The most highly anticipated Super Bowl in recent memory somehow also managed to be the biggest disappointment.
In a couple of ways, this was how it used to be: defence being the key while one team completely outplayed the other.
It might have been a historic victory for the Seattle Seahawks but sadly, much of the focus in the aftermath was on how a second loss on the highest stage would impact on Peyton Manning’s legacy.
The veteran quarterback had much of the pressure of this apparently evenly matched encounter placed on his shoulders, but he wilted on a relatively pleasant New Jersey evening as the Denver Broncos suffered a shockingly lopsided 43-8 defeat.
Seattle were supreme in every facet and the tone was set much too early from a neutral standpoint when the fastest score in Super Bowl history had the scoreboard ticking on the very first play, a premature snap careering over the head of the hapless Manning as he barked instructions, leading to a two-point safety for the Seahawks.
From there, Seattle harangued their opponents into four turnovers, two of them Manning interceptions, while the Broncos only managed one touchdown, a third quarter touchdown and two-point conversion received by Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker.
Needless to say, Manning bristled afterwards when asked if the defeat was embarrassing.
“It’s not embarrassing at all, I would never use that word,” Manning said. “The word ‘embarrassing’ is an insulting word, to tell you the truth.
“We played a great team. We needed to play really well in order to win, and we didn’t come anywhere close to that.
“Certainly to finish this way is very disappointing. It’s not an easy pill to swallow. I don’t know if you ever really get over it.”
His coach, John Fox, also rebuked talk of Manning being judged negatively in the long run but somehow managed to keep his response measured.
“I can’t really say it out loud, right here, because I get into trouble,” Fox said. “Ludicrous would be proper English.”
Meanwhile, Welker, who was at the end of so many touchdown passes during a historic season that ended up being for naught, also defended Manning.
“He had the best year of his whole career at 37 so I wouldn’t say he’s slowing down,” Welker said. “He’s going upward, not downward.”
And even Seahawks players dismissed criticism of their vanquished opponent, Richard Sherman taking to Twitter to ask fans of the Seahawks to ease off while his defensive teammate Michael Bennett also paid his respects.
“Peyton’s still the greatest quarterback to ever play the game,” Bennett said. “This doesn’t destroy his legacy.”
Whatever about Manning, only a defence as aggressive and relentless as Seattle’s could possibly have made Denver look as clueless as they did.
“The only way we could say we were the best defence was to take down the best offence,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said afterwards.
Adding to the theme, linebacker Malcolm Smith’s interception in the first half was a score that assured him the Most Valuable Player award while also pushing the scoreline to a daunting 22-0. When Seattle received the ball at the beginning of the second half, Percy Harvin returned it for a sensational 87 yards of running to put the result beyond doubt.
“This is an amazing team. Took us four years to get to this point, but they never have taken a step sideways,” said coach Pete Carroll. “These guys would not take anything but winning this ball game.”
Russell Wilson was his usual resourceful self at quarterback, happy to play in the shadows of his defence but also throwing two touchdown passes to Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin in the third and fourth quarters, long past the point when it would actually matter.
This was Denver’s fifth Super Bowl defeat, a cruel blow for the most entertaining team of the season but there was to be no denying that Seattle were deserving victors for the way they had swept aside the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago and now the Broncos.
But no one could have predicted that farcical start, a score which was added to through a pair of Steven Hauschka field goals as Denver somehow managed to stay in touch despite their complete inability to capitalise when in possession.
The most telling score, however, would follow when Manning was intercepted by Kam Chancellor who took the ball deep into the Denver half of the field. A subsequent penalty on a third down throw gave Seattle a fresh set of downs and a closer line of attack from which star running back Marshawn Lynch ran in a touchdown that proved to be hammer blow for the Broncos.
The Smith touchdown added insult to injury and dozens of marketing companies cursed their luck as the expensive Super Bowl ads that were due to follow lost much of their potential viewership.
In the end, it was that grandest NFL tradition of all which allowed Seattle the bragging rights and the so-called Legion of Boom was not shy about pointing the fact out.
“Our defence wanted to etch ourselves in history and I think we did that today,” Sherman said. “We’re in there somewhere. As long as we’re in that mix, we’re all right. It doesn’t matter what order you put us in, just put us in the conversation.
“We are the best defence ever,” added the aforementioned Bennett. “We could have played anybody today and have done the same thing.”
It was hard to disagree.
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