Up on Mount Lombardi, the football gods are confused. It was supposedly preordained, ever since Peyton Manning shredded the Baltimore Ravens for seven touchdowns in the season opener. The Denver Broncos would march to the Super Bowl and win a second championship for their legendary quarterback.
But the Seattle Seahawks called an audible and flew in the face of “fate,” defeating the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVII.
The Seahawks didn’t just beat the Broncos; they beat them up and they beat them down, physically overpowering and psychologically demoralizing Denver. Manning’s regular season records (5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns) meant nothing to the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s dominant secondary, or the Seahawks’ under-acknowledged but overwhelming front seven.
The relevant numbers are now two interceptions and one fumble lost (Manning’s Super Bowl statistics), and the 5-time MVP’s Big Game record of 1-2. There’s plenty of time to discuss the loss’s impact on Manning’s legacy, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the Seahawks.
From the initial snap, it was all Seattle. No one would’ve predicted that the first score of the game would come from a pre-snap miscommunication between “Omaha” Manning, the king of the audible, and trusted center Manny Ramirez. But that’s what happened, with Ramirez hiking the ball over his quarterback’s head and running back Knowshon Moreno falling on it in the end zone for a safety.
After just 12 seconds, the Seahawks led 2-0, and they never looked back. Seattle scored in almost every conceivable way, becoming the first team in Super Bowl history to score via pass, rush, field goal, interception return, and kickoff return. The highlights were the 69-yard pick-six by Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith and the 87-yard kickoff runback by Percy Harvin.
On a night when Marshawn Lynch (15 carries, 39 yards) was more Lil Bub than Beast Mode and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was solid but unspectacular (18-25 passing, 206 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions), the NFL’s number one defense shut down the best offense in history.
While Manning ended up with 280 yards passing and a Super Bowl record 34 completions—wide receiver Demaryius Thomas’ 13 receptions were also the most ever—the majority of them came once the game was already out of reach. Manning passed for 10 yards in the first quarter. The Broncos didn’t get a first down until four and a half minutes into the second. They didn’t score until the waning moments of the third.
Seattle was faster, stronger, hungrier, and more prepared, and Manning seemed like a wizard with a defective wand. The game was supposed to feel like two heavyweights slugging it out, but instead it felt like a young Mike Tyson fighting a young child. The Legion of Boom delivered crushing blows to Bronco receivers all night, and the juggernaut that averaged 37.9 points per game looked as petrified as those people trying to escape Audi’s terrifying doberhuahua.
Manning did produce one sustained drive in the second quarter, right after the Seahawks had taken a 15-0 lead on a one-yard Lynch run. But just as the Broncos were heading toward the red zone, defensive end Cliff Avril hit Manning’s throwing arm and Smith came down with the lamest duck of them all. He raced the other way to make the score 22-0; the rout was on.
If there was any hope for an epic comeback, Percy Harvin quashed it by taking the second half kickoff to the house. It was 29-0, Twitter was exploding with people wondering "WHAT IS HAPPENING," and the Manning Face was in full force.
Touchdown passes from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin rounded out Seattle's scoring, and the Seahawks became the first Super Bowl team to not commit a turnover or allow a sack. The 35-point spread is tied for the third largest in the history of the Big Game.
As we debate Peyton’s legacy and Pete Carroll’s brilliance, the evaporation of Denver’s rushing attack (27 total yards) and the further elevation of Seattle’s defensive supremacy, there’s no way to argue with statistics.
The Broncos’ offense broke a bunch of records this season. Not once did they score less than 20 points. Tonight, in the Super Bowl, they scored eight.
“Defense wins championships” is one of the biggest, and most annoying, cliches in sports. Tonight, however, it couldn’t have proved more true.