Seattle's vaunted 12th man roared itself hoarse in a primal scream of a game Sunday and earlier Peyton Manning kept shouting "Omaha" as he barked out signals. It must be easier to say than "East Rutherford," where the Seahawks and Denver Broncos are headed for Super Bowl XLVIII.
With a win Feb. 2, Manning would earn his second Super Bowl ring, as many as little brother Eli, who happens to call New Jersey's MetLife Stadium home. The Seahawks, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 Sunday in a hard-hitting, back-and-forth NFC title game, will be looking for their first Super Bowl title.
"Being in my 16th season, going to my third Super Bowl, I know how hard it is to get there," said Manning, who lost Super Bowl XLIV to the New Orleans Saints four years ago.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is going in his second season. "Man, it's been a blessing," he said. "We talked at the beginning of the year and we said, 'Why not us?'"
Sunday, Manning beat an old nemesis in Tom Brady but next he'll face a young gun in Wilson. The story lines are taking shape: Denver's top-ranked offense vs. Seattle's top-ranked defense, Manning's golden arm vs. Wilson's active legs — and what might Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman say next?
"You can't get inside Peyton's head," Sherman said. "If you do, you'll get lost,"
Both teams are 15-3, and this will be the second time in the last 20 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seeds from both conferences will meet.
The game will be played in potentially adverse weather, and the Seahawks have bulldozer-back Marshawn Lynch, who battered the 49ers, and a ball-control style of keep-away offense that has at times been Denver's undoing.
The Broncos' 26-16 victory against the New England Patriots on Sunday was clinched when Eric Decker recovered an onside kick with just over three minutes remaining, and the home fans began chanting "Super Bowl! Super Bowl! Super Bowl!"
A sign spotted in the madding crowd said simply: "New York State of Mind." Hours later, the Seattle crowd would match that, singing New York, New York.
Seahawks owner Paul Allen accepted the George Halas Trophy and said, "This feels even sweeter" than the Seahawks' first Super Bowl trip after the 2005 season.
As Broncos coach John Fox accepted the Lamar Hunt Trophy, he turned to face the crowd, his arms raised above his head. "I've got a trophy!" he yelled.
Tight end Virgil Green was the first Bronco to run up the tunnel and he exulted, "We made it! We made it!" That was largely thanks to Manning, who threw for 400 yards, mastering his arsenal like an adept teenager manipulating his Madden video game.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," said Sherman, the outspoken Seahawks corner of the matchup, "a Hall of Fame quarterback with the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense."