The sharp bettors who wagered on Seattle knew that the Seahawks were the superior team in this matchup, but no one in their wildest dreams imagined that this would be a blowout of the 43-8 variety. The final score was completely indicative of how much of a demolition this was. Seattle scored in every single way possible, while Denver looked like it didn't belong in the same league.
- The Seahawks began with a safety. It happened on the first play from scrimmage when a botched Manny Ramirez sailed the snap over Manning's head. Ramirez apparently didn't hear the snap count, thanks to the great Seattle fans who traveled well. Knowshon Moreno dived in the ball to limit the Seahawks to just two points.
- Seattle then kicked two field goals. The team drove down the field, but stalled in the red zone because of some strange plays, as well as a horrible call by the official on a review where Wilson clearly crossed the first-down marker, yet he was oddly ruled behind the line to gain. However, Wilson was great otherwise, converting clutch third down after clutch third down. The Seahawks converted 7-of-12 third downs, but that's misleading because some of their failed tries came late in the game when they were running out the clock. I actually thought Wilson would win MVP; though his numbers don't look too impressive at first glance - 18-of-25, 206 yards, 2 TDs; 3 carries, 26 rush yards - he misfired on just seven passes and made all of the big throws.
- Kicking field goals wasn't going to be enough to beat the highest-scoring offense of all time, so Seattle's first offensive touchdown was key. Wilson nearly hit Luke Willson for a score, but the tight end had the ball knocked out of his hands. Marshawn Lynch was eventually able to find the end zone, however. He appeared to score once, but the officials once again made an incorrect call by marking him short. That didn't matter because Lynch scored on the very next play. Lynch didn't have much room to run early on, but he eventually had some nice scampers. The stats don't show it - 15 carries, 39 yards - but he had quality carries in the second half when Denver's defense was worn out.
- Seattle's second touchdown of the opening half came via a pick-six (more on that later). It was 22-0 when Bruno Mars took the stage at intermission, so despite being completely outplayed, the Broncos weren't totally out of it. That quickly changed when Percy Harvin took an awkwardly bouncing kickoff to the house right after the break. At 29-0, Denver was pretty much done.
- The Seahawks added two more scores during the remainder of the second half, both of which were Wilson scores to Jermaine Kearse (4-65) and Doug Baldwin (5-66), who abused Champ Bailey all evening. Those two wideouts were half of the Seattle players who caught multiple passes. The others were Golden Tate (3-17), who drew a pass interference in the end zone on Tony Carter, and Willson (2-17).
Harvin had just one catch for five yards, but he made a big impact. In addition to scoring on the kickoff return, he had runs of 30 and 15 in the opening half. Those were huge to move Seattle into scoring range on two separate occasions.
I've mentioned all of the Seattle offensive players, but most of the defenders stood out as well. In fact, Body Burner remarked that the entire stop unit should've been named MVP. Richard Sherman was huge in his great coverage on Eric Decker, though he injured his ankle in the second half. Kam Chancellor made some big hits and snatched an interception. Bobby Wagner recorded 10 tackles. K.J. Wright smothered Julius Thomas. Chris Clemons registered a sack and two forced fumbles. Cliff Avril hit Manning and forced an interception. And, of course, Malcom Smith took home the MVP award and an impending huge check to the government for the car he received, thanks to his pick-six and fumble recovery.
I criticized Peyton Manning in my live blog, and I stand by what I said. Manning stunk in this game. His final numbers don't look too bad - 34-of-49, 280 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions - but most of that came in garbage time (including the touchdown) and via the usual, gimmicky pick plays that should be ruled offensive pass interference. Sherman called Manning out during the week, stating that the future Hall of Famer was throwing ducks, and he was absolutely right. Manning heaved numerous ducks in this contest, one of which was picked off by Chancellor. The second interception, taken back by Smith, came because Manning's arm was tipped by Avril.
There's no debating that Manning choked yet again - he wouldn't have won his only Super Bowl had he not been battling the utterly incompetent Rex Grossman - but his offensive line also deserves blame for letting him down. He was under pressure quite frequently, and the center was guilty of the early snap that resulted in the safety.
Given Manning's ineptitude and the offensive line's poor blocking, the Broncos had immense issues moving the chains. In fact, Denver didn't register a first down until 20 minutes into the game. The team was so bogged down on this side of the ball that it just quit in some instances. For example, down 29-0 early in the third quarter, the Broncos opted to run a draw on third-and-14 near midfield.
The most productive Bronco as Demaryius Thomas, who hauled in a whopping 13 balls (a Super Bowl record) for 118 yards and Manning's sole touchdown. However, like Manning, most of what Thomas did occurred in garbage time. Only one reception came in the first quarter, while the touchdown came extremely late when the game was out of hand.
Manning's other targets: Wes Welker (8-84), who had an even greater real action-garbage time dichotomy than Demaryius Thomas; Julius Thomas (4-27), who couldn't get open against Wright and Chancellor; and Decker (1-6), who happens to be an impending free agent. He won't be back with the team next year because of financial constrictions. For more, check ot my 2014 NFL Free Agent Rankings.
Moreno couldn't do much, gaining 17 yards on just five carries. He also caught three passes for 20 receiving yards. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a back injury. Perhaps the greatest disappointment is that he didn't have any CGI-esque tears during the national anthem. Montee Ball (6 carries, 1 yard) did nothing in relief.