Ask Ex-Dolphin Zach Thomas: Peyton Manning is unique

On Super Sunday, Seahawks would want to know what Zach Thomas does

In New York, during one of those endless Super Bowl interviews, Peyton Manning was asked this week which defenders gave him the most trouble.

"Zach Thomas was one," the Denver quarterback said.

Thomas is told this. He chuckles.

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  • Trivia: Think you know the Super Bowl?

    The Ultimate XLVIII-question Super Bowl trivia exam. Complete quiz and submit to see answers, and win a bar bet or two. By Steve Svekis

    • 1. The Super Bowl's longest punt and longest punt return came on the same play.

      • A. True

      • B. False

    • 2. Which team has led by at least seven points in each Super Bowl it has been in (minimum five appearances)?

      • A. San Francisco 49ers

      • B. Dallas Cowboys

      • C. Pittsburgh Steelers

      • D. Washington Redskins

    • 3. In the first nine Super Bowls, there were four games where the winning team scored fewer than 17 points. In the ensuing 38 Super Bowls, how many times has the winning team scored fewer than 17 points?

      • A. 0

      • B. 1

      • C. 2

      • D. 4

    • 4. Bill Belichick's New England Patriots are 3-2 in Super Bowls. What have his teams not done in any of those five appearances?

      • A. Scored in the first quarter

      • B. Returned an interception for a touchdown

      • C. Thrown an interception

      • D. Thrown for fewer than 300 yards

    • 5. Kurt Warner played in three Super Bowls. What did he do in each of those games?

      • A. Threw a tying or go-ahead touchdown pass in the final three minutes

      • B. Had one of the top three passing-yardage games in the history of the Super Bowl

      • C. Threw an interception for a touchdown

      • D. Both A and B

    • 6. Which franchise has had four different starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl?

      • A. New York Giants

      • B. Oakland Raiders

      • C. Washington Redskins

      • D. All of the above

    • 7. What team has played the Super Bowl closest to its home stadium?

      • A. Miami Dolphins

      • B. Los Angeles Rams

      • C. San Francisco 49ers

      • D. San Diego Chargers

    • 8. What Super Bowl team had the greatest average margin of victory in a postseason?

      • A. 1989 49ers

      • B. 1985 Bears

      • C. 1983 Raiders

      • D. 1986 Giants

    • 9. Who has started the most games at quarterback in the Super Bowl?

      • A. Joe Montana

      • B. John Elway

      • C. Tom Brady

      • D. B and C

    • 10. What Super Bowl matchup pitted teams whose home stadiums were located closest to each other?

      • A. Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears in XLI

      • B. Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Giants in XXXV

      • C. New York Jets vs. Baltimore Colts in III

      • D. New England Patriots vs. New York Giants in XLII

    • 11. What Super Bowl matchup pitted teams whose home stadiums were located farthest away from each other?

      • A. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks in XL

      • B. Los Angeles Raiders vs. Washington Redskins in XVIII

      • C. Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers in XXXVII

      • D. Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers in XIX

    • 12. Who owns the worst passer rating in a Super Bowl among starting quarterbacks?

      • A. Craig Morton

      • B. Kerry Collins

      • C. Fran Tarkenton

      • D. Earl Morrall

    • 13. Who owns the best passer rating in a Super Bowl among starting quarterbacks?

      • A. Joe Montana

      • B. Jim Plunkett

      • C. Phil Simms

      • D. Troy Aikman

    • 14. What Super Bowl team scored the fewest points per game in the regular season?

      • A. 1977 Broncos

      • B. 1990 Giants

      • C. 1993 Bills

      • D. 2000 Ravens

    • 15. What Super Bowl team allowed the fewest points per game in the regular season?

      • A. 1969 Vikings

      • B. 1975 Steelers

      • C. 1985 Bears

      • D. 2000 Ravens

    • 16. What Super Bowl team allowed the most points per game in the regular season?

      • A. 2008 Cardinals

      • B. 2007 Giants

      • C. 2006 Colts

      • D. 1968 Jets

    • 17. What Super Bowl team scored the most points per game during the postseason?

      • A. 1992 Cowboys

      • B. 1989 49ers

      • C. 1990 Bills

      • D. 1994 49ers

    • 18. What Super Bowl champion scored the fewest points per game during the postseason?

      • A. 1968 Jets

      • B. 1969 Chiefs

      • C. 1970 Colts

      • D. 1990 Giants

    • 19. Which of these occurrences has never happened in a Super Bowl?

