Monday, February 03, 2014
Nancy Armour, USA TODAY Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Peyton Manning and his high-octane Denver Broncos offense had never seen a defense quite like the Seattle Seahawks.
Then again, nobody in the NFL has seen a team quite like the Seahawks.
The new Super Bowl champions are feisty, led by a defense that embarrassed Manning and the Broncos. They're fearless, smart enough to know they lacked the experience and pedigrees to pull this off and too young to care.
Mostly, though, they're a whole lot of fun, something the NFL sorely needs after years of dour teams that treat games like negotiations over the debt ceiling. Yes, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, that was directed at you.
"We tried to do a little bit of everything, but mostly we tried to play the football that we know how to play," coach Pete Carroll said.
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BRONCOS: Early mistakes doom Peyton and Co.
While the NFC West teams are all too familiar with the havoc the Seahawks can wreak, most of America got a crash course over the last two weeks. But nothing could have prepared anyone for the abuse they inflicted on Manning and the Broncos early and often on their way to a 43-8 victorySunday night that gave Seattle its first Super Bowl title.
Blame Manning and the Broncos for their botched snap on the first play from scrimmage, which gave the Seahawks a safety. After that, however, it was all Seahawks.
They were so disruptive they looked as if they really did have a 12th man on the field. The big guys up front clogged up the running lanes, and the "Legion of Boom" made sure Manning couldn't reach any of his favorite toys.
Instead of stacking touchdowns as they did in the regular season, the Broncos struggled to get first downs. Their first six drives went like this:
An interception, which set up Seattle's first touchdown.
Another interception, this one taken 69 yards to the end zone by Malcolm Smith.
A drive stalled on downs in the red zone.
Finally, at the end of the third quarter, the Broncos got their first – and only – score. By that point, though, the Seahawks had a 28-point lead and NFL officials were already loading the confetti canons with blue and green paper.
BELL: Peyton far from Super on this night
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Manning had a fumble to go with his two interceptions, and finished with a passer rating of just 73.5. That's a number Denver hasn't seen since Tim Tebow was quarterback.
"We liked this matchup," Smith said. "We know Peyton's a great quarterback, and he likes to get the ball out fast. But we play with an amount of speed they haven't seen, and we executed well."
And unlike the Broncos, they didn't overthink things.
So much of the attention on this game was focused on Manning, and what it would mean to his legacy. Win, and he would have to be considered one of, if not the best, quarterbacks the game has ever seen. Lose, and it adds more fuel to the argument that he can't win the big one.
The Seahawks just had to play and enjoy themselves, something Carroll has turned into an art form.
Carroll was the football version of the Pied Piper when he was at Southern California, livin' the dream and taking everyone he could along with him on the ride. He saw no reason to change when he returned to the NFL four years ago and everyone in Seattle, from his players to the fans to owner Paul Allen, has responded to his infectious enthusiasm.
They may seem like a bunch of carefree hipsters, but don't be fooled. Carroll demands discipline, hard work and maximum effort. So long as his players give him that, he gives them the freedom to be themselves.
"He just tells you every week is a championship opportunity, every week is a championship game," Richard Sherman said of his coach, who joined Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only coaches to win titles at the college and professional levels. "So when you make it to a championship game, the moment isn't any different. He doesn't give a 'rah-rah' speech for a Super Bowl. He doesn't give a 'rah-rah' speech for the NFC Championship."
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In fact, the closest the Seahawks got to a rah-rah speech is when quarterback Russell Wilson got up at a players-only meeting last summer and told his teammates how his father used to ask "Why not you?" when he was younger.
"Why not us?" Wilson asked the Seahawks.
It was a simple philosophy, but it fit the Seahawks perfectly. Many of them have been underdogs their entire careers, and there's nothing they like better than doing what everyone tells them they can't.
As long as they have the support of each other and their 12th Man fans – think it's a coincidence they scored 12 seconds into each half? – that's all they need.
"We're a part of history," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "That's something we've been dreaming about the whole season. One hundred years from now, y'all are going to remember this team."
After the show they put on Sunday night, no one will ever forget them.