Throttled, bottled, but not “embarrassed,” – as the one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history put it – the Seahawks won America’s biggest sports event by never giving the Broncos a chance.
Not a sniff. Not a drive that brought fear or a presentation of challenge from the Denver Broncos. Seattle’s brash top-ranked defense showed a superiority even they wouldn't have predicted.
Simple, efficient and fierce the Seahawks tore up a Denver offense that scored the most points in league history. At the end, blue and green confetti shot in the air. Pete Carroll was drenched with Gatorade. A season-long journey while under scrutiny to be the best ended with the Seahawks as just that.
Seahawks 43, Broncos 8. The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl XLVIII champions, delivering the downtrodden sports region its first title in 35 years and the organization its first since its inception in 1976 in its second Super Bowl appearance.
“It’s been a long year,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “But the team was really dedicated to getting this done and now we can say we’re World Champions.”
Icon Peyton Manning finished with a misleading Super Bowl record 34 completions. He joked earlier in the week he had not asked brother Eli – who threw five interceptions in the same stadium against the Seahawks in mid-December – for advice about the Seahawks. Eli won’t be asking him now, the Seahawks a taboo subject in that household. A befuddled Manning finished with two interceptions and a fumble.
Seattle was able to pressure Manning with just four rushers. Menacing strong safety Kam Chancellor walloped Demaryius Thomas early and had an interception. Cliff Avril, a master of the strip-sack, clipped a piece of Manning’s arm when he was throwing. Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith intercepted the resulting duck throw, and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.
Denver wasn’t permitted any easy inch while the game was still competitive, which it wasn’t for long. The Seahawks scored 12 seconds into each half. They picked up a safety on the first play from scrimmage when Manning’s famous audibling backfired. When he stepped to the line to make an adjustment, the ball was snapped. It flew into the end zone. He said it was a cadence issue.
In hindsight, the Seahawks' 2-0 lead appears it would have been sufficient. That’s how smothering the defense was.
The discussion is open now. Seattle’s season-long assault of offenses was finished off by forcing the Broncos to succumb. The 2013-14 Seahawks have elbowed their way into conversations which will include the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 1985 Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s, or any other defensive juggernaut professed to be the best.
“I told the you we’re the best defense ever,” Michael Bennett said. “We could have played anyone today and did the same thing.”
Led by a top-down approach with the league’s best secondary, the Seahawks allowed teams to throw shallow. That was Denver’s approach all season. It’s an ill-advised style against the fast-closing, hard-hitting Seahawks defense.
Denver stuck with it regardless. After Chancellor delivered his shot, the tone was set.
“They started dropping like flies,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
At Media Day earlier in the week, the NFL set up five high-profile positions. The head coach and quarterback were naturals for two. The other three spots were occupied by members of the Seahawks’ vaunted secondary: Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman; a rarity to have such fame in the secondary.
Blessed with salary cap flexibility by the emergence of stars like Russell Wilson and Sherman still on rookie contracts, the Seahawks were able to bolster the defensive line in the offseason.
In came Bennett and Avril from free agency. They boosted a stifling and rotating defensive line. Pushing into Manning’s space all evening during an unseasonably warm February day in the Northeast, the Seahawks’ defense made Manning leave no doubt if the cliche “defense wins championships” was still viable.
The Seahawks 36 consecutive points to start the game were a Super Bowl record. It was the first time Peyton Manning had trailed in a game by 29-plus points since 2002. It was the first game Manning’s club was held to less than 17 points since he joined Denver in 2012.
The blue-and-green celebratory confetti was being blown off the field within a couple hours of the game’s conclusion. That was a fleeting celebration.
Not the title. For the rest of their life, each Seahawk will have a hand-worn gleaming reminder of Super Bowl XLVIII. When they look at it, one of the best defenses in NFL history will be thought of.
That can be a debate. What’s unequivocal is the Seahawks are World Champions.