“The Seattle Seahawks can’t score enough points to keep up with Peyton”, they said. “The Broncos will score 30 points easily”, they said. “Russell Wilson hasn’t put up big numbers throughout the playoffs”, they said. “It’s not a question of if the Denver Broncos will win but how they will win,” they said. They always have a lot to say. Every time you turnaround they’re saying this, and they’re saying that.
Whenever a team is an underdog one of the primary concerns of the coaching staff is making sure a team’s mental faculties are about them. It’s easy to get caught up in the groundswell of hype that a Super Bowl favorite might emanate. However, as important as it is for the opposition to be resilient in the face of overwhelming public opinion that runs counter to their chances to win, it is also very important for the favorites to not believe their own hype. Not any of it. But something strange happened to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on their way to winning Super Bowl XVLIII.
Everything bad that was supposed to happen to the Seattle Seahawks happened to the Denver Broncos instead. Manning is often called such complimentary names as “The Master” and “The Professor”, and he is considered by many people as the best regular season quarterback in the history of the NFL. One has to take into consideration greats like Joe Montana, John Elway and Dan Marino whenever NFL history is considered. At one time it appeared as though it was a foregone conclusion that Manning was a consensus top five signal-caller in the history of the National Football League. His NFL record 5,477 yards and 55 TDs are herculean numbers that will not fall anytime soon and his pursuit of a second Lombardi Trophy, his first with the Denver Broncos, seemed like a mere formality to the season.
Yes, the Seattle Seahawks were chirping and squawking throughout the week, and everybody outside of the state of Washington seemed to take umbrage with the bravado of the Seahawks secondary. There were billboards in Denver, Colorado that featured Denver’s Champ Bailey as the epitome of class while showing the verbose Richard Sherman as a classless thug. The stars were aligned for Manning and the Broncos to win in convincing fashion, but the botched snap in the shadow of the Seahawks’ end zone reminded me why I was never a fan of astrology.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Taurus or a Cancer, a 43-8 drubbing is something even the most talented psychic couldn’t have foretold. The botched snap would result in a 2-point safety 12 seconds into the game, making it the fastest score in the history of the Super Bowl. Prior to the big game, history appeared to be on Peyton’s side. But that one play, though a bit of a fluke, was largely indicative of the Broncos’ effort for the entire game. To paraphrase comedian Kevin Hart, they just wasn’t ready. The Broncos did not even record a first down until the 2nd quarter. The Seahawks appeared to say to Peyton "We'll give you all the short stuff, but when your receiver catches the ball we're gonna blast him" and that's exactly what the Legion of Boom did. The Seattle Seahawks would score offensively, defensively and on special teams before the Broncos even scored. However, even though the score was 22-0 in favor of Seattle at halftime, no one wanted to count Manning out. People were like “Well, they’re getting stomped with a steel reinforced boot but if anybody can come back from being down three scores at halftime its Peyton Manning”.
But when Seattle WR Percy Harvin ran back the kickoff for a touchdown at the start of the 3rd quarter, Broncos fans had on their Scooby Doo face like “Rut Rooh!” All season long the Denver offensive line has been considered among the top five in the league. They were equally efficient at pass-blocking and run-blocking as well. Manning rarely got sacked or pressured in the pocket during the regular season. His jersey remained clean against archrival Tom Brady and the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game. But the top-ranked Seahawks defense was successful at making things uncomfortable for Peyton Manning. They crowded his passing lanes and made it impossible for him to easily step up in the pocket to make the big throws, which resulted in the ball losing velocity quickly after leaving his hand.
One of those wobbly, duck-like spirals found its way into the arms of Seattle strong safety Kam Chancellor for the interception. Cliff Avril caused the second Manning interception as he collapsed the pocket on Peyton’s right side and hit his arm just as he was following throw on a pass attempt. That errant pass was scooped up by eventual Super Bowl XVLIII Malcolm Smith and was taken all the way to the house for a touchdown. A fumble by the usually sure handed WR Demaryius Thomas ended one of the only drives where the Broncos appeared to be getting in a rhythm. Paging Eric Decker, has anyone seen Erick Decker? Did he even play? Julius who?
Demaryius did ball despite that fumble and finished with a Super Bowl record 13 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. Though WR Wes Welker was being hit mercilessly by the Seattle Seahawks secondary and linebacker corps, the tough Lilliputian was able to muster up 8 catches for 84 yards in defeat. Though Manning would toss up two interceptions during the big game, he would finish with a Super Bowl record 34 completions on 49 attempts for 280 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. The Broncos’ running game was non-existent as RB Knowshon Moreno ran for 17 yards. At the end of the day, the Denver Broncos were a mediocre team that was carried by a great player for the entire season. When that player was less than advertised no one else had the ability or acumen to make a play.