In Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seattle Seahawks would have to take down one of the most prolific offenses ever to win. The question all week was this: could the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense contain Peyton Manning and his arsenal of receivers?
Yep. Quite easily, as it happens.
Seattle’s defense forced four turnovers en route to a 43-8 thrashing of Denver, bringing the Lombardi Trophy home to Seattle for the first time in franchise history.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who earned the MVP, was a part of two of those turnovers, recovering a Demaryius Thomas fumble and returning an interception 69 yards for a touchdown.
Frankly, the entire defense deserved the MVP award, because everyone brought their A game. Kam Chancellor grabbed a pick himself and was all over the place delivering exciting, huge hits. Richard Sherman shut down Eric Decker. Earl Thomas and Byron Maxwell were solid in coverage, making it tough for Denver to get open. Smith and the linebackers held their zones beautifully and closed on flat routes with incredible speed, eliminating any possibility for guys like Montee Ball to grab any yards after the catch. The defensive line managed to do what no other defenses have done all year to Denver- get to Peyton Manning. They hurried him all night long, batted down throws at the line, and even disrupted his throwing motion on the Malcolm Smith interception and a key fourth down play at the end of the first half. Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons were the guys who got to him on the interception and conversion attempt, respectively. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that was the best defensive performance all year for Seattle. And what a night to have such a performance.
It wasn’t just Seattle’s defense that dominated this game. Oh no. Special teams and the offense got to have their say in the outcome as well.
The kickoff team made sure speedster Trindon Holliday got nowhere on returns, and Percy Harvin took the opening kick of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown. I’m grinning just recalling the play. Denver even tried to float the kick enough so Harvin wouldn’t be able to return it. But Harvin wasn’t having any of that, not on his first full game of the season. Harvin shed sloppy tackles and torched the Broncos to keep the first half momentum going into the second. I don’t know about the rest of the 12th man, but I sure was jumping up and down after that one.
The offense, led by Russell Wilson, played superbly. They protected the ball, never turning it over, and capitalized in the red zone with actual touchdowns, not just field goals. Granted, their first two drives ended with three points, and I’ll admit I was worried then, but after that, Wilson and his guys managed to find the end zone every time after that. Wilson had a heck of a game. After his first pass that sailed over a wide open Zach Miller, he settled down and played like it was his sixth Super Bowl, not his first. He finished 18 of 25 (72% completion percentage) for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He was not sacked once, and he converted numerous third downs through the air, a point I predicted would be crucial for a win. Indeed, Seattle had to overcome many third downs to sustain their drives, as Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch wasn’t getting many yards on the ground. Lynch finished with 39 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
I have to give some love to the Seattle receivers. These are guys who analysts have not been impressed with for largely the entire season, but they stepped up in the biggest game on the biggest stage. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse were astounding, hauling in Wilson’s accurate lasers and shedding tackles all night long. When Seattle needed a conversion through the air, these guys found ways to get open. And Wilson found them all: Baldwin, Kearse, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Ricardo Lockette. Each and every one made sure people won’t be overlooking them in the future.
I can’t even begin to describe how elated I am with the performance I saw last night. I honestly have never had more fun watching football. I was grinning ear to ear after the safety twelve seconds in, and it felt like it never faded away. There was so much to be impressed by in all facets of Seattle’s game. Now the best fans in the world, the 12th man, get to celebrate with their Seahawks an absolutely spectacular win and phenomenal season.
I just wish the season didn’t have to end.