In an NFL age defined by offenses, quarterbacks, over-sized wide receivers and ridiculously athletic tight ends, the age-old theme that defenses win championships reigned. The stage was set two weeks ago when the No. 1 ranked Seahawks defense earned a berth to Super Bowl XLVIII against the one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history.
Seattle's defense forced 20 pressures on 55 called passes with a majority coming off the quarterback's right side where Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett combined for 12 pressures. That was a huge accomplishment for Seattle -- forcing Manning to feel uncomfortable. As a result, Seattle forced four turnovers, a pick-six and two turnovers on downs. It wasn't until Knowshon Moreno's five-yard run with 10:42 remaining in the second quarter that Denver posted their first first-down of the game, at which point they were already losing 15-0.
"They have an excellent defense, they executed better than we did tonight," said Peyton Manning after Seattle's 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII win on Sunday. "They made more plays on defense than we did, they forced some turnovers, probably a credit to them for forcing them."
A botched snap (and premature as it would seem), between center Manny Ramirez and quarterback Peyton Manning on Denver's opening drive, sailed into the endzone leading to an unlikely safety that gave Seattle a 2-0 lead with only 12 seconds having expired from the clock. Deer in the headlights characterized Peyton Manning's confused look -- but in fairness, the snap was more of a goof by Denver than it was Seattle. The tone was set.
Denver's ensuing possession, now down by five points with over ten minutes remaining in the first, comprised of a series of short-yardage gains the forced a punt. An errant pass that landed in Cam Chancellor's grasp concluded a awful first quarter with the Broncos generating a pitiful 11 yards on seven plays, with a safety, interception and an early 8-0 deficit.
Denver finally put together a significant 15-play drive midway through the second quarter, but as the football gods apply Sunday's theme of futility, Manning was hit during a throw that led to a lame duck pass that Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith returned 69 yards for a touchdown and a 22-0 lead.
"He (Manning) was just kind of working the other side of the field with his eyes," said Smith. "He came back and he was checking the ball down quick. He does that. He's been doing that for years. Somebody got a hold of his arm and it (ball) came out real high and I was fortunate to pick it, man. It was just excellent teamwork and I"m just representing the team."
Percy Harvin, making a furious return to the NFL's dinner table, returned the second half opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, extending Seattle's lead 29-0. Harvin added a pair of end-around sprints for 45 yards rushing and a five-yard reception for 137 total yards.
Manning attempted 26 passes in the second half, but Seattle outscored Denver 21-8 in the second half, giving the Seahawks their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
"The Broncos beat themselves, and the Seahawks beat them too," writes Kyle Montgomery with the Mile High Report. "It was never close, it was never respectable, it was never a game at all. How this offense can get so off track after a rough start was remarkable. How the Seahawks completely out-performed the Broncos was even more impressive/disgusting."
Defense wins championships. At least it did on Sunday.