The Window Is Closing Fast On A Seattle Dynasty
With the NFL's top-ranked offense and defense set to duke it out for the Lombardi Trophy, the Super Bowl XLVIII matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos had thriller written all over it.
Everyone talked about Peyton Manning's legacy, Richard Sherman's rising stardom, and even discussed the ever-so-important state of Russell Wilson's hair. This game generated a buzz that hadn't been seen during Super Bowl week for quite some time, and the clash of different styles made it easy to see why. Simply put, the football gods couldn't have possibly thrown together a more compelling title game than this one, and everyone expected this one to go down as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played in the league's storied history.
Then, the Seahawks decided to change the script and instead dominated every phase of the game en route to a 43-8 drubbing of Manning's Broncos, bringing the Lombardi to the Pacific Northwest for the first time.
Backed by an impressive defensive performance and a stellar outing from Wilson, the Seahawks seized control from the outset and never let off of the gas pedal. The game opened with a bizarre snap over Manning's head that led to a Denver safety, and the Broncos never recovered. By the time Bruno Mars took stage for the halftime show, the final outcome for this one already seemed all but sealed as Seattle entered the break holding a 22-0 lead. Before Denver could even consider making a comeback in the second half, speedy receiver Percy Harvin bolted 87 yards to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown and extended the Seahawks lead to 29. What once looked to be an epic title game had transformed into a slaughter, and it was too late for Denver to recover. Seattle tacked on two more touchdowns to secure the victory and ended up posting one of the most lopsided Super Bowl wins in NFL history.
For Bronco fans, it was a disappointing end to an otherwise remarkable campaign. Seattle's coaching staff did a phenomenal job as a whole preparing for Manning and Denver's high-octane passing game, and the players executed the game plan to perfection. Defensive ends Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons consistently put pressure on Manning off the edge and caused him to misfire on several throws, including a pick-six by eventual game MVP Malcolm Smith that gave Seattle a 22-0 lead shortly before half. Kam Chancellor and the vaunted secondary didn't allow for Denver's star receivers to generate big plays down field, and Manning had to resort to throwing bubble screens and short routes throughout the evening. Every time that Denver appeared to be gaining momentum on offense, Seattle would create a turnover and keep them off the scoreboard. The Broncos ended up turning the ball over four times total, with Manning being responsible for three of them. Aside from Demaryius Thomas catching a Super Bowl record 13 passes, Denver's offensive performance proved to be a nightmare.
Offensively, a resurgent Wilson outplayed his counterpart, completing 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. And most importantly, he didn't turn the football over, allowing the Seahawks to control the pace of the game and keep Manning off the field. Ironically, Seattle put points on the board in bunches without a great performance from Marshawn Lynch, who only rushed for 39 yards on the night. Denver did a great job limiting Lynch's output on the ground, but the Seahawks used other means to successfully run the ball. Harvin rushed for 45 yards on two fly sweep plays in the first half and Wilson consistently hurt the Broncos outside of the pocket as both a runner and a passer.
The dual threat quarterback proved to be too much for Denver's injury-plagued defense to handle, and without help from Manning and the offense, the game got out of hand early. With Von Miller and Chris Harris both sidelined by ACL injuries, the Broncos couldn't generate any pressure on Wilson and struggled defending Seattle's receivers. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse led the way with 66 and 65 yards receiving respectively and both were on the receiving end of touchdown passes from Wilson in the second half to seal the landmark victory. Baldwin had a clear advantage against corner Champ Bailey, who appears to be nearing the end of the road for an outstanding Hall of Fame caliber career, and Wilson exploited the match-up to near perfection.
As the game clock expired at the end of the fourth quarter, confetti began to rain down on the field and the wait was finally over. The Seahawks were officially world champions for the first time in franchise history, and they had done it in a fashion nobody could have anticipated. Manning set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions, but Seattle held the living legend to 280 passing yards and nearly shut out the most explosive offense in NFL history. Owner Paul Allen, head coach Pete Carroll, and general manager John Schneider all basked in glory as they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for all Seahawk fans to see, and the roar from the 12th man way back in Seattle could be heard across the country. The championship marked the first professional title for the city since the Super Sonics won the NBA title in the late 70's, and the fans will continue to party until Wednesday's parade commences.
Now Seattle faces the ever-difficult task of trying to repeat as Super Bowl champions next year, a feat that hasn't happened since the New England Patriots won in both 2003 and 2004. With several key players heading towards free agency in the next couple of seasons, the title window may not stay open very long. Making it out of the difficult NFC West will continue to be a challenge, as the rest of the division remains loaded with talented, well-coached teams. But Pete Carroll believes this team won't fall for the Super Bowl "hangover" that has affected so many champions in recent years, and armed with the second youngest roster in the league, this team could actually be even better next season.
Some may remain skeptical about this old-school Seahawks team, but if anyone continues to doubt this squad, just remember the words of Russell Wilson: Why not us?