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Fouts sees big game as big clash

(The Register-Guard) — Dan Fouts still roots for the Ducks.

But as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports, the former University of Oregon and San Diego Chargers quarterback must be objective when it comes to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII matchup between two of his former AFC West rivals -- the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Fouts isn't supposed to make a prediction for the outcome of the game, but he is able to provide a unique perspective on all things Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.

"Being a quarterback, I'm always going to look at those guys first," said Fouts, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Manning, two years removed from neck fusion surgery, threw for a record 55 touchdowns during the regular season and has more than 6,000 yards passing.

Most of the narrative coming out of the New Jersey/New York area this week as been about No. 18's legacy.

Fouts, one of the most accomplished quarterbacks to never appear in a Super Bowl, is impressed with Manning's comeback in his late 30s.

"I think it's one of the greatest (seasons) of all time," said Fouts, who amassed 43,040 passing yards during 15 seasons in the NFL when the rules weren't skewed to protect quarterbacks and wide receivers.

"He deserves a lot of credit for coming back from neck surgeries and leading a new team and helping them understand how he plays. It's just been remarkable."

Denver's high-scoring offense will have to deal with Seattle's stingy pass defense, led by former Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, who received nearly as much attention as Manning last week for his brash postgame interview after the NFC championship game.

"I think it's got the possibility of being a classic just because of the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense," Fouts said. "Denver has not seen a defense like Seattle's defense, but they haven't seen anyone like Manning and the Broncos."

Meanwhile, other than Marshawn Lynch being force-fed to a media horde starving for headlines, the Seahawks offense vs. Broncos defense angle has been overshadowed.

Wilson, the former Wisconsin quarterback who was on the wrong end of Oregon's 45-38 Rose Bowl victory to cap the 2011 season, threw for 3,357 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions during his second NFL season.

Manning's backup, former Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler, was selected by the Broncos before Wilson was picked by the Seahawks in the 2012 draft.

"I think for his first few years, he has done great," Fouts said of Wilson. "There are some holes in his game that he'll get filled in as he plays more years. He's a first-class kid and he has a lot of talent."

Fouts, who still lives in the Sisters area northwest of Bend, was not surprised Chip Kelly had a successful debut season in Philadelphia.

The former Oregon coach was named the Maxwell Club's professional coach of the year after guiding to the Eagles to an NFC East championship.

"I think the real test will be in the second year after the league gets a look at him in the offseason. That's when defenses make their biggest adjustments," Fouts said. "It was a remarkable year to make the playoffs, but it was a weak division, and we'll see just how much improvement they make next year."

Fouts will be rooting for Marcus Mariota, who passed on an opportunity to perhaps be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to return for his redshirt junior season with the Ducks.

"He's awesome," said Fouts, who played for the Ducks from 1970-72. "As a fan, I think it was awesome he decided to come back. He's a very committed young man, and it tells a lot about his character and the program at Oregon."

Follow Ryan on Twitter @rgduckfootball or on the University of Oregon football blog at registerguard.com.


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