For two weeks, we expected a historic clash, the sort not seen since the Montagues and Capulets bloodied swords, or when we were told that this is, in fact, Sparta. For two weeks we wondered if Richard Sherman would be tested, we wondered if Marshawn Lynch could contend with a man they call Pot Roast, and we wondered how the Seahawks would possibly cover Julius Thomas.
For two weeks we marveled over our great luck at having been granted a Super Bowl between the top offense and the top defense this year, only the sixth time in the modern era such a meeting has happened. We kept wondering about everything, because that’s all we could do when assumptions seemed not just impossible, but unwise. How could we accurately predict a game that would be won by such a razor thin margin?
We couldn’t, and it wasn’t.
Prior to Super Bowl XLVIII the predictions largely fell in one of two camps. Some thought an overbearing Seahawks defense would be far too much for the Broncos and Peyton Manning, especially since 10 of Denver’s 18 games prior to Sunday this year were against secondaries ranked 25th or worse. Others thought the opposite, and that despite the supreme physicality of the Hawks defense, no defense is good enough to stay with the Broncos and their diverse offensive weapons.
But either way you thought it would be close, and if you’re like me, you thought it would be low scoring. And you were wrong.
This wasn’t a game. It was a soul-sucking destruction that started immediately, on the first play from scrimmage when an errant snap went over Peyton Manning’s head, resulting in a safety. Just 12 seconds into the game we already had a Manning derp face, one of many that would follow.
The Broncos performance thus far summed up in one photo. pic.twitter.com/prpeboeXsc
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) February 3, 2014
Remarkably, when Percy Harvin returned a kick 87 yards to open the second half, Seattle scored points 12 seconds into both halves. So much more suck and Seahawks smothering came between those two plays. And after them, and all throughout a 43-8 win, the first title in Seahawks franchise history.
Passing wasn’t happening, and neither was offense…any offense
We all knew moving the ball would not be an easy thing for Peyton’s posse against a defense that allowed just 273.6 yards per game throughout the regular season, and like most of Seattle’s defensive ratios that was far ahead of the team in second place (the Panthers at 301.2). But we’re talking about a Denver offense that set a record with 606 points, and a quarterback who established new single-season touchdown and passing yards plateaus. Surely they would still be able to do something, yes? Anything?
No, not really.
The Broncos didn’t get a first down until the 10:40 mark of the second quarter. That came after their first seven offensive plays went down like this: the safety, a Knowshon Moreno fumble that was recovered by Zane Beadles, a Manning interception to Kam Chancellor, and only 11 yards gained. Woof.
Manning didn’t have any time whatsoever to look downfield, a frantic and hurtful reality that came about because of…
Cliff Avril is a bad man
The Seahawks’ defensive dummying came from the effort of many men, and it started on Manning’s first pass attempt when Chancellor displayed the brute physicality his unit has become known for by rocking Julius Thomas. Although Malcolm Smith received the Super Bowl MVP award (becoming only the seventh defensive player to do so), this was never about one guy. But on this night and during two key plays, one guy was the anchor.
That title belongs to Cliff Avril, who applied pressure during both of Manning’s interceptions. First he forced Manning to step up into the pocket and throw before he wanted to, a rushed lob that landed in Chancellor’s hands. Then later Avril became even more hurtful, hitting Manning in the elbow right in the middle of his throwing motion and launching a wobbling ball skywards. The lazy pop fly was easily gobbled by Smith, who took it 69 yards for a touchdown.
The numbers of the Broncos’ offensive decline
Again, the Broncos struggling to move the ball wasn’t exactly shocking stuff. But we need to pause for a moment to truly absorb the swift downwards spike of this offense at the hands of a Seahawks defense that led the league in turnovers during the regular season and forced four more tonight, and 21 points were scored either as a direct result of those turnovers (Smith’s interception return touchdown) or on the following drive.
Let’s go on a little numerical journey then.
The Broncos averaged 37.9 points per game throughout the regular season. They also scored 50 points three times, and throughout their two playoff games against a higher quality of competition they outpaced the Chargers and Patriots by a combined score of 50-33. Today, they scored eight points.
Those eight points were the fourth lowest in Super Bowl history, behind only the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI with their three points, the Vikings in Super Bowl IX and their six, and then several losing teams that scored only a touchdown without the two-point conversion.
