I've heard a lot of people claim this was a boring Super Bowl and it may be the "worst Super Bowl" ever. This viewpoint makes less sense to me than Denver's adherence to running screens all game. The Denver Broncos came into this game as, arguably, the best offense to ever exist in the NFL, and the statistics back up this argument. Seattle came into the game with a target on its back because the football world doesn't like how much they talk, and the focus kept switching back to whether Russell Wilson could "hang with" Peyton Manning. The Seahawks had the best defense in the NFL, which includes four incredible defenses just in their division, and the surprising Carolina Panthers. This isn't the first time the best offense played the best defense, but it was the first time the best offense of all time was thoroughly dismantled on such a grand stage. The game was exciting because it shouldn't have happened. Neither team should have so easily run away with the victory, and the best offense in history shouldn't have scored a grand total of eight points, after a season in which they scored at least 20 points in all 18 games played and only five times they scored fewer than 30 points. The game played by Seattle's defense was absurd, and to describe the game as boring, is an insult to what they accomplished.
Seattle Seahawks 43 - Denver Broncos 8
The level of domination by Seattle's defense was unexpected, I thought they were good enough to control Denver's offense, but I didn't believe they would so thoroughly dismantle the offense. Defensive end Chris Clemons had Seattle's only sack on the day, and he didn't get to Peyton Manning until late in the fourth quarter, but the sack did turn into a fumble recovery for the Seahawks. They forced four turnovers, including a pick six for linebacker Malcolm Smith when Avril hit Manning's arm and the ball went high up, landing in Smith's hands while Knowshon Moreno watched the ball float and waited. Avril, Clemons, and Michael Bennett were in the backfield many times in the game, and Manning was under pressure often.
Kam Chancellor set a physical tone on Denver's second drive, when he nailed Demaryius Thomas immediately after he hauled in a two yard catch. Chancellor was all over the field, laying big hits on multiple receivers, and intercepting an errant pass by Manning, on the Broncos' third drive of the game. The speed of the defense seemed to be surprising for Denver, and very few of Denver's screens, of which they ran many, were successful. Byron Maxwell made a great play and a perfect form tackle against Thomas on one screen, and Moreno and Montee Ball were stopped for short, or negative, yardage more often than not. Richard Sherman has said that he was sloppy because he was fighting with an ankle injury most of the day, and he actually ended up leaving the game for a couple of plays in the fourth quarter. Sherman did play well, although the ankle clearly slowed him down. Earl Thomas didn't show up on the stat sheet as often as he normally does, but he was consistently around the plays and he was more than solid in coverage. Walter Thurmond III was the only defensive back who really didn't seem fully dialed in, he missed a tackle that could have ended a Denver drive in the second quarter, and he was mostly ineffective in coverage in the slot. Malcolm Smith also recovered a fumble in the game, when Maxwell punched the ball out of Thomas' hands. Smith ended up being the MVP of the Super Bowl, as he also recorded five tackles, even though he wasn't even on the field for most of Seattle's defensive snaps.
The offense benefited from the stellar performance of the defense, as well as miscues by the Denver offense. Russell Wilson was free to be careful with the ball because Denver wasn't likely to do anything with the ball. Wilson was not under pressure most of the game, but he did make some big plays by scrambling around and finding a receiver open. He completed an awesome 72 percent of 25 passes, for 206 yards and two touchdowns. The receivers Cris Carter dubbed "appetizers", were effective, and Wilson completed passes to eight different players. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse scored a touchdown each. Baldwin caught five passes for 66 yards, including a beautiful play on a wheel route, that saw Champ Bailey get stuck behind Baldwin and Wilson threw a great pass for a 37 yard gain. Baldwin's touchdown came late in the game, and he made five guys miss on the 10 yard reception. Kearse had 65 yards on four receptions, and he made some tough catches. He broke five tackles en route to a 23 yard touchdown catch, two of the attempted tackles coming as he made the catch, but they tried to bring him down with dives and arm tackles, and instead he took the ball into the end zone to put Seattle up 36-0.
Percy Harvin came back in a big way in the Super Bowl. He was actually the leading rusher for the Seahawks, with 45 yards on two end arounds. Harvin's largest contribution, however, was a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half. Harvin let the ball bounce in front of him, and received it on around the 13 yard line. He burst through the middle of the kick coverage, making three guys miss (so badly that Jacob Tamme ended up on the ground), before running around kicker Matt Prater and finishing off the 87 yard touchdown return. The return made Seattle the first team in history to have a safety, interception return, and kick return for a touchdown in the same game, at the Super Bowl. Marshawn Lynch only managed 39 yards on 15 carries, but he ran hard and he scored a touchdown early in the game. Seattle's offensive line didn't block very well in the run game, but they were able to protect Wilson for most of the game, and that was more than enough to keep the ball moving.
Denver played good football for most of the game, Seattle was just better. The game started horribly for the Broncos when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning's shoulder while Manning seemed to be stepping forward to call an audible. When asked the question after the game, and over the next few days, they said the stadium was very loud and Ramirez didn't hear Manning call for the snap, until it was too late. The ball sailed past Manning and into the end zone, where Moreno recovered the ball, to give the Seahawks a safety and not a touchdown. One play into the game, and Denver was not only down 2-0, they had to give Seattle the ball on what is known as a "safety punt". The Seahawks were then given the ball around the 36 yard line, despite a good punt by Britton Colquitt. Manning's day didn't get much better from there. Denver went three and out on their second drive, and had trouble moving the ball throughout the game.
