NBC couldn’t have hoped for a better Super Bowl matchup if they’d scripted it.
“Tell you the truth, I didn’t want to see Indianapolis here against Seattle,” said commentator Rodney Harrison, a former safety for the Chargers and Patriots. “Not because I didn’t like the Colts, but because you want to see the two best teams, and these are the two best teams in football.”
When the Seattle Seahawks meet the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, it will be the second consecutive season the Super Bowl features the top-seeded teams from each conference – the first time No. 1 seeds have met back-to-back since 1983-84.
Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports, laid out some of the factors that are expected to draw somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 million viewers.
“This is the perfect matchup between a great offense and a great defense,” he said. “One team (New England) can continue to cement the legacy as one of the greats of all time, and the other can take another step toward that.”
Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will call the action in the booth; Michaels appearing in his ninth Super Bowl, Collinsworth in his third.
“I almost feel like Forrest Gump, in a way, I’ve been in so many great places and wound up in the craziest of spots,” Michaels said, having called the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” (the United States’ upset of the Soviet Union in the Olympic hockey semifinals) and the Bay Area earthquake game of the 1989 World Series.
Michaels said that he expects the trending topic of the past two weeks, the mystery of the deflation of game balls in the AFC Championship Game, will not be belabored because the topic has grown old.
Bob Costas, who will host pregame coverage, said the allure of the matchup will overtake any of the “ ‘Deflategate’ or polarizing personalities you might find on either team.”
“These are the two best teams of the generation,” Costas said. “Seattle looks to become the first back-to-back winner since the Patriots of 10 years ago. The Patriots look to further its legacy as the (Bill Belichick-Tom Brady) group goes to its sixth Super Bowl. You’ve got all those dynamics, so there’s nothing wrong with this matchup.”
The Super Bowl makes stars, but having existing stars coming into the game doesn’t hurt ratings.
“Tom Brady has been around so long and it’s been fun to see his development, but he hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 10 years,” Flood said. “So that adds another dimension to the story.”
And on the Seahawks?
“(Richard) Sherman is one of the most outspoken and colorful characters in the league, and then you have Marshawn Lynch, who doesn’t speak, so that’s a wonderful juxtaposition,” Flood said. “And Russell Wilson is a talented quarterback who has blossomed in just three years.”
Commentator Hines Ward, who scored a touchdown for the Steelers against Seattle in Super Bowl XL in 2006, said he expects a competitive game. But he picks Seattle.
“I’m going to go with the idea that defense wins championships, so I’m going with Seattle in a close game,” Ward said. “Seattle’s secondary is so disruptive in the passing game. Receivers will have to rise to the occasion to make plays. So it’s going to come down to who makes the play when it matters the most.”
The matchups and the hours of analysis and rhetoric are important for setting the tone of the broadcast. But Flood said NBC’s mission is simple.
“We want to tell the story of the game, that’s always the job,” Flood said. “The game comes first. The game is the star.”