Seattle and its 'legion of boom' defense dominate
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Feb 03, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. » There was pressure, so much pressure at MetLife Stadium. The Seattle Seahawks embraced it, inflicted it, reveled in it. They spoke all week of their respect for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' record-setting offense, but wait until Sunday, they said, just wait.
To the Seahawks, Manning was just another quarterback to smother and suffocate, to force into bad decisions and worse throws and turnovers that would tilt the game in their favor. This was how the Seahawks have won all season, and this is how they won Super Bowl XLVIII. This was how they became champions.
The final score was Seahawks 43, Broncos 8, and yet somehow the margin of victory -- the largest in a Super Bowl in 21 years -- did not reflect the scope of Seattle's domination. It was as if the Seahawks chose to unleash 38 years of frustration in 60 hellacious minutes, winning the first championship in franchise history.
In the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl, the demolition began in 49-degree temperatures, on a night devoid of snow and chill, conditions ideal for a coronation. It began with a safety on the Broncos' first offensive play, which, as omens go, was akin to a black cat opening an umbrella beneath a ladder in Denver's locker room.
Seattle led by 8 points after the first quarter, 22 at halftime and 28 after three quarters -- and only 28 because, on the final play of the period, Denver scored its first points. Yes, it took the Broncos, the highest-scoring team in NFL history, 45 minutes to breach the end zone.
"We loved hearing about the Broncos' offense because we felt that, after the game, you'd be hearing a lot about the Seahawks' defense," linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Every turnover forced (four), every touchdown scored (four), sent ripples of delirium across the Seahawks' sideline, which started sensing victory as early as the opening kickoff but did not act upon its impulses until less than two minutes remained. That was when Zach Miller dumped Gatorade on his coach, Pete Carroll, and the owner, Paul Allen, started cradling the Vince Lombardi Trophy by the 25-yard line.
Many among the announced crowd of 82,529 - those clad in orange, at least - had departed by then, having apparently decided it would be more enjoyable to stew in traffic, or in train-related congestion, than to watch the rest of what was either the most dominant game by a team in recent Super Bowl history or the most disappointing.
The carnage was disorienting and familiar all at once. These were the Broncos, after all. There were also the Seahawks, who feature perhaps the nastiest defense since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who pursued the football as if it were a treasure.
Manning had yet to encounter a team as fast and physical and vicious as Seattle, and both of his interceptions led to touchdowns. One, a 69-yard return by Malcolm Smith, who was selected as the game's most valuable player, was one of the longest in Super Bowl history, along with the 74-yarder by Tracy Porter of New Orleans four years ago. That also came against Manning, whose place in football history - mere greatness, or the greatest? - emerged as a flash point in the two weeks leading to Sunday.
Each touchdown pass he threw in his record-setting season nudged him closer to immortality, to a realm where his legacy would be defined, if not determined, by his performance Sunday, when he vied to become the first quarterback to lead different teams to a championship. Playing on his brother Eli's home field, Manning completed 34 of 49 passes for 280 yards but, like so many quarterbacks before him, lost his sheen against Seattle.
"To finish this way is very disappointing," Manning said.
It was the Seahawks who last week deflected questions about Manning's legacy into discussing their own, how they wanted to be known as one of the best defenses of the era, if not ever. No team allowed fewer points, or fewer yards, or was stingier in the red zone than the Seahawks, who held Denver to nearly 30 points below its average.
"We ran into a buzz saw," Denver coach John Fox said.
The Seahawks thrived despite 39 rushing yards from Marshawn Lynch, their bruising running back. But really, they did not need him. Not with the versatile Percy Harvin, who had played in two of the Seahawks' previous 18 games and was held out of the NFC championship game with a concussion, carving up the Broncos' defense with jet sweeps and an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. Or with Russell Wilson, joining the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady to win Super Bowls in their second season, firing two second-half touchdown passes to receivers who went undrafted - to Jermaine Kearse, who spun away from two tacklers and bounced off two more, and to Doug Baldwin.
This is a new age of Seahawks football, one that is poised to continue for years to come. With a dynamic quarterback, a diversified offense and a defense that reduced one of the best ever to mediocrity, the Seahawks are positioned for sustained success - eventually. But first, they will enjoy this, the championship, their dominance, and wait, just wait, they said, until the parade on Wednesday.
Ben Shipgel, New York Times