It was to be a coronation, a celebration of a great quarterback taking that last necessary step from just “one of the…” to “the undisputed…” but instead, we were treated to “the embarrassment” that was a 43-8 pasting put on the Denver Broncos by Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. Peyton Manning managed to break the record for completions in a Super Bowl (34), but barely escaped being broken himself by an unrelenting pass-rush lead by Cliff Avril, and swarming defense that made one of our generation’s greatest signal-callers look like he wanted to be anywhere but under center.
It wouldn’t be crazy to think the knockout-blow came when Percy Harvin weaved his way 87 yards through orange jerseys to open the second half with a return touchdown, putting the Seahawks up a commanding 29-0. Many will say things already looked out-of-hand at 8-0, when Manning floated a duck, intended for Julius Thomas, which landed in the hands of hard-hitting safety, Kam Chancellor. Weather was supposed to be an obstacle, but unexpected clear skies and mild temperatures allowed Denver zero excuses.
Some might say the Broncos looked rattled at 2-0, after Chancellor brought the BOOM on a pass across the middle; or that they looked flustered on the first offensive-series of the game, where center Manny Ramirez sent the first snap over Manning’s right shoulder as Peyton was looking left, attempting to audible. Could Denver’s nightmare in New Jersey really have started at the coin toss, as a fur-clad Joe Namath did the honors at the fifty yard line of MetLife Stadium? Seattle wins the toss and elects to defer until the second half, putting their defense on the field first against Manning and his stable of horses! Demaryius Thomas snared a Super Bowl record 13 passes from Manning (for 118 yards), but he never seemed to be further than arms-length from a would-be tackler (even on the TD catch he was hauled down immediately). On the flipside, Eric Decker had one catch for six yards after a season of 87 receptions, 1,288 yards and 11 TDs!
Denver’s defense won’t get the credit it deserves for keeping this thing a game early. Only giving up three points after that safety, then holding the Seahawks to a mere FG on their next drive, gave the offense a chance to pull itself out of the mud. Hard to unstick yourself when guys like eventual MVP Malcolm Smith (who scored on a 69-yard INT, and also recovered a fumble) are playing like they wanted it more. The aforementioned Chancellor (with his hits and that INT), turned otherwise untamed stallions into alligator-armed receivers.
Cliff Avril and his constant pressure in the face of Manning made the pocket an uncomfortable place for any QB to operate, and Knowshon Moreno provided little relief on his five rushing attempts and three catches before appearing to aggravate a pre-existing rib injury. Moreno might’ve done some damage to his ribs when he ran back and saved that wayward snap in the end zone. Starting out down 2-0 was better than starting down 7-0, and Moreno’s effort was the only thing keeping that ball from being recovered near the goalposts by the Seahawks.
Some thought the game may change in Denver’s favor when all-world CB Richard Sherman suffered a high ankle sprain (he finished the game on crutches), but players like Earl Thomas, Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond proved the Legion of Boom runs deep, only allowing a TD completion to Demaryius Thomas on Manning’s best pass of the day. We saw hard hitting from the L.O.B. all game long, with very little yellow on the field afterwards. Richard Sherman almost drew an offense pass interference flag on one play, a flag both Deion Sanders and I agree should’ve been thrown. If Byron Maxwell isn’t called for pass interference on third and nine (a drive that ends in the Thomas TD catch), we may’ve witnessed the first shutout in Super Bowl history.
Jerry Ricecake being drafted by the Houston Texans number one overall, and Tim Tebow showing contractual freedom can be very a good thing, joined Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin as highlights of a game that may’ve caused some to turn off their sets… but not this interested observer. Those who stuck around after Bruno Mars and The Red Hot Chili Peppers show were treated to a performance by Percy Harvin, who almost found himself stuck on season-ending injured reserve because of a hip he had surgically repaired over the offseason, and his slow recovery. I also enjoyed watching a defense dominate, and dictate the terms to an offense for a change. No prevent up 30 points, just hard hitting until all zeroes. A look at the final statistics may show an even game (time of possession, total yards, first downs, etc.), but anyone watching knows this was a laugher. Not funny for Minnesota Vikings fans that watched Harvin excel and backup QB Tarvaris Jackson close things out for the eventual champs.
Maybe the Seahawks were just that good… and that good all year! They navigated their way through a tough regular season schedule, littered with foes from the best division in football (NFC West-only division with three 10-game winners), and challenges by playoff teams like the Panthers (12-4), Colts (11-5) and Saints (11-5). They did it with a defense that led the league in almost every major statistical category and an offense, led by second-year QB Russell Wilson, which took advantage of opportunities and made big plays when needed. Is being a game-manager really so slanderous? I believe Russell Wilson managed his way from a failed baseball career, playing QB for two universities, being selected in the third round and looking up at a QB given a $10M guaranteed contract to play in front of him… and managed his way (and his team) to a Super Bowl championship.
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
Join the conversation on Twitter @JerseyHaas or send me an e-mail JosephHaasNFL@Gmail.com. You can also find me covering the New York Jets at HCoftheNYJ.com and Saturdays on the Green & White Show.