Russell Wilson finished the 2013 regular season with less than half the touchdown passes for the Seattle Seahawks than Peyton Manning racked up during his record-breaking season with the Denver Broncos. It's hard to blame the second-year quarterback for that though, as only six quarterbacks managed as much.
Still, it's clear which quarterback is the marquee player in Super Bowl XLVIII, and it isn't the 5-foot-11 passer who was selected in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Ask Seahawks players about Wilson though, and it's clear they believe they have plenty of confidence in the young quarterback's ability to give the franchise its first Lombardi Trophy.
Tight end Zach Miller told the media, including Terry Blount of ESPN, as much on Monday:
"Sure, I noticed he was short," Miller said. "But he won me over so quickly. The first thing I noticed was that he's a playmaker. He was making these throws where I would think, Wow. This guy's got it. And he just wants to win so badly. You love playing with a guy like that. He makes you better."
Other players agreed with Miller's assessment as well:
"What I respect about him the most is his relentless will to be great," fullback Michael Robinson said. "He is really serious about his craft. He is into every possible detail of his game."
With 32 regular season games and four postseason games under his belt, Wilson is still far from the experience level of Manning. The first-overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft, Manning has played in 240 regular season games and 22 postseason games.
Wilson has played efficient football during his short time in the NFL though, tossing 52 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in two seasons. While he racked up an impressive 100.0 passer rating as a rookie, Wilson managed to top that mark in 2013 with one fewer interception and just as many touchdowns to finish the year at 101.2.
That hasn't gone unnoticed by members of the Broncos defense, who are preparing to stop the Seahawks defense. While Seattle is far from the offensive juggernaut that Denver is, the team still finished the year with the eighth-most points scored and much of that runs through Wilson.
Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton told the media on Monday, including Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, that the team has a lot to defend when it comes to Wilson:
"Each week he's getting better and better. He's one of those guys who doesn't turn the ball over," Knighton said.
Perhaps most important to Wilson's success is his scrambling ability, which Knighton noted.
"He extends plays, he's a smart player and he can beat you with his feet and with his arm," Knighton said. "We have to keep him in the pocket."
In two seasons with the Seahawks, including postseason, Wilson has amassed 1,171 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground. That's more yardage than Manning has accumulated with his legs during his 16-year career, although Manning has found the end zone 21 times.
Wilson finished the NFC Championship with 215 yards passing, one touchdown and no interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers, a team that finished in the top five in points and yards allowed. The Broncos finished 2013 with the 19th-ranked defense and 27th-ranked pass defense.