Winners and Losers from Super Bowl XLVIII
The 12th Man appeared to have a supernal effect on Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seattle Seahawks scored 12 seconds into each half and stomped the Denver Broncos, 43-8, for the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Scoring 43 points is impressive, but holding the record-setting Broncos offense to just eight points is one of the most impressive feats in Super Bowl history. The Seahawks may not have even scored 30 points without their defense and special teams, with a safety, kickoff return and interception return for a touchdown.
The Seahawks, you could say, bring together football styles both old and new. Old-school football fans have some measure of vindication, with the hard-hitting Seahawks representing the idea that the days of dominant defense have not gone the way of the dinosaur yet. Their offense, meanwhile, is led by quarterback Russell Wilson, whose combination of a big arm and fast legs makes him part of a new wave of quarterbacks sweeping over the NFL.
Put the two together, and you have the recipe for a Super Bowl champion.
With one of the youngest rosters in the league, get used to the Seahawks being in big games. For the Broncos, the outlook is much less bright. Several of their key players on offense and defense are aging and have expiring contracts.
The emotions, like the results, are on both ends of the spectrum, so here's a look at some of the winners and losers from the big game.
Winner: Cliff Avril and the Seahawks' Defensive Line
In many ways, the Seahawks were the imperfect matchup for the Broncos. One of those ways was their ability to rush just four defenders and play great coverage with seven men.
Some of Manning's most notable misfires weren't a result of great coverage so much as poor pass protection and a solid pass rush.
More specifically, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril influenced the first interception by getting pressure around Manning. He then caused the second interception outright by hitting Manning's arm while he was throwing.
Seattle didn't stop there. Chris Clemons notched a sack-fumble in garbage time in the fourth quarter. That was the only time the Seahawks sacked Manning in the entire game, but they pressured him consistently, which clearly had an adverse effect on the Broncos' passing game.
If the MVP could be handed out to an entire group instead of just one player, it could have gone to the Seahawks' defensive line.
Loser: Manny Ramirez and the Broncos' Offensive Line
You don't usually hear a center's name called during a game unless something went wrong. That's exactly why we're talking about Broncos center Manny Ramirez.
On the very first play of the game, the Broncos committed a false start when Ramirez snapped the ball before Manning was ready. The snap flew right past Manning, who was doing his usual pre-snap song and dance as the ball soared past him. Running back Knowshon Moreno fell on it in the end zone for the safety.
It may not have been entirely Ramirez's fault. Manning might have decided to change the play late in the snap count, confusing Ramirez.
That one play was far from the only bad play by Denver's offensive line, though. The entire line yielded pressure on Manning at different points in the game.
Offensive tackles Chris Clark and Orlando Franklin were on the wrong end of a pair of key plays, with Franklin whiffing badly on Cliff Avril on Manning's first interception and getting bull-rushed right into Manning's lap on the second.
Ramirez and Clark had done an admirable job of filling in for the injured Dan Koppen and Ryan Clady, respectively, all season long, but their costly errors—particularly Ramirez's—may lead them to Rahim Moore status in the national media and in Denver.
Winner: Percy Harvin
One of the most overused buzzwords in all of sports is "X-factor," but headed into the Super Bowl, there was no truer definition of an X-factor than Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin.
Combine his injuries (hip/concussion) with the uncertainty around whether he'd play a versatile role in the offense as a runner and/or receiver, and Harvin's contributions were a big unknown leading up to the game.
No one could have predicted his production, but he gave us a big clue early on, taking his first carry for 30 yards and his second one for 15 yards. Then, of course, came the defining moment: his 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.
A lot of people questioned the return on investment for the trade for Harvin, but at least for one night, he quieted the critics.
Loser: John Fox
It's easy to admonish John Fox's decision to punt on fourth down facing a 29-point deficit, but the result may not have much different even if Denver had found a way to move the chains on the seemingly impenetrable Seahawks defense.
Not only were the Broncos beaten all over the field in the first half, being outscored 22-0, but they were unable to make the necessary in-game adjustments. They were outscored 21-8 in the second half.
Fox is a good coach, having compiled a 115-91 (.558) overall record and an 8-6 playoff record, but he could have taken a big step toward cementing his own legacy with a Super Bowl win. Instead, he fell to 0-2 in the big game in his career, having lost narrowly to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII exactly 10 years ago.
Winner: Pete Carroll
He's jacked. He's pumped. And now, he's a Super Bowl champion.
A lot of people have questioned Pete Carroll's methods, doubting whether his high-energy, enthusiastic, rah-rah attitude would translate from college to the pros.
