So much was centered around Peyton Manning during Super Bowl week in New York/New Jersey. Rightfully so, given his accolades and achievements not only during this record-breaking season but throughout his long career in the NFL. The media used Super Bowl XLVIII to assess Peyton’s legacy in light of a matchup against a Seattle football team, that wasn’t the usual opponent. Sure, Russell Wilson is one of the brightest young stars at his position, yet he lacked the charisma and experience of a Manning, who used to compete against Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, quarterbacks that made these match-ups so iconic.
The buzz saw that Manning and his Denver Broncos ran into last night however were a different foe than the usual quarterback battle. After we all predicted an evenly matched Super Bowl XLVIII that could be decided by one single play, the Seattle Seahawks showcased the strongest defensive performance in Super Bowl history by being a team of unlikely heroes, that only a few saw coming. This team came in and played like a unit possessed, beginning with the safety on the first drive of the game. From then on, every Seahawk contributed to this victory, which made it so unusual for modern American Football.
Bad Karma and Good Karma
Everything went wrong for the Broncos last night. And if it would be necessary to illustrate the course of the game with one single scene, Denver’s first possession does the job. Even the weather circumstances and the loud audience in MetLife stadium resembled Seattle’s home turf. Every punch that the Seahawks landed both on the defense and the offense, took away what the Broncos did so well this season. After their defense forced the safety on the first drive, the offense scored on a field goal. Seattle then forced Denver to punt, resulting in another field goal. Little by little, the underdog put its teeth into Denver’s spectacular offense, forcing an interception on the next drive and converting it into a touchdown before the end of the first half. Every possession went down so quickly, but looking at the play-by-play, it is impossible to ignore, that the entire Seahawks team was responsible for this utterly dominant performance.
Taking a page out of the opponent’s book
Last week, analysts saw this aspect as a pivotal component to winning the Super Bowl. Which team is able to mimic its opponent’s strength the best way? While Denver’s defense was never able to stop the Seahawks offense, Russell Wilson was able to overcome his early game jitters behind a great offensive line that never allowed their quarterback to be in danger. When it mattered, Wilson completed important 3rd down plays throughout the course of the game which forced Manning into a spectator-role. The 25-year old posted a 88.1 Total QBR, the 2nd-highest in the Super Bowl since 2006 (Joe Flacco, 93.4). Seattle scored in so many different ways that every assessment regarding their “flawed” offense seems comical today. Two field goals by Steven Hauschka to get the offense started, Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown in the second quarter, the wide receiver core of Percy Harvin (who couldn’t stay healthy during the course of the season, but was a monster last night), the rarely mentioned Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. Harvin, above everyone else deserves to be named. Constant migraine attacks and a recent concussion limited the wide receiver to just one regular season game. He was labeled a bust. On the biggest stage, Harvin performed last night with an 87-yard kickoff return to open the second half, a blow to the Broncos’ game plan to cut into the deficit.
The Legion of Boom
The biggest exclamation point however was the play of linebacker Malcolm Smith, who recorded ten tackles and a deciding interception that he returned for a pick-6 touchdown. Honoring Malcolm Smith as the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl XLVIII merits the entire Seahawks defense. A team of seldom used free agents, with Smith being the poster child. A seventh round pick with a yearly salary of $555k that only few people knew before. Presenting no clear-cut MVP last night makes Pete Carroll’s team, just 26 years of age on average, so special. None of the Seahawks played in the Super Bowl before (the first team since 1990 to do so). And the fact that this unit dominated the opponent in so many aspects of the game makes the 2013-2014 Super Bowl MVP award a team accolade. Even Richard Sherman, who became a media star after his post-game interview two weeks ago didn’t even try to stand out. Sherman played as solid as every other Seahawk last night.
It wasn’t Denver’s weakness but Seattle’s strength
!In light of this lopsided victory, it would be a mistake to relativize Seattle’s performance by contemplating that Denver choked. Neither was it a failure of Peyton Manning alone, nor was it a lack of preparation by the coaching staff. The Seattle Seahawks deserve the victory and praise because they showed their desire right from the beginning and dominated the Broncos on both sides of the ball. Pointing the finger at Manning and trying to diminish his spot amongst the best quarterbacks in the history of the game is wrong. Manning never stood a chance against a defense, that made him uncomfortable and never allowed any rhythm between him and his wide receivers. Seattle got awarded for their hard work throughout the last two years. The organisation built a young core that is very well able to compete for the next several seasons. Albeit losing again in a Super Bowl, against an underdog, Peyton Manning’s season was one for the ages. He will come back next year, trying to be better, competing once again and wanting to erase the events of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Written by Robert Jerzy