The first turnover by the Broncos was an interception thrown in the middle of the field. Manning actually had Julius Thomas on what looked like a deep cross, but he threw the pass behind Thomas, and into the hands of Kam Chancellor. Manning didn't look comfortable most of the game, and the pressure by Seattle's front four, as well as the pressure on his receivers, are the most likely causes for his discomfort. Denver ran a ton of screens, which is a plan that I don't fully understand. Seattle is an aggressive, and fast defense, it seems to me that they'd have been better off trying to take advantage of that aggression by running double moves and crossing patterns, not quick screens. The Seahawks showed their ability to stop screens in both games against the New Orleans Saints, but Denver must have seen something the rest of the football world didn't see. The quick passes did help Manning set a record for most completions in a Super Bowl (34) and Demaryius Thomas set a record for most catches in a Super Bowl (13), but records don't win championships. Manning ultimately threw for just 280 yards, although he did manage one touchdown late in the third quarter, and two picks. The second interception wasn't totally Manning's fault because Cliff Avril's arm hit Manning's as he threw, but that interception went for a touchdown that all but sealed the game for the Seahawks, even though it was only the second quarter.
Demaryius Thomas caught his 13 passes for 118 yards and the only touchdown of the game, but five of his 13 receptions were screen passes, and his longest catch of the game (23 yards) ended in a fumble that was punched out by Byron Maxwell. Thomas beat Maxwell badly for the lone touchdown, but in spite of his record number of catches, he was unable to help Denver win. Wes Welker quietly piled up eight catches for 83 yards, most of which came against Walter Thurmond in the slot, but he didn't come up with any big catches to keep Denver on the field. Welker was on the receiving end of the Broncos' two point conversion. If Denver couldn't throw the ball well, their running game was atrocious. Moreno led the Broncos with a whopping 17 yards on five carries, including one play on which Chris Clemons ripped the ball away from Moreno and Denver was lucky to have Zane Beadles jump on it. After allowing only 17 sacks the entire season, and typically keeping Manning from even being rushed, the Denver offensive line went through a severe regression in the Super Bowl. Manning was harassed throughout the massacre, and Denver opened very few holes for their running backs.
Denver's defense seemed to play mostly to stop the run, and in that regard they played very well. Danny Trevathan racked up eight tackles, including an incredibly impressive tackle on Marshawn Lynch to make him lose a yard, by simply wrapping Lynch up and pulling him back. Nate Irving made a great play to pull the ball out of Jermaine Kearse's hands on Seattle's second drive, holding them to just a field goal. Irving played the ball perfectly, waiting for Kearse to close his hands before reaching between his arms and pulling at the ball while they went down.
Those were two of the very few highlights for Denver's defense, however. Their pass defense was far less successful than their run defense. Champ Bailey is arguably the best corner back to ever play in the NFL, but even he was beaten early and often by Seattle's receivers. He got caught up on a wheel route/pick play to give Doug Baldwin Seattle's biggest play from scrimmage, and gave up a big third down to Baldwin on a drag route late in the first quarter. Tony Carter is now about a year removed from John Fox making the claim that Carter is the best cover corner he has ever coached, which seemed like big words then, but they don't seem to be accurate anymore because Carter hasn't had a large role in the defense this season. He was covering Kearse when he scored his touchdown, and Carter was the first tackle broken on the play.
Putting on the kind of performance that Seattle's defense had in this Super Bowl, immediately puts them in the discussion as one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL. In many ways I would have to say that they belong at the top of this list. The NFL has created rules to skew games towards the offensive side, which is supposed to bring in higher ratings because of the higher scoring. Seattle has been successful by almost spitting in the face of these rules. Defensive backs, especially, have a more difficult job in today's NFL because they aren't allowed to touch receivers, nor are they allowed to hit hard without being whistled for penalties that are always automatic first downs, but the Seahawks play physical in coverage, and they hammer receivers and tight ends when they get the opportunity. The proliferation of rules that give a further advantage to offensive players, makes it easier for teams like the Broncos to set their unheard of records, but it also makes it significantly more difficult for defenses like the Seahawks to allow only 14 points per game over the course of a season, as well as stop an offense like Denver's. They generate pressure that starts with their secondary, which is in and of itself unexpected and hard to pull off, and they are sure tacklers all across the board. The Baltimore Ravens dominated the New York Giants in the 2000 Super Bowl, but the Giants' offense wasn't anywhere near the level of this year's Broncos, and that domination wasn't even as complete as what Seattle did in Super Bowl XLVIII. It was more impressive than Tampa Bay's domination of the Oakland Raiders, in part because the Raiders were still able to find the end zone multiple times in that game. Interestingly, however, those are the only other Super Bowls since 1996 with a defensive player winning MVP. Seattle's defense may not ultimately be ahead of the 2000 Ravens, the Steel Curtain in the 1970s for Pittsburgh, the 1985 Bears, etc, but they are certainly deserving of that argument, and my opinion is that they are the best defense I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
Who do you think is the best defense of all time? What has been your favorite Super Bowl? What was your favorite part of this year's Super Bowl? Comment below and share with your friends!