With the win, Carroll joins exclusive company as just the third head coach in NFL history to win both a college national championship and a Super Bowl, following in the footsteps of Dallas Cowboys head coaches Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.
Carroll clearly had his men ready to play, executing their game plan to perfection all the way to a 22-0 halftime lead. They rode it all the way to a 35-point win, the largest margin of victory for any Super Bowl winner since the 1993 Cowboys.
Some of the credit must go to the Seahawks' coaching staff as a whole, but the frontman for the whole operation is Carroll, who quieted a whole lot of critics—and buried more than a few ghosts—with the win.
Loser: Champ Bailey
Champ Bailey's first trip to the big game was one to forget.
The Seahawks targeted the Broncos cornerback regularly in the first half, including on a 37-yard catch by Doug Baldwin. He finished the game with four tackles, but wishes he could have made at least one more.
Russell Wilson told Champ Bailey to "talk to the hand" with this stiff arm. pic.twitter.com/iAl7svpFhg— SportsNation (@SportsNation) February 3, 2014
Bailey will be 36 years old at the start of next season. If he even returns for the 2014 season, it's fair to wonder how much he'll have left in the tank and how many more opportunities he'll get to add "Super Bowl champion" to his list of accomplishments.
WInner: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson's modest 206 passing yards and two touchdowns are misleading. He was in command the whole way through. Despite facing pressure time after time, he still managed to complete 72 percent of his passes.
He worked that magic all season long.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Wilson was under fire on 43.8 percent of his drop backs this season, the highest percentage for any quarterback. However, he still managed to put together a 101.2 passer rating on the year, the seventh-highest for any quarterback.
At times on Sunday, it looked like the Seahawks' receivers were vastly underrated. While that may be true to an extent, it became clear by the end of the game that Wilson made them look much better.
That is the very definition of being an elite quarterback. Wilson may only be in his second year, and he may only have one Super Bowl ring, but he is bordering on elite territory.
He showed why on Sunday night.
Loser: Wes Welker
Peyton Manning wasn't the only one whose football mortality came to mind after the loss. Wes Welker has reeled in 745 passes for 8,237 yards and 47 touchdowns over the past seven years, and has been to three Super Bowls for his troubles, but he has no rings to show for it.
Make no mistake; He has been one of the most prolific pass-catchers of the past decade, and caught passes from two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, but his lack of a Super Bowl ring could be a big hindrance to his chances to one day be voted into the Hall of Fame. Bills wide receiver Andre Reed finally earned enshrinement without a Super Bowl win, but he would have to play at least three more years to match Reed's career numbers.
One problem: Welker suffered multiple concussions this season and wore an oversized helmet for the playoffs as a result. There's no reason to believe his career is over after this game, but he will be 33 years old entering the 2014 season. With one more year left on his contract, it's possible that next year may be his last.
Winner: Malcolm Smith
In the span of two weeks, Malcolm Smith has gone from a role-playing linebacker to playing a key role in a Super Bowl run and winning a Super Bowl MVP award in the process.
He caught the ball that was tipped by Richard Sherman in the end zone to seal the NFC Championship Game and was in the right place at the right time once again in the Super Bowl. In the second quarter, Cliff Avril got pressure on Peyton Manning, disrupting his throwing motion and causing the ball to float through the air.
Malcolm tracked down the ball in flight, and at that point, 69 yards were all that stood between him and the MVP award.
Smith had six solo tackles and 10 total, but his pick-six clearly earned him the MVP honor.
Loser: Peyton Manning
There is no question about Peyton Manning's status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He set the record book on fire in 2013 and has been a perennial top-five quarterback.
If we put all that aside, though, Sunday was one of the worst performances for a quarterback in recent Super Bowl history. His final passer rating of 73.5 was the lowest since Rex Grossman for the Bears in Super Bowl XLI (68.3).
Yes, we now have to say Manning's name in the same sentence as Rex Grossman. Just don't use his name in the same sentence as "embarrassing," a mistake made by at least one reporter on Sunday.
"It's not embarrassing at all. I would never use that word," Manning said, via NFL.com. "That word embarrassing is an insulting word to tell you the truth."
It could have been the biggest game of Manning's career, but instead of hitting the reset button on his postseason legacy, Manning slipped back to under .500 in the playoffs (11-12) and still has just one Super Bowl ring.
As Manning gets older, the window to improve that record gets smaller. Sunday night brought about a harrowing reminder of Manning's football mortality.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.
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