      • A. Overtime

      • B. A shutout

      • C. A punt-return touchdown

      • D. All of the above

    • 20. What Super Bowl team allowed the fewest points per game during the postseason?

      • A. 1971 Cowboys

      • B. 1975 Steelers

      • C. 1985 Bears

      • D. 2000 Ravens

    • 21. What Super Bowl champion allowed the most points per game during the postseason?

      • A. 2008 Steelers

      • B. 1981 49ers

      • C. 1994 49ers

      • D. 1999 Rams

    • 22. What stadium has hosted the Super Bowl the most times?

      • A. Sun Life Stadium

      • B. Orange Bowl

      • C. Superdome

      • D. Rose Bowl

    • 23. In how many Super Bowls has the team leading after three quarters lost the game?

      • A. 3

      • B. 7

      • C. 8

      • D. 9

    • 24. How many times has a team been a double-digit favorite at the Super Bowl?

      • A. 7

      • B. 10

      • C. 14

      • D. 20

    • 25. How many times has such a favorite lost the game?

      • A. 0

      • B. 1

      • C. 3

      • D. 5

    • 26. All seven of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl appearances have come since the Miami Dolphins made their fifth and most recent appearance.

      • A. True

      • B. False

    • 27. What is the highest point total by a losing team in the Super Bowl?

      • A. 33

      • B. 31

      • C. 29

      • D. 27

    • 28. What is the lowest point total by the winning team in a Super Bowl?

      • A. 10

      • B. 13

      • C. 14

      • D. 16

    • 29. How many stadiums have hosted a Super Bowl and at least one World Series game?

      • A. 1

      • B. 2

      • C. 3

      • D. 4

    • 30. One stadium, in a span of less than six months hosted the World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four. Which one was it?

      • A. Metrodome (Minneapolis)

      • B. Astrodome (Houston)

      • C. Silverdome (Pontiac, Mich.)

      • D. Superdome (New Orleans)

    • 31. Who has played the most Super Bowls with the winning team?

      • A. Jerry Rice

      • B. Terry Bradshaw

      • C. Charles Haley

      • D. Adam Vinatieri

    • 32. Who has the highest career per-carry average in the Super Bowl, with a minimum of 40 carries?

      • A. Larry Csonka

      • B. John Riggins

      • C. Emmitt Smith

      • D. Terrell Davis

    • 33. Who has the most touches (rushes and receptions) in a Super Bowl?

      • A. Franco Harris

      • B. Roger Craig

      • C. Emmitt Smith

      • D. John Riggins

    • 34. What quarterback with more than one Super Bowl start has exceeded a 100.0 passer rating in each Super Bowl he has started?

      • A. Tom Brady

      • B. Terry Bradshaw

      • C. Joe Montana

      • D. B and C

    • 35. What starting quarterback had the lowest passer rating in a Super Bowl victory?

      • A. Johnny Unitas

      • B. Ben Roethlisberger

      • C. Joe Namath

      • D. Trent Dilfer

    • 36. What starting quarterback had the highest passer rating in a Super Bowl loss?

      • A. Tom Brady

      • B. Roger Staubach

      • C. Jake Delhomme

      • D. Kurt Warner

    • 37. Which quarterback has been sacked the most times in a Super Bowl?

      • A. Tom Brady

      • B. Jim Kelly

      • C. Roger Staubach

      • D. Joe Theismann

    • 38. Who is the youngest starting quarterback of a Super Bowl-winning team?

      • A. Ben Roethlisberger

      • B. Terry Bradshaw

      • C. Eli Manning

      • D. Tom Brady

    • 39. Which running back holds the record for the most carries in a quarter of the Super Bowl?

      • A. John Riggins

      • B. Terrell Davis

      • C. Emmitt Smith

      • D. Larry Csonka

    • 40. Which kicker holds the record for most missed field-goal attempts of under 40 yards?

      • A. Adam Vinatieri

      • B. Rich Karlis

      • C. Roy Gerela

      • D. Both A and C

    • 41. Four times in the first nine Super Bowls, a shutout was taken into the fourth quarter. In the 38 games since then, how many times has there been a shutout going after three quarters?

      • A. 0

      • B. 1

      • C. 3

      • D. 5

    • 42. What team has played in four Super Bowls, with all of them played in South Florida?

