After months of discussion over the NFL’s contentious decision to choose the cold-weather state of New Jersey to host Super Bowl XLVIII, the relative warmth of the 50-degree temperature at MetLife Stadium was overshadowed by the heat the Seattle Seahawks defense put on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in a blowout Seahawks victory at MetLife Stadium, 43-8.
Manning was pressured into two first-half interceptions, and the top-ranked Seattle defense shut out the top-ranked Denver offense for almost three full quarters. A kickoff return for a touchdown and a forced fumble in the third quarter helped put the game out of reach for the Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl title and the first for the city of Seattle in the four major sports since the SuperSonics won the NBA Championship in 1979.
Seattle had previously played in just one Super Bowl, when they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. The city has been without an NBA organization since 2008 when the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City, and there has never been an NHL team in Seattle.
It was a lopsided Super Bowl loss for the Broncos that might remind some of the last time Denver was trounced so emphatically in 1990 when the San Francisco 49ers cruised to a 55-10 victory. Meanwhile, Seattle’s defense neutralized the Broncos in an effort reminiscent of the 1986 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
The Broncos, who entered the game as three-point favorites, felt the pressure of Seattle’s suffocating defense for the entire game, particularly from the talented secondary, led by All-Pros Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Even with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, defensive end Chris Clemons got a piece of Manning’s throw to force a fumble.
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Malcolm Smith, who returned a second-quarter interception for a 69-yard touchdown, was named the MVP. Smith, who played for head coach Pete Carroll when the two were at USC, also had nine tackles.
The Super Bowl win helped strengthen the legacy of Carroll, who had failed to garner much success in the 1990s with the New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Carroll, who at age 62 is the second-oldest head coach in the NFL, was able to immediately have success in Seattle after returning USC to an elite power in college football in the past decade. In four years in Seattle, Carroll has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances after a two-year drought.
"This is an amazing team," said Carroll at the Lombardi Trophy presentation. "These guys would not take anything but winning this ball game."
“We take this trophy back to the '12th Man,'” added Carroll, referring to the boisterous Seattle fans.
While the Seahawks defense was exceptional, the offense was impressive, as well. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions, while completing 18-of-25 passes for 206 yards. The young and understated quarterback also had three carries for 26 yards.
“We’ve been relentless all season,” said Russell. "Having that mentality of having a championship day every day. At the end of the day, you want to play your best football and that is what we did today."
Denver got off to a very shaky start, as center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s unsuspecting head on the first play of the opening drive. Running back Knowshon Moreno recovered the ball, but was tackled in the end zone by Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril for a safety.
Kicker Steven Hauschka would convert both field-goal attempts in the first quarter, while Marshawn Lynch would rush for a one-yard touchdown and Smith added the interception return for a touchdown to put Seattle up at halftime, 22-0.
Just as the first drive of game ended in disaster for the Broncos, the second half began even worse. Percy Harvin, who barely played in the regular season, returned the kickoff for a touchdown to put the Seahawks comfortably ahead.
While everything seemed to be going right for the Seahawks, the Broncos seemed overwhelmed and out of their rhythm. The Denver defense missed many tackles, while the offense struggled with their running game and maintaining possession.
It was an uneven performance by Manning after weeks of media interest in his chase for a second championship. The 37-year-old completed 17-of-23 passes for 104 yards, but the two interceptions proved too costly to overcome. Manning would finish with 280 yards and one touchdown on 34-49 passing.
On multiple occasions, Manning appeared fortunate to avoid interceptions as he seemed to be stifled by an often impenetrable Seattle defense. He made some rather questionable passes in the second half, with Denver desperate to reverse their fortunes.
Denver began to build on some momentum in the third quarter, but it was quickly dashed when Demaryius Thomas fumbled after Manning found the receiver near the Seattle 21-yard line.
A 10-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Doug Baldwin would be the only points in an otherwise dull fourth quarter.
The game had its share of exciting plays, aside from Harvin's speedy run 87-yard touchdown run. Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse made one of the best highlights of the game, embarrassing the Broncos defense by spinning twice around would-be tacklers to score with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But the star of the show was Seattle's defense. The unit had received praise for much of the season, and they appeared to play above their heads against one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.
“I give credit to the Seahawks defense,” said Broncos head coach John Fox. In the postgame press conference, Fox added that the Seahawks beat the Broncos in "all three phases."
"I hope we etched out names in the history books," Sherman said.
"It's all about making history," Earl Thomas said. "This was a dominant performance from top to bottom."