Super Bowl XLVIII: Report Card Grades for Key Players and Coaches
Assigning grades for a Super Bowl this ridiculously lopsided shouldn't be a difficult task.
The underdog Seattle Seahawks made quick work of Super Bowl XLVIII, jumping out to a 22-0 halftime lead over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos before running away in the second half with a 43-8 victory.
There were no dramatics in this one. The Seahawks got a fluke safety on Denver's first play from scrimmage and then kept their foot fully on the gas for the next 59 minutes. It was as convincing and thorough a championship win as the NFL has seen in some time.
The grades you see in the following slides will reflect just how dominant the Seahawks were Sunday night.
QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
This was a disaster of epic proportions for Manning, who finished the single greatest quarterback season in NFL history with maybe the biggest black eye of his illustrious career.
The Seahawks pummeled Manning all night. From the first quarter on, Seattle owned the line of scrimmage, took away any and all big plays and made Manning look skittish in the pocket. He would complete a Super Bowl-record 34 passes, but there may never be a more misleading stat.
Manning's accuracy on any pass over five yards was shaky at best. The majority of his completions came on bubble screens and short dump-offs, which fed right into the aggressive nature of the Seattle defense.
And most importantly, Manning's three turnovers all but crippled Denver's chances. His first interception led to three Seattle points, and Malcolm Smith took his second back for a game-altering touchdown. He later lost a fumble on a strip-sack.
Overall, the highest-scoring offense in NFL history finished with eight points, 306 yards and four turnovers.
Manning might have put together the most dominant 18-game stretch the NFL has ever seen. But his 19th appearance of the season was a clunker that every pundit will point to when wondering where he stands among the game's all-time giants.
QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
This was vintage Russell Wilson: efficient, productive, smart with the football, never attempting or needing to do too much. He was in complete control, which is a lot more than his quarterbacking adversary on the Denver sidelines could say Sunday night.
After a nervy start that saw him wildly overthrow his first attempt, Wilson tossed only seven incompletions and didn't have a turnover. He escaped from the pocket to make plays, and he accurately distributed to his game-changers, particularly in the second half.
When the confetti finally started to fly, Wilson had finished his night with 232 total yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 123.1.
Pretty decent for a 25-year-old kid who was drafted 75th overall just two Aprils ago.
WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
The record books will now display Demaryius Thomas' 13 catches as the most in Super Bowl history, but this was an up-and-down night for the Denver receiver.
The Broncos force-fed him the football on bubble screens and short drag routes, rarely threatening down the field against the Seattle secondary. And when Manning finally found him on an intermediate crossing route, Thomas put the football on the turf. His lost fumble sucked the life out of Denver's already-improbable comeback bid.
Catching 13 passes in the Super Bowl is an impressive mark for Thomas, and his nifty catch in the end zone prevented a shutout. But remember, he only averaged 9.1 yards a catch, and his fumble was just one in a long list of mistakes made by the Denver offense.
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
If you had said before this Super Bowl that Marshawn Lynch would rush for just 39 yards and average 2.6 a carry, I would have told you that Peyton Manning was about to win his second ring. But the Seahawks proved that Lynch isn't a necessity in the winning formula.
The Broncos clearly keyed on Lynch early. He routinely met bodies at or near the line of scrimmage, and it took him until the second half to bust an 18-yard scamper that nearly went the distance. Denver bottled up Beast Mode otherwise.
Lynch did score a one-yard touchdown early on in the second quarter that helped give the Seahawks a 15-0 lead. But this wasn't a win that was powered by the violent running of one of the game's top backs. He was just a small part of this championship puzzle Sunday.
S Kam Chancellor, Seahawks
Enforcer, intimidator, game-changer, revolutionary—take your pick. There are many ways to describe what the Seahawks got from Kam Chancellor, who had as good an argument as any for being the game's MVP.
Every defensive coordinator in the NFL will look at the tape from this game and then attempt to find a safety like Chancellor. He's the perfect player for today's game, with a cornerback's athleticism in a linebacker's body and an aggressive, no-fear demeanor.
