EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Peyton Manning's Super Bowl started with a nightmarish moment, and somehow his first half only spiraled downward from there.
The Broncos' quarterback appeared to be making one of his patented adjustments at the line of scrimmage when center Manny Ramirez fired the game's first snap past him and into the end zone for a safety. Seattle's resulting two points were the fastest ever scored in Super Bowl history, requiring a mere 12 seconds.
Two interceptions -- including a Malcolm Smith pick-six later -- Manning found himself staring at a 22-0 halftime deficit.
Denver looked totally overwhelmed by Seattle's team speed in all aspects of the game, and Manning, one of the greatest QBs to ever play the game, was not immune. His first INT came on a 3rd-and-7 pass attempt to a very covered Julius Thomas. Manning's pass may have been tipped at the line by Bobby Wagner, but whatever the cause, it wobbled right into the arms of Seattle safety Kam Chancellor.
Manning's second costly miscue came courtesy of a bull rush off the edge by Seattle DE Cliff Avril, who drove OT Orlando Franklin back into Manning. Avril then hit Manning's arm as he tried to fire downfield, thus causing the pass to flutter into the arms of Smith, who raced back 69 yards for a touchdown. That was the longest INT return in Super Bowl history since Tracy Porter's 74-yard pick-six against Manning, then a Colt, in Super Bowl XLIV.
"They are a smart defense," said Manning of Seattle this week. "They communicate well. They do a good job pre-snap and post-snap. It’s hard to make comparisons to other teams. ... You are playing against a smart, athletic defense."
The first half actually brought back memories of the preseason game between these two teams way back in August. Seattle won that game 40-10 -- a result that led to John Elway laying into the Broncos.
"It was a butt-kicking, whether it was preseason or regular season," Manning said this week, echoing the thoughts expressed by many of his teammates. "[Elway] was just sharing his thoughts that that won't be accepted under his reign as leader of this organization, along with Pat Bowlen. I was taking notes; a lot of players were taking notes." Manning nearly found a groove late in the first half on a drive that took Denver deep into Seattle territory. But on a 4th-and-2 from the Seattle 19, the Broncos passed on a field-goal attempt for a shot at the TD. Instead, Manning's arm was again hit -- this time by Chris Clemons, who also planted Manning on an earlier completion -- and the ball fluttered to the turf, just in front of sprawling Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond.