Seahawks embarrass Broncos in Super Bowl rout
By Alan Robinson
Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 10:12 p.m.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One of the NFL's all-time greats put on a memorable performance from the first snap, one that likely will be remembered for as long as Super Bowls are played.
Only it wasn't Peyton Manning. The Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom quickly and decisively lowered the boom on a perplexed and slowed-down Manning and the Denver Broncos to align itself with some of the great defenses of the past, including the Steel Curtain, the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens.
Manning, who threw a record 55 touchdown passes in the first 600-point offense in NFL history, was supposed to be the John Elway-like quarterback who made the difference for the Broncos and delivered a championship. Instead, in what for much of the game was an embarrassingly bad performance that might affect how Manning is perceived by history, he took them back to the days of multiple Super Bowl blowout losses.
It was Seahawks 43, Broncos 8, and it wasn't nearly that close Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, not after Seattle blew out to leads of 8-0, 15-0, 22-0 and, finally, 36-0. Long after Bruno Mars' unremarkable halftime performance and Joe Namath's goofy coat and coin flip, the Broncos were left with a record fifth Super Bowl loss — every one by at least 17 points.
“We knew they hadn't seen a defense like ours,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “They haven't played a defense that flies around and hits like we do, and we do it every single play. ... We thought we could hold them to zero points. We were fast and hitting.”
Think the Seahawks left their Boeing jet engine-loud 12th Man at home? Then explain how they scored 12 seconds into the first half and 12 seconds into the second half on what truly was Groundhog Day for the Broncos because Seattle kept scoring and scoring and scoring.
This matchup of the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense didn't last even a New York minute.
For the fifth time in six such matchups in Super Bowl history, the No. 1 defense came out on top. All season long, the Broncos had a zero-to-60 offense, scoring like no team in NFL history. This one nearly ended with a zero.
“This was a dominant performance from top to bottom,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.
The long-anticipated cold, snow and awful weather didn't show up on a near-balmy 49 degree night — who thought New York/New Jersey might produce a near warm-weather Super Bowl? — and neither did the Broncos, who couldn't match the Seahawks' speed, physicality, defensive intensity or overwhelming momentum.
Manning was intercepted twice in a four-turnover offense and looked slow and off his game until the second half against a defense that was fast, well-prepared and just as good as Richard Sherman advertised, even though the self-described best cornerback in the game had little to do with this one.
As it turned out, the NFL championship game was played two weeks ago in Seattle, when the Seahawks held off the 49ers in the closing seconds on a tipped-pass interception by linebacker Malcolm Smith.
Smith had his palm prints all over this one, too, with a 69-yard interception return touchdown in the second quarter that put the game into rout mode at 22-0 and earned him the game MVP award. But this was one of those rare Super Bowls in which the tone was irrevocably set with the first play from scrimmage.
Manning, lined up in the shotgun, watched Manny Ramirez's snap sail over his head and into the end zone for a safety 12 seconds into the game, the fastest score to start a Super Bowl.
“We never heard the snap count,” Ramirez said.
That was an unforced error, but the rest of the Broncos' multiple misplays were Seattle-generated. It wasn't just running back Marshawn Lynch who was in Beast Mode — he had a 1-yard run for the Seahawks' first touchdown following a Kam Chancellor interception — but all 22 men on both sides of the ball.
Or was it 24?
“This is just the way we play,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who now has won a BCS national title at Southern Cal and a Super Bowl. “We didn't change anything for this game. We didn't put anything in for this game. This is how we play.”
Chancellor's pick came on a badly thrown ball by Manning — just the kind of “duck” Sherman said he was prone to throw.
“I hope we etched our names into the history books,” Sherman said. “This is the No. 1 offense in the history of the NFL, and we were able to play a good game against them.”
Wide receiver Percy Harvin's 30-yard run led to the first of Steven Hauschka's two field goals in the first quarter. The second followed Doug Baldwin's 37-yard catch on a perfectly floated pass by Russell Wilson with 15-year veteran cornerback Champ Bailey in coverage. Bailey waited an entire career to play in a Super Bowl only to look a couple of steps behind all night, much like Manning did despite an Super Bowl-record 34 completions.
“We worked hard to get to this point, overcame a lot of obstacles, and to finish this way is very disappointing,” said Manning, who is 1-2 in Super Bowls and 11-12 in playoff games. “It's not an easy pill to swallow, but eventually we have to.”
Broncos coach John Fox, losing out on a $1 million contract bonus for winning a Super Bowl, said the early momentum was a big factor because the Broncos never generated any of their own.
“It was a combination of coverage and pressure, as it always is in pass defense,” Fox said. “There is a reason why they were the No. 1 team in defense.”
Harvin, limited to 32 plays all season by a hip injury and a concussion, was fast and electric with two runs for 45 yards, a 5-yard catch and, most importantly, an 87-yard kickoff return to start the second half, making it even worse at 29-0.
“It was a special kind of return we hadn't put on film all year, and those guys told me I was going to score,” Harvin said. “It wasn't just saying it to say it. Those guys believed I was going to get in the end zone.”
Wilson, becoming the fourth second-year quarterback to win a Super Bowl, added touchdown passes of 23 yards to Jermaine Kearse and 10 yards to Baldwin.
“The defense was relentless, and we were clicking,” said Wilson, who became a more-refined quarterback while playing a post-graduate season at Wisconsin with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, now the Pitt coach.
Wilson is only 5-foot-11, and there were questions whether he could succeed in the NFL, but he said words of advice from his late father always motivated him.
“My dad always used to kind of tap me and say, ‘Hey, why not you? Why can't you be a world champion or whatever you want to be?' ” Wilson said. “So I told the guys, ‘Why not us?' ”
The Broncos avoided the first shutout loss in Super Bowl history and the first in an NFL title game since Jim Brown's Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, in 1964, when Manning tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas after Seattle had gone up 36-0 on Kearse's touchdown.
“I don't want to used word embarrassed, but look what happens when you don't protect the ball,” Denver tight end Julius Thomas said.
The Broncos have been involved in three of the worst Super Bowl losses — 42-10 to the Washington Redskins in the 1989 season, 55-10 to the 49ers in the 1989 season and this one.
It was Seattle's first Super Bowl win, and it proved redeeming for Carroll, who was fired previously by the New England Patriots and New York Jets. He planned to celebrate, too, saying his team didn't plan to sleep all night until the plane ride home Monday.
Sleepless in Seattle? For sure. But as well as the Seahawks defense played, maybe the city ought to be renamed “Deattle” for a day.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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