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ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 25-26 - In this Jan. 12, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas (80), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88), wide receiver Wes Welker (83) and quarterback Peyton Manning (18) wait as officials review a fumbled pass by Thomas during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers in an AFC divisional NFL playoff football game in Denver. No team in the 93-year history of the NFL ever had that many players catch at least 60 passes or reach the end zone 10 or more times until the Broncos put up a record 606 points. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
Superbowl matchup: Peyton Manning vs. Legion of Boom
First Published Jan 24 2014 11:50 am • Last Updated Jan 24 2014 11:29 pm

Englewood, Colo. • Seattle’s "Legion of Boom" secondary led by All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas may be able to slow down, say, Demaryius Thomas, in the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean Peyton Manning will have to tap the brakes on Denver’s Lamborghini offense.

Manning doesn’t have just one go-to receiver like most quarterbacks.

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He has five.

The Seahawks will match up the NFL’s top pass defense this season against the best passing offense of all time in the Super Bowl at East Rutherford, N.J.

"That’s the matchup everybody is going to be talking about, Peyton Manning vs. the Legion of Boom," Hall of Famer and Fox color analyst Troy Aikman said. "I’m excited to see it. That’s why I spoke about how disappointing it would be if conditions keep that part of it from happening the way we’d like to see because of the impact the weather may have on the passing game."

Even if wintry weather curtails his passing prowess, Manning can downshift as easily as he can dial up a deep pass. With the bunch formations and picks and rubs that got under Bill Belichick’s skin, the turbo-charged Broncos have morphed into a yard-chewing, clock-eating machine in the playoffs.

With Manning dinking and dunking his way downfield, Denver’s three most time-consuming drives of the season have all come in the last two weeks, 7-minute masterpieces that rendered Philip Rivers and Tom Brady short-tempered sideline spectators to Manning’s magic.

He simply has more outlets than defenses have answers for.

"It’s hard to catch a break with him, catch a tendency or something that you can jump," Sherman said of Manning, who sports a 40-1 TD-to-interception ratio in the red zone this season, including the playoffs — and that one interception bounced off his receiver’s chest, no less.

Of all the records Manning and the Broncos set this season, the one that stands out to Denver wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is this: No team in NFL history ever had five players reach the end zone 10 or more times until Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (13), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10) did it this season.


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"That tells you about the players we have on our team, the way Peyton spreads the ball out, how anybody can score at any given time," Tolbert said.

No other team has ever had more than three players hit double-digit TDs.

This quintet helped the Broncos break the once-unfathomable 600-point barrier and each of them also caught 60 or more passes. No team had ever had five players do that before, either.

Manning says his unprecedented 55 TD passes and 5,477 yards through the air are only temporary records which will be surpassed by Brady or Drew Brees in no time — or by any number of other quarterbacks if owners get their way and expand the regular season to 18 games. But Tolbert thinks the 5-10 guys have nothing to sweat.

The beauty of the Broncos’ offense is in its balance.

Manning targeted his three starting receivers almost identically: Demaryius Thomas (8.87 times a game), Welker (8.54), Decker (8.5). Julius Thomas, whose dozen scores broke Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe’s club record for tight ends, was targeted 6.42 times per game.

Take one away and another will burn you.

"Peyton doesn’t discriminate," Decker said.

"He doesn’t force passes," Demaryius Thomas said.

"He just takes what the defense gives him," said Julius Thomas, the power forward-turned-tight end who caught 65 passes for 788 yards after catching just one pass in his first two seasons.

"He just goes down the line and finds whoever is singled up," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said.

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