Hub Arkush: Seahawks' defense owns the night
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A funny thing happened Sunday at Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium.
82,529 fans showed up expecting one of the classic matchups of all time, and the Seattle Seahawks arrived ready to play the game of their lives, but the Denver Broncos showed up for a pillow fight.
To say the 43-8 final score was an afterthought is an understatement. It’s beyond unfortunate when the highlights of the Super Bowl are the Budweiser “Best Buds” commercial and the halftime show.
Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers showed more aggression than the Broncos did at any point in the game.
Basically, the Seahawks won the coin toss, with Broadway Joe Namath and Phil Simms doing the honors, and the game was over.
On the first play from scrimmage, Denver center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety, and Seattle was up, 2-0, and never looked back.
Ramirez took the blame.
“We were all listening for the snap call, and I thought I heard it," he said. "I didn’t know ‘til I got to the sideline Peyton was actually walking towards me when I snapped it.”
After the ensuing free kick, the Seahawks drove 51 yards on nine plays before settling for a 31-yard field goal, forced the Broncos to punt on a three-and-out, and then drove 58 yards in 13 plays for a 33-yard field goal.
With 2:16 remaining in the first quarter Denver trailed, 8-0, had held the ball exactly 1:36 and been outgained 109-8 yards.
It got worse. Three plays later, Manning threw a wounded duck directly to Seahawks safety, Kam Chancellor, and Seattle was in business again at Denver’s 37. Six plays after that, Marshawn Lynch went in from a yard out for a 15-0 lead.
Still down just two scores, Denver appeared to be waking up, driving 49 yards on 14 plays to Seattle’s 35. But on third-and-13, Manning’s attempt to hit Moreno was tipped by Cliff Avril, intercepted by Malcolm Smith, and returned 69 yards for a touchdown to make it a 22-0 score.
After also recovering a fumble in the third quarter, Smith was voted the Super Bowl MVP, and he insisted he expected the game to go just as it did.
“We feel like we play with a level of intensity other teams have to match," Smith said. "We liked this matchup, we felt good coming into this game and that they were going to have to deal with us.”
If there was any doubt the game was over, Percy Harvin delivered the dagger, taking the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards to the house to make it 29-0.
“We had a bounce – right, counter – right return we were calling for all week," Harvin said. "We knew we had a good chance ‘cause we hadn’t put it on film all year. As soon as I caught the ball, it was open field.”
As poorly as the Broncos played – and they were awful – it is an injustice to the Seattle defense that was clearly the best in the NFL all year long to dwell on the Broncos' failures.
Cliff Avril and Chris Clemmons dominated the Denver tackles all night and consistently moved Manning off his spots, and the Seahawks' defense limited the Broncos to 27 yards rushing on 14 attempts.
Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn described his unit after the game.
“We’re fast, we’re physical and we played this game on our terms," he said. "It’s what we went into the game saying, and to have it come true that way was awesome.”
There was a great deal of conversation about the legacy of Peyton Manning going into this Super Bowl, but we have to leave it wondering just where this Seahawks defense fits among some of the best of all time.
• Hub Arkush covers the NFL for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.