Denver's high-powered offense no match for Seahawks' defense
Related mediaSuper Bowl XLVIII videos Super Bowl XLVIII - Broncos vs. Seahawks Celebrities at Super Bowl XLVIII Fans, players at MetLife Quotes: Manning a robot? Maybe Highest-rated Super Bowls
They hung their heads as they sat on the risers, struggling to find explanations for what transpired on the field.
Or, better yet, what didn't.
Denver rode its high-powered offense all the way to MetLife Stadium. But Sunday night, the Legion of Boom absolutely leveled the Broncos.
The classic battle between the league's best offense and its top-ranked defense never materialized during Super Bowl XLVIII as the Seahawks rendered quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos' passing game ineffective in a 43-8 rout.
They say defense wins championships, and with the whole world watching, the Seahawks proved that statement to be true.
It was embarrassing, the Broncos said. Unexplainable, really. But the final score told the story.
All week, Denver's receivers expressed nothing but confidence about facing Seattle's physical secondary. But it appears the Broncos forgot to bring their record-setting offense with them.
"I would say that's the best defense we've faced," said receiver Eric Decker, who was an absolute non-factor with one catch for 6 yards.
Several players said the Seahawks didn't do anything particular special on defense, but the Broncos seemed powerless offensively. "They did exactly what we expected -- and they did a good job of it," said tight end Julius Thomas, who had four catches for 27 yards.
Demaryius Thomas set a Super Bowl record with his 12th catch of the game to end the third quarter and finished with 13 catches for 118 yards. But his 14-yard touchdown reception -- and the subsequent two-point conversion by slot receiver Wes Welker (eight catches for 84 yards) -- mattered little.
Those two plays, which made it 36-8, represented all the offense the Broncos could muster.
The game couldn't have started worse for Denver. The very first snap of the game sailed past Manning and rolled into the end zone, resulting in a Seattle safety after Knowshon Moreno recovered it. The early miscommunication between Manning and center Manny Ramirez was a sign of things to come.
The Seahawks spent the past week preparing for a Denver offense that led the league in scoring (37.9 points per game) and put up an NFL-record 606 points. But the Broncos took themselves out of the game.
The Seahawks' relentless pressure and the remarkable closing speed of their defensive backs quickly made the game a runaway. By halftime, the Seahawks led 22-0, aided by Manning's two interceptions.
"I wasn't sharp from the very get-go," said Manning, who said the safety was the result of a "cadence issue."
Manning's receivers barely could get free all game. "We just never [got into] a rhythm offensively," Decker said. "We didn't do anything to challenge them."
Five Broncos had at least 10 TDs this season, but Denver was unable to recover from its miscues on its first three drives: a safety, a 29-yard punt and an interception.
But when questions were raised about Manning being off his game from the very beginning, his receivers came to his defense. Julius Thomas cited "uncharacteristic" turnovers as their biggest issue, but he made it clear that "by no means" was Manning solely to blame. "He's the reason we're here," he said of his quarterback.
In the lead-up to the game, Demaryius Thomas said he felt good about his team's chances of putting up points against Richard Sherman and the Seattle defense. But after the confetti had fallen, Thomas -- who fumbled after a 23-yard catch on what appeared to be a promising drive late in the third quarter -- admitted an obvious truth: "They're the No. 1 defense . . . It's hard to put up points against guys like that."
Asked what makes the Seahawks' secondary so great, he shrugged and said: "I don't know. I just know that they fly around and make a lot of plays."