PHOENIX (AP) The sideshow is over, which means Marshawn Lynch can go back to not talking and this realization can become obvious again: The Seattle Seahawks are still the best defensive team in football.
And as we saw in last year's Super Bowl, defense still usually wins.
''We've got a lot of big-name guys, but you would never know because they work like they're just average players,'' Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin said.
''They never let the starting get to their head and I think that's the biggest difference. Guys always come to work ready to work. I think that separates us from a lot of teams that we practice our tails off. We bust our butts during the week so when Sunday comes it's much easier.''
Therein lays the challenge in Seattle's attempt on Sunday to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles facing New England. For as important a role as Lynch might end up playing, whether Seattle is lifting a second straight Lombardi Trophy will be dictated by its defense.
The outcome is certainly deeper than just how Seattle plays defensively. Has Seattle fully recovered emotionally from the NFC title game and its remarkable comeback against Green Bay just to get to the Super Bowl?
Can Russell Wilson be an effective passer against a New England secondary that with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner is far better than the one Wilson faced as a rookie? And where is Lynch's head after a week where he was the center of attention?
The difference is Seattle's defense has shown it's capable of overcoming those problems to win games.
The only evidence needed is what the Seahawks did in the NFC championship game. Three times in the first half the Packers took possession inside the Seattle 35 and came away with only nine points. That defense allowed the Seahawks to hang around long enough to post its late rally.
There is a reason Seattle is being mentioned in the same category as the ''Purple People Eaters,'' the ''Steel Curtain,'' and the ''Monsters of the Midway.''
They have accomplished statistical feats that haven't been seen in nearly 30 years. The best scoring defense. The best at stopping the pass. The best overall.
All they need is another Super Bowl title to add credence to their status.
''People hate us because, you know, when you talk a lot of smack, people usually hate you,'' Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said. ''But when you talk a lot of smack and you back it up, they hate you even more.''
So how does Seattle earn a second title with its defense? By not giving up big plays. They allowed only 39 plays of 20 or more yards the entire regular season and just 17 of those in the final eight games.
And that's not the strength of the Patriots. New England ranked 26th in the league in offensive plays of 20 or more yards.
Make the Patriots move in small chunks. Get to Tom Brady just enough to throw off his timing. Make sure LeGarrette Blount and the New England run game doesn't get started. And keep Rob Gronkowski from taking over the game.
Sounds like a lot. But if successful, Seattle will be put in position to do what no team has done before because of the way it's been constructed.
They are talented. They are still young. And they have most of their core players together through at least the 2017 season with financial flexibility. Some of that extra money will be consumed by a new contract for Wilson, but there will still be room to supplement what Seattle has already created.
That's what makes the potential for Sunday so unique. There has never been a team to win three straight Super Bowls and that will be all the talk for Pete Carroll and his crew going into next season:
Seahawks 23, Patriots 19
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