proved worth the wait in Super Bowl XLVIII. (John W. McDonough/SI)
Despite employing something of a makeshift unit, the Broncos protected Peyton Manning better than any other O-line guarded any QB in the league. Denver allowed all of 20 sacks in 16 regular-season games, easily the lowest number in the league.
"We are confident in what we can do," Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril said on Thursday. "We feel like we can definitely rush him. Whenever we get the chance we’re going to try to make it happen."
Make it happen, they did in a 43-8 win over the Broncos.
Avril came up with one of the most important plays of all up front. The game was still somewhat in the balance at 15-0 in the second quarter when Avril pushed his way into the pocket and hit Peyton Manning's arm as he went to throw. Manning's pass attempt fluttered out of his hand and into the arms of Seattle's Malcolm Smith, who raced back 69 yards for a touchdown -- turning the game from an early mismatch into a complete laugher.
Manning took just one sack in the game overall, resulting in a fumble, with 3:50 left to play. He also had little time to set in the pocket and scan the field. That was a focus for Seattle's aggressive defensive front entering the game: moving Manning off his spots.
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From the outset, Manning struggled to find any sort of a groove, even whipping passes to no one in particular when he had time to throw. Both of his interceptions came on account of heavy pressure.
"This was an amazing team. I'm so proud to be part of them," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy. "These guys would not take anything else but a win in this ballgame."
More of the best and worst from Seattle's remarkable Super Bowl XLVIII win.
• First Down: Kam Chancellor.
The members of Seattle's defense kept telling anyone who would listen that there was far more to the group than just Richard Sherman. And in case someone missed the message, the Seahawks backed those words Sunday night.
Chancellor not only lives in Sherman's shadow most of the time, but also he's the other Seattle safety behind do-everything star Earl Thomas. All Chancellor did this year, after signing a five-year contract last April, was chalk up 99 tackles and three interceptions of his own. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 12 safety in the league, just three spots back of Thomas.
And he proved his worth again in Super Bowl XLVIII, in a performance highlighted by an interception of Manning. That pick came with Seattle up just 8-0; it was 15-0 by the time the ensuing possession was over.
• Fourth Down: John Fox's decisions to play it conservatively.
One or two coaching decisions were not going to make the difference in this blowout, but ... well, Fox certainly did not help his team out. An early blown challenge aside, the most unforgivable mistakes Fox made came at the end of the first half and early in the third quarter. On the former, Fox allowed the Seahawks to run out the second-quarter clock with a 22-0 lead, despite Denver having two timeouts in its back pocket; on the latter, the Broncos punted from the Seattle 40 while facing a 29-0 deficit (after a 3rd-and-10 draw play).
The complete domination displayed by Seattle caught pretty much everyone off-guard. Fox more or less throwing in the towel before halftime was almost as shocking a development.
• First Down: Percy Harvin.
Not a bad X-factor to be able to break out in the Super Bowl, eh? The Seahawks dealt a first-round pick for Harvin last offseason, then sat around and waited for the oft-injured receiver to make his way onto the field. Harvin finished the regular season with one game played and 75 total yards.
"It’s been weird. It’s been frustrating. It’s been all the above, man," Harvin said of his season. "I had a tough time and it wore on me a little bit. But like I told the reporters, my teammates have been A-plus-plus. This whole organization has been top of the line."
Was the wait -- and the trade -- worth it? Hard to argue otherwise after Harvin went for 137 yards and a kick-return touchdown Sunday. He averaged 22.5 yards on two carries in the first half, then put the nail in Denver's coffin on the opening kickoff of the second half.
• Fourth Down: Eric Decker.
If the Broncos really were hoping to convince free-agent-to-be Decker to stick around, Sunday's game may help. Of course, the Broncos would have preferred that Decker not completely disappear on the Super Bowl stage.
Decker saw Sherman for huge chunks of the night -- which goes some of the way to explaining Demaryius Thomas' 13-catch, 118-yard night. Manning wound up looking Decker's way just once, for a six-yard reception.
• First Down: The MetLife setting.
The game (and maybe those mass-transit issues) aside, the NFL pulled off an absolute gem of a Super Bowl, despite being outdoors in New Jersey in February. The weather was perfect, the venue rocking until Seattle pulled away, the Renee Fleming national anthem a goosebump-inspiring show and even Bruno Mars' halftime performance drew rave reviews. Maybe the NFL will balk on hosting another cold-weather Super Bowl anytime soon, but it won't be because something misfired Sunday.
• Fourth Down: The run games.
The Broncos' running backs felt they could be an X-factor in this one, as Seattle focused on shutting down Peyton Manning. Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch had been a critical cog in the Seahawks' attack all season. The result of that intriguing RB matchup: not much of note.
Lynch really had the lone highlight from that position, with a one-yard touchdown to put his team up 15-0 after Chancellor's interception. He finished with a mere 39 yards rushing, however -- six fewer than Harvin. Moreno and Ball combined for all of 18 yards on the ground, and Moreno left the contest after taking a huge hit in the third quarter.