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Seattle Dominates Denver In Super Bowl ZZZ

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Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images.
Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images.

The game was settled long before the MVP trophy winner was. 

We were pretty sure at halftime, when it was 22-0, that the outcome was settled. We knew for certain after the opening play of the second half made it 29-0. But there was plenty of doubt about who would win the MVP hardware.

Would it go to a guy who barely played at all during the year and was not a factor in the postseason? 

Percy Harvin made some big early gains when Seattle added to its lead and then the kickoff return that sealed the game. His speed added a missing dimension to Seattle’s offense, which had not been explosive in the playoffs before the Super Bowl.

Or you could’ve given the trophy to Russell Wilson. He played an excellent game, keeping Peyton Manning off the field with some pinpoint passing and avoiding mistakes. His stats were pretty good: 18 of 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He rushed three times for 26 yards, and made some good third-down plays.

But the MVP voters went with the guy who made what was probably the key play in the game. Just when the Broncos appeared to be getting their offense back into gear, Cliff Avril deflected a pass that went to linebacker Malcolm Smith, who returned it for 69 yards for a touchdown, giving Seattle a 22-0 lead. Smith also recovered a fumble.

The MVP voting reflected the reality of the game: The Seahawks defense won this game by controlling what had been a potent Broncos offense, coming up with four turnovers and allowing only 18 first downs and 306 yards, many in the second half when the game was settled.

The Seahawks defense controlled the first half. Here are the Broncos’ first-half possessions: -14 yards ending in a safety on a screwed-up snap that went over Peyton Manning’s head; eight yards ending in a punt; three yards ending in an interception; 49 yards ending in a pick-six; and 48 yards ending on a fourth-down play that failed. 

That fourth-and-two play came at the end of the first half when it was 22-0 and a touchdown would’ve made it a game. Every time the Broncos offense showed some life, the Seahawks snuffed out their hopes with a great play.

We knew the Seahawks had great cover guys. But that wasn’t all. They put a lot of pressure on Manning, while Wilson was barely touched.  Manning took some big hits.

And take a close look at their tackling, especially compared with Denver’s. One team hit hard, punishing ball carriers and receivers. The other missed tackles, was sloppy and out of position. Seattle was a better team in all ways, but in no area more than tackling.

Seattle’s defense had plenty of strengths and no discernible weaknesses. They stop you and they can make big plays.

For the year, Richard Sherman led in interceptions with eight, with Earl Thomas picking off five and Byron Maxwell four. Three were pick-sixes, including Smith’s Super Bowl play.

As a team they had 28 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles. 

Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles, and also had five sacks. Michael Bennett led the way with eight and a half sacks, and Avril had eight.

It seemed like every guy on defense had his number called, every guy won his own personal matchup. When was the last time you could say that about a defense?

I thought the MVP award might go to Harvin, whose return sparked an offense that was always in the shadow of that great defense. After all, a comeback was still possible with the score 22-0. Manning has engineered some great comebacks, and he was on the other side of one on the road against New England. 

It wouldn’t happen on this day, thanks for Harvin.

Harvin was traded from the Vikings to the Seahawks before the season for three draft picks, including one first-rounder. He underwent hip replacement surgery in August and couldn’t play until late in the season, and then had a concussion. It didn’t look like a very good trade until the Super Bowl.

He’s always been a game-breaker, but it wasn’t clear until this past week that he would play in the Super Bowl at all. The knock on Harvin has always been that he gets hurt. If he can stay in the game, he can be The Guy. 

But the dominance starts and ends with that defense, which is one of the best ever. To me, it’s in the top five. I’ve always thought the ‘70s Steelers defense the best ever, with the ’85 Bears in that same top tier. I think Seattle’s D is on par with those two. If they come back and dominate another Super Bowl, maybe they’ll rival the Steelers. 

This was also a big victory for the NFC, especially the NFC West, which has three of the top defensive teams. Division rivals San Francisco and Arizona were two of the three teams to beat the Seahawks this year, and the NFC championship went down to the last play.