When I woke up (late) this morning, I was angry, or at least angrier than I am most mornings.
Usually the day after the Super Bowl is a hangover both literally and figuratively, with the latter a product of becoming deeply engrossed in a league and a game that’s so intense over such a short period of time. For four short months we’re gifted regular-season football, giving us the glorious routine of molding a couch groove while consuming both unhealthy foods and gridiron awesomeness for nine hours each Sunday. Then in January that intensifies with the playoffs, when ideally the higher quality of competition produces even better games each weekend, feeding our pleasure sensors.
You see where this is supposed to conclude. In theory and in hope, the Super Bowl is designed as the ultimate showcase, and that was even more true yesterday when the league’s top offense and top defense were set for a donnybrook. But no, instead the Seattle Seahawks had a 22-0 lead by halftime over the Denver Broncos, which eventually ended in a 35-point win.
The day after the Super Bowl is always hollow enough with the abrupt end of that routine and the football tunnel vision, and the knowledge that it won’t return for seven months. But it’s that much more difficult to handle today after the steaming pile of manure we were given last night.
Just how bad was it? I tossed out many a number last night/early this morning, but here’s some more numerical sadness, greatness, and weirdness, depending on your perspective (I’ll stick with sadness).
In 1990 the San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10, a mark that still stands as the widest margin of victory in Super Bowl history. But the Seahawks came close to matching it last night, finishing with the third largest margin.
However, for the gambling folks among us (which is pretty much every person who’s ever watched a football game), Seattle made history. The Seahawks entered last night as slight underdogs with Denver favored by 2.5 points, but underdogs nonetheless. As PFT observed through the Super Bowl point spread history provided by Vegas Insider, defensive dominance has now given the Seahawks the largest victory by an underdog in the league’s championship game. Previously that title was held by the Redskins with their 42-10 win in Super Bowl XXII over (wait for it) Denver.
Meaningless? Yes, but still filled with quirk
As you surely heard throughout the two-week hype bonanza, the Broncos and Seahawks met way back in the brutal August nothingness of preseason football. The majority of the starters — or at least the starters who, you know, started — remained on the field for most of the first half, which inserted some degree of interest and meaning in the game as we looked back on the matchups prior to last night. If you’d like to remain in one piece, please don’t ever tell John Elway the preseason is total devoid of any meaning whatsoever.
In that game played way back on Aug. 17, the Broncos lost 40-10. So for what it’s worth then (which is something because again, most starters played a half, but still not much of something), over their two meetings this season the Seahawks beat Denver by a combined score of 83-18. Which leads us to this odd bit of history…
Weird stat: Since 1989, teams that met in the preseason have played in the Super Bowl 9 times. Team that won in preseason is now 8-1 in SB.
— John Breech (@johnbreech) February 3, 2014
Manning struggled mightily to even get a pass off last night before he could concern himself with completing that pass. Given the pressure he faced, the fact that 69.4 percent of his passes reached their desired destination is one of the few (and maybe the only) impressive Broncos takeaway.
But he was able to maintain that high completion rate because with just a few exceptions, his attempts were of the short, easy, and high percentage variety. That’s all he was given, which ended in the Super Bowl loser averaging only 5.7 yards per attempt after a regular season when he moved along swiftly at a clip of 8.3.
There’s an even more troubling rate, though, and one which reflects how little green there was available both for Manning, and for his receivers after the catch. Even when he completed a pass there was no yardage to be found, as he averaged 8.2 yards per completion. That’s stupid low for Manning after he averaged a first down and more each time he completed a pass throughout the season, with a 12.2 pace.
But what’s even more telling is that according to ESPN Stats and Information, he was below even a league average pace using that metric. The average quarterback in 2013 gained 11.6 yards per completion.
You may not like passer rating as a statistic, and fair enough. Regardless of your stance, though, be aware that it’s designed as an all-encompassing number which attempts to take into account every aspect of quarterback play. Therefore, this is…ugh.
Peyton Manning’s 73.5 passer rating in Super Bowl XLVIII is the lowest since Rex Grossman in Super Bowl XLI (68.3).
— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) February 3, 2014
That’s going back through now eight years of Super Bowls and Super Bowl quarterbacks, a period of time that’s included upper echelon big game arms Manning stands among easily throughout the regular season like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and his brother pre-destruction.
Yet on the league’s grandest stage using a metric which aims to assess all quarterback play, Manning has been better than only Grossman, who spent this past season as a third stringer in Washington.
Let’s finish off with another slice of amazement again courtesy of the number monkeys over at ESPN stats and info:
The Broncos ran 41 offensive plays with a win probability below 5.0 percent. They ran 19 such plays the rest of the season.
Losing clearly wasn’t a thing that happened often for the Broncos this year, as they were only on the wrong side of the scoreboard three times during the regular season. But look back on those losses, and see that all three came by a touchdown or less (one by a field goal to New England in Week 12). Throughout the season their largest deficit at any point in any game was 19 points, and they scored 35 or more points 10 times. Yet now when it mattered most, 35 points was the gap between the league’s best defense and the best offense.
Scoring early and often
The Seahawks scored 12 seconds into the game, which was already a Super Bowl record. But perhaps the ultimate sign of their dominance is a second time-related record.
Seattle didn’t give up that early lead, and Denver didn’t hold the lead for even one second. So by holding the lead for 59:48 of game clock, the Seahawks set another Super Bowl record.