EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Seahawks saw this coming. The sign, literally, was on the wall.
They hung it in the locker room back in the spring, and the message was simple: Leave No Doubt.
It wasn’t one of Pete Carroll’s many coaching catch phrases that seem like clichés until they all come true and plot the path to a large platinum trophy.
It actually was a motto the players devised because they knew what they had, they knew they could accomplish something special if they stayed on-task, focused on improving in weekly increments, and didn’t do anything stupid off the field that would distract from the goals they shared.
They very emphatically left no doubt on Sunday, claiming the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, humbling the Denver Broncos 43-8.
Denver had the best statistical offense in the history of the National Football League, yet the Seahawks won by their largest margin in any game this season.
With defenders coursing after the ball like a pack of starving wolves, they forced four turnovers and made the AFC’s top seed look like Jacksonville or Houston.
All week, when repeatedly asked to assess the talents of the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning, the Seahawks mostly said the right things, and gave the Broncos the respect they were due.
But you could almost detect the subtle roll of the eyes or the confident smirk. And certainly some impatience. They’d studied the films. They saw the ways they could handle this team.
“We’ve been telling you all week,” safety Earl Thomas said.
Receiver Golden Tate was flat out asked if they were hiding their real thoughts on a potential blowout. “We definitely … we … we … yes,” he finally conceded after trying to stay gracious. “We knew we have a special group of guys. We put in the work, we have a great defense, we have a really good offense … if the opposition shows up to play it will be a good game. If not, we’ll run you out of the stadium. There’s not a better stage to do it on.”
This is not a team given to false modesty, but, after all, what’s to gain by letting on they had answers for the Broncos’ offense?
Asked if he was surprised by the degree of dominance, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn approached his answer tactfully.
“I was not surprised that we played well,” he said. “We really felt we were going to play fast and physical. You give these coaches and players two weeks to prepare, I think you’re going to like the results. We played this game on our terms.”
How well-prepared the Seahawks were for this game was best revealed by Percy Harvin, the seldom-healthy receiver-returner who broke the second-half kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
“The return was a counter-right,” Harvin said. “It hadn’t been on film all year, so we knew we’d catch them off-guard. Coach saved that return for me.”
The Seahawks were just so obviously superior in all facets, but it is the defense was ridiculously good. The debate is not whether it played up to its No. 1 rankings in so many categories, but just how close it is to the best Super Bowl defenses in history.
The 1985 Bears, ’90 Giants and ’00 Ravens were Super Bowl winners with dominating defenses. But none was playing against the best offense in the history of the league.
And the Seahawks were doing it with the second-youngest roster of any team to ever play in a Super Bowl. So get used to it. This team seems built for the long-haul.
“It says it’s a great group of guys playing or each other,” said safety Kam Chancellor, one of half a dozen Seahawks who deserved consideration for the game’s MVP honor that went to linebacker Malcolm Smith. “We always say, ‘play for your brother’.”
One of the players who seems to be the “big” brother in the locker room is fullback Mike Robinson. He was the one who came off the field after the NFC title game win over San Francisco so moved by the achievement that streams of tears flowed down his cheeks all the way into the locker room.
He was asked about the motto that had guided them for most of the past year, the one they walked past every time they went to the field to practice.
“That was a big part of it,” Robinson said of this team’s focus and determination. “It carried us all throughout the year.”
And by intercepting the game’s best quarterback twice, and by holding Denver to 31 points below its season average, and by turning the league’s biggest game into something less competitive than a typical “competition Wednesday” practice for the Seahawks … did the Seahawks finally Leave No Doubt?
“Oh, yeah, there’s no doubt now,” Robinson said. “We’re world champs.”