Seattle’s Best – How Seattle’s Defense Burned Down Peyton Manning’s Touchdown Factory
Last night we saw Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium in New York. It was the Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks. I don’t know if anybody watched it, it may have been a bit under the radar, but, boy, was it a game. It was anticipated to be one of the best Super Bowl matchups in recent history, featuring the best statistical offense of all time, led by probably the most seasoned and surgical quarterback of all time, against this year’s best defense, codename “Legion of Boom”. The Seattle Seahawks did not disappoint with their defensive prowess, and shattered those expectations, utterly trouncing the Broncos in almost epic fashion. The final score: Seattle 43, Denver 8. It was a defensive bloodbath, and was further a statement that in the matchup of the best offense against the best defense in the big game, the best defense truly has the edge.
How was it though that Seattle was able to so effectively dismantle Denver’s prolific monstrosity of an offensive scheme? How did Pete Carroll’s Zone-3 defensive coverage scheme force Peyton Manning into throwing two interceptions and holding him to 280 yards through the air and a single touchdown, with four receiving options in Damaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas? What was it about Seattle that truly defeated Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl of his quarterback record shattering season?
The first play of the game did not start things off on the right track for Denver. Taking the kick off as a touchback and starting on the 20-yard line in their own territory, Peyton Manning stepped into the pocket for the first snap. As he’s checking down the defense, Denver’s center Manny Ramirez sends a high snap to Peyton Manning, over his head and was recovered inside the end-zone. There was a flag on the offense, but it was declined. Seattle got a safety, already on the scoreboard before the first minute of the game finished. 2-0 Seattle. It all went downhill from there, and it’s something that needs to be addressed; that one play can define the entire game. This rang true very loudly last night.
Seattle on offense did incredibly well, Russell Wilson finishing the night with 206 yards through the air and two touchdowns, as well as getting 26 yards on the ground from several scramble runs. Wilson was an unsung hero of the night. Percy Harvin, in his only full game played of the season was monstrous. He finished the night with 137 all-purpose yards, including an 87 yard punt-return for a touchdown in the third quarter, off of a punt that was specifically designed to not be returned. Harvin shined brightly last night, and showed that no matter how ineffective he may be throughout the regular season, all he needs is one game to showcase his raw and unfettered talent. He had two options last night, best game of the season or taken out of the game on the first play; this time he chose the former.
The defense was the star of the game though. The most apt visual of the night isn’t Manning’s constantly disappointed face, but his constantly moving feet. Of the 51 drop-backs Manning had, only 6 of them were blitzes from the Seahawks. That’s a telling number. That tells you that Peyton Manning couldn’t get comfortable from a 4-man pass-rush. Cliff Avril and Earl Bennett were brilliant as they were able to dominate the Broncos offensive line and not allow Peyton Manning any time or comfort to set his feet. The only free space on the field was up the middle for crossing routes, something that receiver Wes Welker thrives on, and even he couldn’t get anything going in that regard, because of safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Malcolm Smith descending upon receivers like a horde of locust.
Malcolm Smith ended up receiving the Super Bowl MVP award, but only because they had to give one out. Frankly, though his stat-line was great for the night, the fact is that this was a considerable unit-based effort from the Seahawks. And with a majority of the key roster players still on rookie contracts for another year, it’s very possible they could repeat next year with the right circumstances in the NFC West.