There were many key plays in Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, but a few stand out as game-changers.
The Seahawks hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after four amazing quarters, winning the big game by a score of 43-8.
From the opening offensive snap of the game, which Seattle turned into a safety to take a quick 2-0 lead, until the final whistle, Pete Carroll's Seahawks owned the Broncos in every facet of the contest.
Here's a look at the biggest plays that turned the game.
Denver Falls Into an Early Hole with Opening Safety
You'd expect nerves to play an early factor, and they did.
On the opening offensive snap for the Broncos, already deep in their own territory, center Manny Ramirez fired a bullet over Peyton Manning's head on the snap.
The ball sailed into the end zone, where Knowshon Moreno fell on it and was touched down for a safety, giving Seattle an early 2-0 lead.
Making matters worse, Denver's defense allowed the Seahawks to march down the field on a nine-play drive that chewed up 51 yards, ending on a 31-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to put Seattle up 5-0.
The key play on Seattle's first scoring drive was a 30-yard run by Percy Harvin on a fly sweep. Denver's defense was unprepared for Harvin's speed on the edge, and he nearly took it the distance.
Kam Chancellor Picks off a Living Legend
Denver had already fallen into an 8-0 hole before the first quarter was up.
After giving up a safety to open the game and going three-and-out in their second offensive possession, the Broncos desperately needed to build some positive momentum.
But it was not to be.
Denver's first two plays of the possession set up a 3rd-and-7. Manning was immediately pressured from the left side. He stepped up into the pocket and then tried to hit tight end Julius Thomas on a crossing route in the middle of the field.
Unfortunately, his pass sailed on him, went over Thomas' head and into the waiting arms of safety Kam Chancellor, who had a huge first quarter for the Seahawks, as B/R's Ian Kenyon pointed out:
Kam Chancellor is having one helluva game.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) February 3, 2014
The turnover gave the Seahawks the ball deep in Denver territory at the 37-yard line. Seattle then punched the ball in for a touchdown to put Denver into an early 15-0 hole when Marshawn Lynch bulldozed his way in from one yard out.
Malcolm Smith with the Pick-Six
Denver was already in hot water when Manning threw his second interception of the game.
Interestingly enough, the Broncos had finally started moving the ball for the first time in the contest before the fatal mistake. As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, Manning failed to convert a single first down in the first quarter, which was the worst performance by a team he led since 2005:
This was the first time a Peyton Manning team failed to get a first down in the first quarter since 2005 (Week 15 vs Chargers). #SB48— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2014
On the game-changing play, Manning was hit by Cliff Avril while attempting to convert his fifth third down of a 15-play drive.
Instead of a dart to Wes Welker, Manning's ball popped up into the air, where linebacker Malcolm Smith happily snatched it and ran it back 69 yards for the touchdown.
After the score, ESPN's Ed Werder remarked on the daunting state of Denver's potential comeback bid:
The only way this could be more daunting for Peyton Manning and Denver offense is if game were in Seattle— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) February 3, 2014
Down 22-0 at halftime, the Broncos had plenty of work to do.
Percy Harvin Takes a House Call
Opening kickoff of the second half.
Denver needed to make a quick defensive stop, get the ball back and score in order to stop the first-half bleeding. Kicker Matt Prater pooched his opening kickoff, which landed perfectly in front of Percy Harvin on his left sideline.
But rather than corral the speedy wideout, Denver's coverage team couldn't slow him down. He took the bouncing ball 87 yards to the house to give Seattle a seemingly insurmountable 29-0 lead.
Malcolm Smith Claims Turnover No. 2
For once, Demaryius Thomas actually got open, and Manning got him the ball on time.
It was a beautiful thing.
Seattle's secondary had been locking up Denver's receivers all game long, and finally, a normal-looking play was able to unfold, thanks to a simple slant pattern by Thomas.
Unfortunately, he couldn't finish the play. While fighting for extra yards, Thomas coughed up the ball, which was knocked out by cornerback Byron Maxwell. Linebacker Malcolm Smith then picked up the loose ball for his second turnover of the game.
Needless to say, there were more than a few long faces on Denver's sideline at this point in the proceedings. Seattle's dominance was something nobody saw coming, and this third forced turnover appeared to suck any remaining life out of the Broncos.
And rather than run the clock out with a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch, Seattle went on the offensive. Russell Wilson attacked Denver's secondary, capping off a six-play, 68-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.
The receiver's effort was remarkable, as was the poor tackling from Denver's defensive backs. The score put Seattle up 36-0, and the game was effectively in the books.
The Broncos finally got on the board right before the fourth quarter and converted the two-point play to make it 36-8, but Seattle hit them right back with another touchdown drive on its next offensive possession to make it 43-8.
And that's how the game ended.
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