoint, I feel way, way better than I did two months ago. And I never gave it a second thought about not coming back as being an option.”
Upon hearing Fox's words, Carroll smiled and said, “What a stud. He's comparing open heart surgery to an ankle sprain. Congratulations, John, that was amazing, awesome.”
Though the teams did not meet during the regular season, the Seahawks clobbered the Broncos 40-10 in an Aug. 17 exhibition game, and Fox said having team executive vice president of football operations John Elway talk — actually blast — the team after that showing played a key role in putting the Broncos on the path to the Super Bowl.
“We had high expectations coming in,” Fox said. “We did not play well. Not to take anything away from them. It was a butt-kicking. John asked to speak to the team and he lit into them pretty good. ... It shook them up, woke them up, whatever I can say, and it had a good effect on us. We came back grittier and little more determined. It got us going.”