In arguably the most bizarre Super Bowl ever, the Seattle Seahawks stunned the high-powered Denver Broncos 43-8.
The first offensive play of the game set the tone. After winning the coin toss, Seattle elected to kick off – not a surprise, defense is their strong suit. But the sure-handed Peyton Manning, field general QB extraordinaire, who led the Broncos’ vaunted high-octane offense to the Super Bowl while winning his 5th regular season MVP after throwing an all-time record 55 touchdowns, helplessly watched the first snap sail over his head and behind him into his own endzone. Seattle scored a safety and went up 2-0, within a matter of seconds.
Just a fluke, thought millions of fans – after all, Denver was favored to win. But the Broncos, who scored an average of 37 points per game in the regular season, didn’t score their first – and, as it turned out, only – points until end of the third quarter!
The safety was hardly the game’s only strange moment. The second half began with another rarity – the usually-steady Broncos’ special teams fell asleep at the wheel as Seahawk speedster Percy Harvin returned the third quarter’s opening kickoff for a touchdown. And even more bizarre: Harvin – a wide receiver, was the game’s leading rusher with 45 yards.
Tied as the third-most one-sided Super Bowl in history, Seattle dominated the entire way. For the first time all season, Denver did not even post a threat – not even for a second. Manning did not have a statistically awful game – 1 TD, 2 interceptions, 280 years, and actually set a new Super Bowl record for completions – 34. By the look on his face, though, none of that mattered.
He is now 1-2 in Super Bowls, having disappointed in the last two, having won one less than his little brother, Eli, QB of the Giants in whose stadium the Super Bowl was played; Eli was in a luxury box watching the game.
The Broncos did get something right, though: they held Seattle’s ferocious and seemingly-invincible running back, Marshawn Lynch, to a mere 39 yards on 15 carries. Lynch did score a TD, after a pass interference call brought Seattle the ball on Denver’s one-yard line, but from that close a distance, stopping a powerhouse like Lynch is next to impossible.
The game’s “other” quarterback, Russell Wilson, only in his second year in the league and first Super Bowl appearance, was as cool as a cucumber: 18 for 25, 206 yards passing, 2TDs, 0 interceptions, and 26 yards rushing. All of the Broncos combined only rushed for 27.
Seattle’s domination in virtually every statistical category aside, Denver was just a Peyton rally or two away from potentially making a game of much of the way through. In fact, with less than four minutes remaining in the half, the Broncos trailed 15-0; most of the time, Manning can make up those points in the blink of an eye. He’s at his best when he sits comfortably in the pocket, but he was flustered by Seattle’s defense all night. Cliff Avril hit Manning’s arm as he was set to throw, and the ball floated like a hot air balloon right into the hands of Malcolm Smith, who ran it in for a quick six. The Seahawks extended their lead, 22-0. When Harvin began the third with the kickoff return TD, the score was 29-0, and entire second half a mere waste of time.
Though Manning’s heralded comeback – he had major neck surgery that almost ended his career, then made a brilliant return last year – has to wait another year (if he comes back again) for a storybook ending, it was a day of vindication for Seattle coach Pete Carroll. Fired by two pro teams, Carroll left the NFL for college football, won two national championships, and came back to the pros to coach the Seahawks. Oh – the two teams that had fired Carroll? The New England Patriots, and the New York Jets – who really play in New Jersey, in the same stadium in which Carroll’s team just played – and won – the Super Bowl.