JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Leave it to Peyton Manning to put everything in perspective.
“The Super Bowl is a big deal,” the Broncos’ record-setting quarterback said Sunday after his team arrived in a frozen Big Apple — well, across the icy Hudson River in New Jersey, actually.
Well, yeah, it’s only the biggest sporting event in America, a quasi-national holiday. That’s not lost on the four-time NFL MVP and owner of one Super Bowl title.
“I know how hard it is to get here,” he added. “I know how much time and sacrifice our team has made in order to have this opportunity to play in this game. We were excited to get on that plane. We were excited getting off that plane, and we are looking forward to being here all week and, hopefully, playing a good game next Sunday.”
It will take more than a good game to beat the Seahawks, of course. Seattle brings the stingiest defense in the league to the Super Bowl. It’s a juicy matchup between an unstoppable force led by Manning (55 TD passes, 606 points) and an immovable object (231 points allowed, ranked first in overall and passing defense).
And it’s exactly what the Seahawks traveled across the country for: the biggest of all challenges.
“Historically, it can’t get any tougher,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “People can’t even dream to have a season (like Manning had). It’s an extraordinary challenge, and we’ll see how this matchup goes. They have to play us, too.”
Plus, both teams might have to fight through the elements in the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather site.
On Sunday, an icy wind made its way through the Meadowlands, cut across the Hudson and into frigid Manhattan. Looks like Mother Nature is taking seriously the NFL’s slogan for this Super Bowl: Best Served Cold.
“Don’t let the cold weather get you,” is Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard’s mantra. “Once you figure out a point in your mind that you’re cold, that’s when it gets you. So you just have to block it out and be into the moment.”
For the moment, each side is dealing with the distractions that accompany reaching the NFL’s super-hyped championship game.
More media, for sure. A glaring spotlight on everything. Spending a week away from home. Practicing in another team’s facility: the Seahawks at the Giants’ complex across the parking lots from MetLife Stadium, the Broncos at the Jets’ place in Florham Park, about 30 minutes from the Meadowlands.
Both coaches, Denver’s John Fox and Seattle’s Carroll, are concerned about the outdoor practice fields being frozen or covered with snow. Neither sounded eager about working indoors the entire week.
Just another inconvenience that goes along with the Super Bowl, although the NFL said the outdoor fields will be available for practices.
“Cold, hot, snow, rain, football is challenging,” Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said. “That’s why we’ve got to stay in it (mentally) for the whole game — the personnel, the matchups. It’s not about psyching yourself up, it’s about the opportunity. You’ve got the God-given ability and you want to show it off. It doesn’t matter where it is.”
Where it is, of course, is where every football player seeks to be in early February. Whether the Super Bowl is played on the Meadowlands tundra, in Death Valley or on Mars, every NFL player wants to be suiting up for it.
“I think in order to be a championship football team we’ve got to be weatherproof, and I think our football team played in all different elements this year,” Fox said. “I feel comfortable with where we’re at as far as the elements, but it’s a part of the game. I think tradition-wise, it’s been a part of the league and a part of a lot of championships.”
Not one regular Seahawks player has been to this stage, giving Denver something of an edge in experience. The Broncos have four: receiver Wes Welker, tight end Jacob Tamme, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and that quarterback named Peyton.
Manning, of course, is the only current Bronco to have won a ring, with Indianapolis in 2007. He also lost the Super Bowl in 2010 with the Colts.
On Monday, with the long travel out of the way and the introductory news conferences behind them, each team gets down to business. They can’t wait.
“I don’t believe in such a thing called distractions,” Woodyard said. “This is the moment we have got to be in. It’s what you wanted your whole life.”