      • A. Bills

      • B. Vikings

      • C. Colts

      • D. Packers

    • 43. The longest span without a Super Bowl appearance for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been 16 years--from 1980 to 1996. Has any other team had such a brief 'longest drought'?

      • A. Yes

      • B. No

    • 44. What franchise has played Super Bowls in the most cities?

      • A. Cowboys

      • B. Steelers

      • C. Raiders

      • D. Packers

    • 45. In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw had a 13-yard run that stood up as the longest rushing play in the game. It stands as the shortest run to be the long run of a Super Bowl, true or false?

      • A. True

      • B. False

    • 46. How many Super Bowl champions allowed more points than they scored during the regular season?

      • A. 0

      • B. 1

      • C. 2

      • D. 3

    • 47. In the first 37 Super Bowls, the winner won by more than 14 points more than half the time (20 games). In the past 10 Super Bowls, how many games have been decided by more than 14 points?

      • A. 0

      • B. 1

      • C. 3

      • D. 5

    • 48. Has a team ever won four postseason games away from its home stadium in one season?

      • A. Yes

      • B. No

  • Manning among greatest
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"Please don't make it sound like I had any secrets," the former Dolphins linebacker said. "I didn't."

PHOTOS: 2013 SunFest Music Festival

Seattle's top-rated defense will search for some. But what they're doing for one Sunday Thomas did for 12 games over eight years against Manning. He might not have secrets. But he gained knowledge in the way the best do against the best.

There was the week of preparation ("I'd grind," Thomas says). There was the decoding of Manning's famous pre-snap routine of secret words and hand signals ("A work of art.")

Perhaps what sums up Thomas' 12 games against Manning best were the smirks. In the middle of the field. In the middle of their personal chess match. He studied Manning so much through he years, he once, "got in a groove," during a game in Indianapolis, and yelled the coming plays at the line as Peyton called them.

"He called time-out," Thomas says, "and as he walking to the sideline looks at me and we kind of traded smirks."

Another time, in a game in Miami, Thomas felt out of position all game. He was a step behind. Linemen had angles to block him. One simple football key is quarterbacks run plays away from the unblocked safety. Thomas planned for that.

"I'd always cheat away from that safety," he said. "But Peyton was running at the unblocked safety and Edgerrin [James] was having a big game. I started figuring it out.

"One play, I waited until the last second and then cheated toward the safety, because I just knew he was running that way. That play, he ran away from the safety. I was out of position again. I think it went for 20-something yards.

"I was pissed. I looked over and he looked at me and had this little smirk on his face."

Manning was the first pick overall and Thomas a fifth-round pick whose initial NFL goal was to make the team. But physical talent isn't nearly as interesting as mental talent. Both Manning and Thomas were bent that way.

Even now, five years into retirement, Thomas watches Manning whenever possible. He watched Denver's AFC Championship game against New England alone, and rewound plays repeatedly, to break down Manning.

"Most of the 'Omaha,' calls were to get the linemen ready for the [snap]," Thomas said. "I was trying to figure out the dummy audible [that changed plays], but that's hard to do if you're not there. He puts out so much smoke and mirrors when he's just trying to see what defense you're in."

Thomas says the only way to beat Manning consistently is to disrupt his receivers. He's so good at reading defense and so accurate with timing patterns, "It's hard to stop Manning, really," he said. "So get to his receivers."

Before their games, Thomas would go through the normal film study. Then he'd pull out the previous couple of years of Manning against similar defenses to the Dolphins.

"That's how I'd try to get in his head," Thomas said. "He's consistent. You can try to make that work against him."

One game in Indianapolis, Manning ran two running backs on the field. He'd never done that against the Dolphins. Thomas' mind whirled. Then he remembered a play from the video bank. Thomas yelled at the line a fullback dive was coming.

"His face, even before he snapped the ball, he was shaking his head," Thomas said. "I blitzed the A-gap."

And made the tackle.

"The things you remember about the game are big wins, maybe certain plays. But those are the best moments of my career, when you see the face of a great player like Manning after a play like that."

They're friends now. Thomas went to dinner last off-season with Manning and former Dolphins Wes Welker and Larry Izzo. This was after Welker signed with Denver. They were planning practices.

"Even then, he was asking me about things, trying to finding anything to get better," Thomas said. "That's why he's the best."

Thomas' pick today? He wonders about bad weather, which would favor Seattle. But the years have convinced him. "I can't pick against Peyton," he said.