The Seattle Seahawks brought Peyton Manning’s record-breaking season to an ignominious end in northern New Jersey Sunday night, routing the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the most lopsided Super Bowl in 21 years.
Sad Manning Faces were in abundance as the NFL’s best defense turned in a punishing performance, holding the Broncos offense, which set an NFL regular-season record by scoring 606 points, scoreless through the game’s first 44:57. The Broncos avoided the humiliation of being the first team to suffer a Super Bowl shutout as Manning ended a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with three seconds left in the third quarter.
The Seahawks got a solid and mistake-free evening from Russell Wilson — 18-of-25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns — who became the first black quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory since Doug Williams did it with Washington in 1988. Percy Harvin ended his injury-plagued season with a triumphant flourish, starting the second half with an 87-yard kickoff return.
The NFL’s first Super Bowl in its largest media market was a flop, with Manning and Co. unable to hold up their end of the bargain in a matchup of the league’s best offense and defense. There hadn’t been a beating of this kind in the championship since Dallas drubbed Buffalo 52-17 in 1993.
On the first play of the game, Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning’s head and out the back of the end zone for a safety. It appeared to be a miscommunication, as Manning briefly stepped out of position to right as Ramirez sent the ball flying past him. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the first time Super Bowl scoring started with a safety: Tom Brady was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone on the Pats’ first offensive snap two years ago.
After the Seahawks pushed their lead to 15-0, Manning was sandwiched between Seahawks defensive ends Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons while winding up to throw. The hit forced the ball into the air and linebacker Malcolm Smith — who had the game-clinching interception off Richard Sherman’s tip in the NFC title game — stepped under the wobbler and took it back 69 yards for a touchdown and a 22-0 lead. The rout was on.
Percy Harvin, who’d barely played all year due to injury, fielded a short kickoff to open the second half and took it directly to the house.
The Broncos had put together a decent drive midway through the third quarter when their troubles turned almost comical: Demaryius Thomas was fighting his way for a first down after a reception when the Seahawks’ Byron Maxwell punched the ball out of his arms almost casually. Smith scooped up the ball for the recovery.
A few minutes later Jermaine Kearse pinballed through the Denver secondary to put the ‘Hawks up by 36. The Broncos would score in the fourth to avoid the shutout, but they were toast.
Pete Carroll, who 15 years ago had just been fired from an NFL coaching job for a second time, now becomes the third football coach ever to win championships at both the college and pro level. It’s the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl win and the first major pro sport title for Seattle since 1979.