The matchup between the league’s most prolific offense and its best defense was the one that everyone wanted to see in Super Bowl XLVIII, but it didn’t turn out to be much of a matchup at all.
The Seahawks opened up a 2-0 lead 12 seconds into the game when the Broncos botched a snap near their own end zone and things just went downhill from there as the Seattle defense lived up to advance billing. The Broncos turned the ball over four times and were shut out for the first 45 minutes of the game on the way to a 43-8 drubbing that called to mind some of the thumpings the Broncos took in their first three trips to the Super Bowl.
Picking a standout player from the Seahawks unit is difficult on a day that saw defensive end Cliff Avril, safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker Malcolm Smith all come up with big plays to tilt things in Seattle’s favor. And those big plays were accompanied by sterling play throughout the lineup in an excellent effort across the board. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn should also get plenty of credit for slowing down Peyton Manning at the end of one of the finest, if not the finest, regular seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.
Unfortunately for Manning and the Broncos, Sunday looked a lot more like the days his brother Eli had with the Giants in MetLife Stadium than it did the unstoppable attack that lifted Denver to the top seed in the AFC. Manning wound up setting a Super Bowl record with 34 completions to go with Demaryius Thomas’ record 13 receptions, but those numbers couldn’t be any emptier after Manning’s two picks and Thomas’ fumble helped the Seahawks run away with the game.
The second of Manning’s two picks was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith with 3:21 to play in the first half, but memories of last year’s 49ers comeback kept anyone from feeling things were too out of hand. That changed on the opening kickoff of the second half when Percy Harvin went 89 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead and there was no blackout to halt the momentum this time around.
It took Harvin 12 seconds to get to the end zone on that return, which made the collective 12th Man that traveled with the Seahawks to New Jersey quite a happy group. Their celebration just continued from there as Russell Wilson threw two touchdowns in the second half and the Seahawks romped right up until the point that head coach Pete Carroll was drenched with Gatorade.
It was a little bit of everything that the Seahawks did well all year with a jolt of Harvin thrown in to remind you that they were never quite at full strength despite their many exploits on the way to MetLife Stadium. They were as close as they’ve been on Sunday night and the result was an emphatic statement that the Seahawks were the best the NFL had to offer for this season.