Just over seven months after the Seattle Seahawks annihilated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the teams are set to go at it again Sunday.
The unbeaten Broncos are looking forward to Wes Welker’s return ahead of this much-anticipated showdown against Seattle, which is back home looking for answers after a surprising Week 2 loss.
Russell Wilson threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns while the Richard Sherman-led defense shut down the Broncos in a 43-8 rout at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, the most lopsided Super Bowl victory in over 20 years.
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This marks just the sixth time Super Bowl participants will face each other the following season.
"We’ve moved passed it, it happened, but we want to make our stamp on the league," Broncos safety David Bruton said. "As of right now it’s just another game. We can’t change the outcome of last season."
While the Broncos got a bit of revenge by winning the preseason opener for both teams last month, Seattle is expecting their best shot Sunday.
"I’m sure this is a really important game to them again. As it is to us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I think there was something going on in the preseason. I think it was a big deal for them. I don’t blame them one bit."
The Seahawks opened 2014 with an impressive 36-16 rout of Green Bay before falling 30-21 at San Diego last Sunday. Wilson threw for 202 yards and two scores, but Philip Rivers’ passer rating of 124.2 was the highest against Seattle since Week 8 in 2010.
"They’re quiet. They’re quiet and serious," said Carroll, whose team’s nine-point defeat was its largest since November 2011. "We don’t take these easily. There are very high expectations that we live with here and everybody knows that. The main thing is everybody took to heart the changes and adjustments and the things that we can fix."
The Broncos (2-0) are coming off a closer-than-expected 24-17 win over Kansas City last Sunday. Peyton Manning was 21 of 26 for 242 yards and three TDs, giving him six and no interceptions.
The Chiefs had a chance to tie things up or take the lead but couldn’t convert from the Broncos’ 2 in the final minute.
"Hey, we’re 2-0 going on the road trying to be 3-0 and that’s the best place you can be: undefeated," cornerback Chris Harris said. "And we have lofty goals and all the fans have lofty goals for us. They expect us to kill everybody every week. You all (reporters) probably do, too. But it’s the NFL. Teams are coming to play us like it’s the Super Bowl every week."
The Broncos faced a similar scare in Week 1 but held on to beat Indianapolis 31-24. They’re averaging 343.0 yards of total offense after racking up 457.3 per game last year.
Getting Welker back should help. The five-time Pro Bowler was reinstated and practiced Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 1 after the NFL agreed to a new performance-enhancing drug policy, cutting his four-game suspension for offseason amphetamine use in half.
Welker had 73 catches for 778 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns in 13 regular-season games last year.
While the Broncos’ results haven’t been very convincing, they know they have a chance to make a big statement in Seattle.
"There’s not a lot of 58-0 games in this league," coach John Fox said. "It’s all a concern but when you look at the first quarter of our season, every team is a 10-win team. One’s the defending Super Bowl champs and we trot to their place this week.
"I don’t think anybody’s playing their best football of the year after Week 2. And I’d say it’s a fair assessment that we aren’t, either. That’s something that you try to do is improve every day and every week. So, hopefully we’re playing our best football well into the playoffs."
Newcomer Emmanuel Sanders stepped up in Welker’s absence, catching 14 passes for 185 yards. Tight end Julius Thomas has 143 yards and four touchdowns.
Manning leads the NFL with a 126.5 passer rating while Wilson isn’t far behind at 114.7. Wilson has thrown 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions in going 18-1 as a starter at home, including playoffs.
The Seahawks have held teams to an average of 13.3 points during those games, allowing more than 20 twice. Denver hasn’t visited Seattle since a 31-9 victory Nov. 17, 2002.