Seriously let that settle in. In the history of the Super Bowl 96 teams have now participated, and only nine have put up a single-digit offensive total. Now among them is an offense that set the single-season record for points scored.
But it gets worse…
- The Broncos averaged 4.8 yards per offensive play tonight. Throughout the regular season they averaged 6.3.
- They finished with 306 total offensive yards. Throughout the regular season they averaged 457.3 yards per game.
- They had just 27 rushing yards. Throughout the regular season they averaged 117.1 per game.
- Manning ended the night with 280 passing yards. Throughout the regular season he averaged 340.2 per game.
There was nothing anywhere in an absolutely suffocating defensive performance.
The thumping was historical
We discussed history a lot since Championship weekend, mostly the history made by the Seahawks defense and the Broncos offense. Now after one treated the other like a squeaky Puppy Bowl toy (Jake the Chug forever), we have another kind of history.
With their 35-point win, the Seahawks had the largest margin of victory since Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, which is also tied for the third-largest margin in Super Bowl history. They finished just 10 points shy of the 49ers record set in Super Bowl XXIV.
Prior tonight the Broncos’ largest deficit of the season was 19 points, a mark that was already eclipsed when the score was 22-0 at halftime.
A healthy Harvin is still a really awesome Harvin
The focus now and over the next week will be on the Seattle defense, and their utter dominance both tonight and all season. And rightfully so, because they pummeled Manning and crippled a historically great offense. But let’s not gloss over the impact of Percy Harvin.
Because he was broken so frequently and looked like a completely lost acquisition, Harvin had only 75 total yards throughout the regular season. We knew what a healthy Harvin looked like, and how he would add a different dynamic to the Seahawks offense with his ability to line up anywhere, including the backfield. We just didn’t see it until tonight.
On just the Seahawks’ second play from scrimmage Harvin took an end-around 30 yards. He later added another run for 15 yards, but the highlight came during the aforementioned 87-yard kickoff return to open the second half. In total he finished with 137 yards on just four touches, three of which went for at least 15 yards.
Oh and about that safety: someone is rich now
Since you can wager a paycheck or two on the length of the national anthem and the color of the Gatorade dumped on the winning head coach (huge degenerate controversy there), one of the most common stupid Super Bowl prop wagers that’s actually connected to football usually goes something like this: will there be a safety?
Safeties are common enough but a still reasonably rare event, especially for the Super Bowl. Throughout Super Bowl history there’s only been eight safeties, so getting one on the first play only 12 seconds into game is a special kind of ridiculous.
It can also make you filthy rich.
Wow…what a start. Odds of first score being a safety was 50-1…..we got stung hard on that!
— Sportsbook.com ® (@Sportsbook_com) February 2, 2014
Drinks on this guy…
— Ryan Greene (@ryanmgreene) February 3, 2014
Chunks upon chunks
Let’s give Russell Wilson some love too, because he’s presumably not cutting his hair ever again now. Wilson was consistently given mighty fine field position because of the defensive shutdown, and he completed 72 percent of his passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. But as was often the case throughout the season, Wilson didn’t need to do much, but he made the handful of key throws required.
Of his 18 completions, three of them went for 20 or more yards, highlighted by a 37-yard kaboom to Doug Baldwin. Including Harvin’s kickoff return, the Seahawks had five +20 yard plays.
Russell Wilson is the 5th QB ever with 200 Pass yds, 2 Pass TD & 70% Comp pct in Super Bowl win, joining Brees, Aikman, Montana & Simms.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2014
There were Broncos Super Bowl records, but they were meaningless
With his 13 catches Demaryius Thomas set a new Super Bowl record, as did Manning with his 34 completions. Those are two facts I feel the need to mention, but they’re lower than meaningless. Clearly in a game where the Broncos were down by more than three touchdowns at halftime, throwing and more throwing was going to happen.
Let’s conclude with some real talk: this game sucked. It was engaging, interesting, and downright jaw dropping to see such a juggernaut offense hacked down to its knees, and the extent of the Seahawks’ manhandling was herculean.
But as an event that was built up as a clash of titanic awesomeness and strength on strength, the disappointment now settling in while we prepare for seven months without meaningful football is heavy. More sorrow for a season gone by sets in when we look back over the past two Super Bowls, and remember that they were settled by a combined seven points. Going back further, only three games over the past decade were decided by over a touchdown.
This is what we get when a defense has the strength of nine Patrick Stewarts.
— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) February 3, 2014