If it's any consolation to Peyton Manning, every quarterback's legacy would have taken a hit on a night like this.
Pick a quarterback from any team, from any offensive system, from any era, and he'd have been smoked by the Seattle defense we saw Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.
Joe Montana or Joe Namath.
John Elway or Johnny Unitas.
Bart Starr or Brett Favre.
None of them solves the Seahawks when Pete Carroll's men are playing his system the way they did on this night.
Maybe it wouldn't have ended 43-8, as it did, but chances are it wouldn't have been much better.
This was the very essence of the time-worn expression that "defense wins championships." There may have been no better example than what we saw as Seattle's No. 1 defense obliterated Manning's No. 1 offense in one of the worst Super Bowl beatings on record.
"I think we played a great team tonight and we needed to play well to win," Manning said, "and we didn't even come close to that."
It was one of the most humbling moments of an otherwise brilliant career. Just a night after Manning won his fifth Most Valuable Player Award, he couldn't compete against the Seahawks' vastly superior defense.
Asked if he was embarrassed by the outcome, Manning replied: "It's not embarrassing at all. I would never use that word. There's a lot of professional football players in that locker room that put in a lot of hard work and effort into being here and playing that game. The word 'embarrassing' is an insulting word, to tell you the truth."
Manning had the chance to enhance his legacy, but he ran into one of the greatest defenses any of us will ever see.
Think 1985 Bears, who devoured almost every quarterback they faced.
Think 2000 Ravens, who set the NFL record with fewest points allowed (165) in a 16-game season.
Manning had never seen a defense quite like this, especially in this year's playoffs. He thrashed the injury-ravaged Patriots, racking up 400 passing yards in the AFC Championship Game. And he solved the Chargers the previous week.
Then came the Seahawks, a defense built in Carroll's image that thrives on the speed of its secondary and linebackers, and on the brute strength and stunning effectiveness of its pass rush.
Manning was helpless in the face of the onslaught. About all he could do was take what little the Seahawks gave him underneath with dink-and-dunk passes over the middle.
The misery started immediately for the future Hall of Famer, when he walked to the line of scrimmage on the very first play after the opening kickoff, gesturing with his hands as he always does. Center Manny Ramirez thought he was signaling for the snap and sent the ball flying over his head and into the end zone for a safety just 12 seconds into the game.
"It wasn't anyone's fault," Manning said, blaming a combination of stadium noise and a miscommunication that prompted Ramirez to snap the ball before the quarterback expected it.
"I give Seattle a lot of credit," Manning said. "They played very well, but we made mistakes and didn't play well enough . . . Getting behind early played into their hands."
After a three-and-out on his next possession, Manning was under pressure on third-and-7 from his 23 and was intercepted by Kam Chancellor. It was the kind of pass outspoken Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called a "duck" late last week, creating a stir.
Seattle converted the interception into a touchdown and a 15-0 lead with 12:00 left in the first half.
And then it got really bad for the 37-year-old quarterback.
After Manning drove the Broncos to the Seahawks' 35, he looked for Knowshon Moreno on a short pass to his right, but under pressure from Cliff Avril, the ball came out awkwardly and was picked off by linebacker Malcolm Smith, who ran it back 69 yards for a touchdown.
Remember Smith? He was the one who caught the pass that Sherman tipped near the end of Seattle's NFC Championship Game win over the 49ers in Seattle.
Manning didn't find the end zone until the final play of the third quarter, when he hit Demaryius Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown. But all that did was make a small dent in a 36-0 deficit.
And so it goes for Manning, who is 1-2 in Super Bowls after taking his 12th postseason loss, the most of any quarterback in NFL history. He had hoped for another transcendent moment in the first outdoor Super Bowl in a northern city; instead, it turned into another reminder of his greatest shortcoming: postseason mediocrity.
But no one -- not Manning, not any quarterback of this or any other generation -- would have had a chance against this defense. Even a quarterback for the ages simply was no match for a defense as commanding as the one he faced on this Super Bowl Sunday.