If there was any question as to which of the participating teams in The Big Game wanted to win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy the most, the answer was delivered in a shockingly quick fashion by the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Playing in front of 82,529 fans at MetLife Stadium amidst mild 40-degree temperatures, Seattle attacked the Denver Broncos right from the opening kickoff and they didn’t let up until they had secured a blowout to claim their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Seattle’s 43-8 thumping of the AFC Champion Denver Broncos was surprising in many ways that went beyond the final score. It all started on the Broncos first play of scrimmage, when a botched snap flew over Peyton Manning’s head and into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno pounced on it for the game’s first points on a safety that only took a record 12 seconds to accomplish.
As the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense continued to stifle Manning and his top-rated Broncos offense, Seattle’s Steven Hauschka booted a pair of short field goals from 31 and 33 yards for an 8-0 advantage.
Following a Manning interception on Denver’s ensuing possession, Seattle’s offense finally went to work. A pass interference call gave the Seahawks possession at the Broncos one before Marshawn Lynch went into his famed “Beast Mode” by scoring up the middle for a 15-0 lead.
The key play of the first half, however, came on a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown by Malcolm Smith. Smith, who made the game-sealing interception against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, picked off a deflected Manning pass and raced untouched to the end zone for a stunning 22-0 lead, which Seattle took into the locker room before pop singer Bruno Mars lit up the crowd with a rousing Halftime Show performance. It marked the first time all season that Denver had been shutout in the first half and much to the chagrin of Manning and Co., who looked extremely frustrated as his troops struggled to get any sort of rhythm going against Seattle’s stingy defense.
Any hopes of a Broncos comeback were quickly dashed on the opening kickoff of the second half. Hauling in the ball of a bounce, Seahawks’ specialist Percy Harvin juked through a few tackles before darting 87 yards for a kickoff return score. Seattle’s defense then continued its onslaught on Manning, forcing him into bad passes and stalling Denver’s running game that had been a force against the opposition all year. Jermaine Kearse had an incredible 29-yard touchdown catch in which he spun out of three Broncos defenders and waltzed his way into the end zone late in the third, making it 36-0.
Denver finally got on the board in the closing seconds of the quarter when Manning found Demariyus Thomas for a 14-yard strike and then a 2-point conversion to Wes Welker to make the score 36-8 headed into the final 15 minutes of the football season.
By that point, however, Seattle (16-3) was still cruising and another late fourth quarter score all but sealed one of the more dominating performances in the game's history.
Smith, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, said, “I always imagined myself making great plays. Never thought about being the MVP.”
The victory was especially sweet for the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman. Sherman, who was the subject of chatter for the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s game following his memorable postgame rant after the NFC Championship game, left the contest late in the final period with an ankle injury.
That didn’t stop the All-Pro cornerback from joining his teammates for the postgame celebration on crutches.
“I hope we etched our names in the history books,” Sherman said afterwards.
For Seattle coach Pete Carroll, the win also came with an ironic twist. Two decades ago, he was let go following a miserable 6-10 season with New York Jets before embarking on a successful collegiate career with Southern California. After leading the Trojans to a pair of national championships, he returned to the NFL to finish what he started and did so in the same place he was once considered the “goat” for the Jets struggles.
Now Carroll is sitting on top of the football world again – and with a title at that.
“'This is an amazing team,” said Carroll. “It took us four years to get to this point, but they never have taken a step sideways. These guys would not take anything but winning this ballgame.”
Peyton quickly found that out when the Broncos fell behind early and couldn’t recover. Manning, who was looking to punctuate a record-setting offensive season in which he took home numerous accolades for leading Denver (15-4) back to the “Big Game,” struggled mightily against a resilient Seahawks squad that beat Denver to every loose ball and made all the key plays when it mattered. Seattle forced Denver into four turnovers – including the “pick six” by Smith – yet the Seahawks didn’t cough it up all evening.
“Certainly to finish this way is very disappointing. It's not an easy pill to swallow,” said Manning, who threw for a record 55 touchdowns in 2013. “I don't know if you ever really get over it.”
Even Peyton’s little brother, Giants quarterback and two-time MVP Eli Manning was in the building to cheer on the older Manning, yet to no avail.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 18-of-26 attempts for 206 yards and two TD’s. Manning finished with 280 yards in the air on 34 attempts, but was picked off twice.
The team announced Monday that the “Emerald City” will celebrate with a victory parade through the downtown area on Wednesday. It marks the city’s first major professional sports championship since 1979, when the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) defeated the Washington Bullets in a quick five-game series.