EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On the Super Bowl's first snap, Peyton Manning approached the Denver Broncos' line of scrimmage to set blocking assignments only to watch the snapped ball unexpectedly sail past his head. It wound up in the end zone for a Seattle Seahawks safety, the quickest score in Super Bowl history.
Things only got better for Seattle and worse for Denver.
The result was a Seahawks rout, 43-8, giving the franchise its first NFL championship. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was named MVP, a testament to just how punishing a performance Seattle's defense delivered.
The scope of Seattle's dominance was overwhelming, a thorough trashing of favored Denver in every facet of the game. The Seahawks' defensive legion lowered the boom on Manning and his vaunted offense, forcing two picks and carrying a shutout into the third quarter.
Meanwhile Seattle scored in almost every imaginable way, a pick-six, a brilliant kickoff return by Percy Harvin, a Marshawn Lynch powerhouse run, a Russell Wilson-to-Jermaine Kearse catch-and-run, a couple field goals and the aforementioned safety.
To recap, those are scores via run, pass, kick return, interception, safety and field goal. There aren't many more ways to earn points.
"At the beginning of the season I told our guys, 'Hey, why not us?'" Wilson said. "We believed that we could get here."
It was 22-zip at the half, 29-0 after Harvin took the opening kick of the second half to the house and 36-0 before Denver got on the scoreboard. It was over long before then.
This was one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history (San Francisco's 55-10 defeat of Denver in Super Bowl XXIV remains the record).
Seattle managed to score 12 seconds into both halves.
The game was decided by Seattle's No. 1 rated defense, which throttled and eventually humiliated a Denver offense that entered the game as the league's top-ranked unit after scoring the most points in a regular season in NFL history.
In the run-up to the game, the Seahawks' Legion of Boom was respectful of Manning and his array of weapons, but also expressed the calm confidence that is a trademark of coach Pete Carroll. Call it laid-back if you want, but Seattle also entered the biggest stage in football without a hint of fear or doubt despite lacking Super Bowl experience.
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Seattle forced four turnovers and took Manning completely out of his game. By getting enough pressure on Manning to make him move out of the pocket – Carroll called this a critical focus in the pregame – Denver's record air attack was rendered useless.
The Broncos didn't score until the final play of the third quarter, when the game was no longer in doubt.
"I told [Manning] he had a great season, a record-breaking season and he just came up a little short tonight," Broncos coach John Fox said.
Manning threw two picks, one of which was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by Smith. Manning was also incapable of hitting receivers downfield and stuck with short, ineffective passes over the middle. Rushed and uncomfortable, he missed reads, rushed throws and saw passes sail high.
He was nothing like the player who threw for a record 55 touchdowns this season and was a near-unanimous MVP selection. Then again, Denver didn't face a top-10 defense in the league this season, let alone the top one in Seattle.
Manning finished 34 of 49 for 280 yards and a score. He is now 1-2 in Super Bowls, this one a bitter performance at age 37 after a triumphant return from a career-threatening neck injury.
Meanwhile his counterpart, Wilson, was solid enough to avoid major mistakes and move the Seahawks up and down the field for scoring drives. Wilson finished 18 of 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
Seattle plays in the Pacific Northwest, far from the nation's traditional media centers, lacks many household stars and is led by a coach in Carroll who is rarely credited for his coaching acumen.
"I can't wait for the parade," Smith said. "Twelves [12th Man] come out and make noise louder."
Whatever doubts were out there were unfounded. They didn't need stars or gaudy stats.
Seattle had a team – clearly the best team in the NFL.
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