Keeping Score

5 Ways To Sound Smart About The Super Bowl

Just start jabbering about rub routes, Omaha and Earl Thomas

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Ted S. Warren / AP

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman walks off the field after a Jan. 24 practice ahead of the Super Bowl.

You don’t spend your Sundays obsessing about your football team. Monday through Saturday, you’re not thinking about your fantasy roster. In fact, you don’t care about football one lick. Congratulations. You’re a well-adjusted human being.

But if there’s one day your meritorious behavior works against you, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.  At the party you’re attending, you feel left out of the conversation. And what other options do you have? Reading Twitter snark about the ads grows dull after the first quarter. The food stinks. The couch isn’t comfy. So if you wanted to down a few drinks and doze off—forget about it.

We’re here to help. By just throwing out a few random observations, you’ll fool the hosts into thinking you watch game film. The football nuts in the room will be impressed, and unlike them, after it’s over you’ll just ignore the scouting combine, free agency and the NFL draft.

You’ve won Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are five ways to sounds smart about the Super Bowl.

Talk Nebraska

Peyton Manning’s frequent pre-snap screams of “Omaha” have attracted tons of attention during the playoffs. A group of eight Omaha-based businesses even banded together to pledge $800 for each time Manning chanted “Omaha” during the AFC championships game against New England. He did it 31 times, so the group wrote a $24,800 check to Manning’s charity for disadvantaged youth, the Peyback Foundation. Fifteen businesses have pledged $1,500 for each “Omaha” during the Super Bowl.

So what does “Omaha” mean? “I’ll let ya’ll decide that,” says Broncos center Manny Ramirez, who’s tasked with snapping the ball to Peyton. Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, now an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio and host of the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, points out that the “Omaha” call has been around awhile. “It’s been used as far back as 2001, with Tom Brady,” Tucker says. “All it is a snap-count trigger. The next sound after he says Omaha triggers the snap of the ball.”

Except when it doesn’t. During Denver’s divisional-round playoff game against San Diego, the Chargers thought they were on to him. But Manning didn’t snap the ball after saying “Omaha,” and the Chargers jumped offsides five times. If Manning isn’t snapping the ball right after the first “Omaha,” Tucker says, he’s doing what’s called “Double Omaha.” The point is to try to draw Seattle offsides.

So how is Seattle planning for Omaha? “We really don’t get caught up in that,” says Seattle defensive lineman Red Bryant. “Because the coaches know a lot of people that have played against Peyton. I have different teammates that know people around the league that have played Peyton. If you get caught up trying to figure out what Peyton is going to do, you’ll get off of your game. We basically have to get off when the ball is snapped. If you try to beat the snap count, you’re going to jump offside. You just have to go back to the basic fundamentals. Hopefully that’s enough. We’ll see on Sunday.”

Spot Sherm

To inflate your football knowledge, just home in on a few matchups. The most intriguing: Denver’s top receiver, Demaryius Thomas, #88, against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, #25. You know, the guy who quietly declared on national television that he was best cornerback in the NFL, and that’s he’s not a big fan of San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree. “The big question for Seattle,” says ex-Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, an analyst for Fox Sports, “is whether you put Sherman exclusively on Thomas.”

That would seem to make technical sense—put your best defender on the other’s team’s best receiver. But Sherman almost exclusively plays on one side of the field—the area to his left. Denver likes line up Thomas up on both sides of the field. So will Sherman follow Thomas around?

“I don’t think so,” says Thomas. Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won’t give away his game plan: He says me might match Sherman up against Thomas on the right side sometimes, but “most times, we’ll stick with what we do.”

So if Sherman is on the left side, see if Manning challenges him. “If Peyton is not throwing the ball to his far right,” says Tucker, “he’s staying away from Richard Sherman. Either Sherman has great coverage. Or Peyton doesn’t want to take a chance.”

Rub It In

On offense, Denver likes to run something called a “pick play,” or “rub route.” Basically, receivers criss-cross each other down the field. “The main thing we try to do is rub shoulder pads,” says Demaryius Thomas. “It’s hard for a defender to try to get through that. You’re going underneath or you’re going around. That’s all the space that we need.”

So when you see Denver criss-crossing, just yell “rub route.” You know some inside jargon. You’re cool. Enjoy the admiring stares.

Often, the rub routes cause one receiver’s defender to collide with the other receiver. In the AFC championship game, for example, Denver’s Wes Welker ran into New England’s Aqib Talib on a pick play, knocking Talib out of the game.

How do you defend the rub route? “You just have to know when it’s coming,” says Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. “They have little tells. Everything is attack mode. When you know, you just go. You don’t second-guess yourself. Play with the absence of fear.”

His Name Is Earl

This Earl Thomas fellow, by the way, is indeed fearless. Seattle’s defense is tops in the NFL, and Sherman has gotten most of the attention, for both his on-field performance and post-game theatrics. But at your party, make the point that Thomas, #29, may be the real key. “Earl Thomas is the best, most valuable player for the Seahawks,” says Tucker. “Watch his range. Watch how much ground he covers. He’s arguably the NFL defensive player of the year.”

Play Footsie

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is a threat with both his arm and with his feet. But if Wilson is running around too much early, that could be a bad sign for the Seahawks. “This is real important,” says Tucker. “Because even if he makes a few plays, it means he’s not reading things clearly. He’s not processing information quickly, so he has to run. … He’s been doing that a lot lately. And he hasn’t been playing that well.”

The Seahawks are concerned. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bavell will also be watching Wilson’s feet. “We always try to see the reasons why he’s moving,” Wilson says. “Is he moving with merit?”

Bingo: there’s a good question to toss out at the party. Is Wilson moving with merit? No worries if you don’t know the answer. The question just sounds brainy.

Unlike the dip, you’re a hit.