The hard-hitting Chancellor set the tone early by decking Demaryius Thomas on a shallow cross and then picking off an overthrow from Manning. Later, he switched off covering the seam to glue tight to Wes Welker and knock away a Manning attempt. It was a play that so few safeties can make.
Many were deserving, but Chancellor would have had my vote for MVP.
RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
You have to hand it to Knowshon Moreno, who looked like the only member of the Broncos offense who was ready to match the physicality of the Seahawks defense Sunday night.
However, he rarely got a chance to go toe-to-toe with those wearing white and blue.
Moreno carried the ball just five times, his lowest total of the 2013 season. Nine of his 17 yards came on one run in the first half. And he only caught three passes for 20 yards, giving him eight touches for just 37 total yards.
The Broncos got down big early and had to abandon Moreno and the running game. That played right into Seattle's hands. In the end, Denver needed a lot more from No. 27 to beat the Seattle defense.
WR/KR Percy Harvin, Seahawks
Every draft pick and dollar spent on Percy Harvin this offseason was paid back in full by the performance the electric receiver/returner put together Sunday.
Harvin delivered the game's longest run—a 30-yarder on a jet sweep in the first quarter—before putting a dagger in the Broncos to start the second half. His 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown—even after Denver attempted to kick away from him—helped put the Seahawks up 29-0, and with that play, the rout was fully on.
Harvin hardly played this season, and he was used in smallish doses in the Super Bowl. But there's few players in the game who know how to make so much out of so little.
CB Champ Bailey, Broncos
This probably wasn't how Champ Bailey envisioned his first trip to the Super Bowl turning out.
Not only did the Broncos get routed, but the veteran corner was also taken advantage of several times, most notably by Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks receiver burned Bailey from the slot for 37 yards in the first quarter, and Russell Wilson showed time and again that he wasn't afraid to attack the 35-year-old.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bailey is planning on returning in 2014. He'll likely want to get rid of the taste of this Super Bowl.
CB Richard Sherman, Seahawks
Richard Sherman was mostly unseen for long stretches of the night. But that shouldn't be viewed as a knock on his performance on the game's biggest stage.
No, it was actually the ultimate sign of respect, a tipping of the cap from the NFL's top quarterback. Instead of risking to throw the ball Sherman's way, Manning all but avoided his side of the field.
By my unofficial count, Sherman allowed only one completion. He was targeted four times.
By the end of the game, Sherman was on crutches nursing a high ankle sprain. But you can bet he was still a big reason why Eric Decker and Julius Thomas had quiet nights.
There wasn't an interception or a controversial postgame rant. Yet Sherman did exactly what he's done all season: dominate his side of the field and make life extremely difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks
In winning Sunday, Pete Carroll became just the third coach ever to win a national championship and a Super Bowl title. He joins both Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only men to pull off the feat.
Carroll might not admit that this win was a validation of his ability to coach in the NFL, but you better believe that the questions that came with his arrival in Seattle are no longer a part of the discussion. He built a dynasty at USC, and he might be on the verge of doing the same in the Pacific Northwest.
Carroll's free spirit just oozed out of these Seahawks, who looked relaxed and ready to play from the opening whistle. And his aggressive defense smothered Peyton Manning and the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, at times making it look easy.
Overall, the Seahawks won all three aspects of the game and dominated the final score. There's not much more you can ask for out of a head coach on the biggest stage.
John Fox, Broncos
Grading a coach can be an exercise as simple as looking at preparation and execution. The Broncos looked overmatched in both during Super Bowl XLVIII.
Is that a direct reflection of John Fox, whose team blew the first play of the game, had four turnovers and failed to ever find any kind of rhythm, both on offense and defense? That might be a little too harsh, but Fox certainly doesn't deserve any kind of critical acclaim for the way his team played Sunday night.
The adjustments on offense were few and far between. His defense failed to create a takeaway. The special teams were a disaster. Fox's Broncos were convincingly outplayed in all three areas.
Fox has had better nights as a head coach.