For Denver Broncos fans, Super Bowl XLVIII was one to forget. The Seattle Seahawks went out and rightfully claimed the Lombardi Trophy by trouncing the slim favorites 43-8 on Sunday, Feb. 2, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
As a result, all of the top highlights either offer turning points in the game where the outlook for Denver went from bad to worse, or they accentuate numerous instances of brilliance Seattle had throughout the evening.
The disparity on display was emphasized even further by ESPN Stats & Info with its historical anecdote regarding the final score:
Below is a look at the best plays from Sunday's game as head coach Pete Carroll's young bunch—none of whom had any previous Super Bowl experience—stuck it to the Broncos with physical play and epic defense.
The Sailed Snap
Living legend Peyton Manning was on a quest for his second Super Bowl ring, which would have fortified his case as the best quarterback ever. Unfortunately, things didn't start so well for the Broncos signal-caller.
Center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball well over Manning's head and into the end zone, resulting in a safety.
The blunder was the first of several mistakes that Denver's historic offense made. What hurt most about this one was that it was an unforced error and a failed attempt to seize momentum on the first possession.
It was real loud. We were trying to go on the cadence. I thought I heard him. I didn't. He was actually walking up to me because he had already said the cadence, and I snapped it. But again, I take full responsibility for that. It's just something that we should have been able to overcome, and we weren't able to ... It's not an excuse. It shouldn't have happened.
Even when the Broncos gave the Seahawks possession after the subsequent punt and went three-and-out on the following drive, Seattle could only manage two field goals in back-to-back red-zone trips.
An 8-0 deficit seemed feasible to overcome—even when a Kam Chancellor interception helped set up the game's first touchdown and stretched the victors' advantage to 15-0. The turning point came on Manning's second interception.
And here it is. Eventual Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was in the proper position at the perfect time.
Manning was sacked just once on the night, but faced his fair share of heat from a hard-charging Seahawks pass rush.
Instead of taking what would have only been a second sack, Manning tried to make a play on third down but had his arm get hit. The ball fluttered in the air, and Smith ran up to meet it.
All the speedy linebacker had to do from there was outrun some of Denver's linemen, which he did with success in scampering 69 yards untouched to increase the margin to 22-0. A three-score deficit entering halftime against Seattle's defense started to seem insurmountable after that big play.
The talk about this game may center around Manning's legacy and how he threw a costly pick-six in his second Super Bowl in a row, but it doesn't take away from the record-setting season he had. Chancellor referenced Manning as the greatest of all time ("GOAT" for short), per ESPN's Chris Sprow:
Smith, Chancellor, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Seahawks should be praised for their efforts in shutting down such an amazing passing attack more than Manning should be knocked in the NFL's quarterback pantheon.
Percy Harvin Gets Electric on Kickoff Return TD
Kicker Matt Prater opted to not use his cannon leg to try to boot the ball through the end zone to open the second half.
The shorter kick was fielded by Harvin in front of his own 10-yard line, where a massive hole opened up in the middle of the field. But that's not to take away from the amazing first cut Harvin made to make three Broncos special-teams players look ridiculous.
Chicago Bears superstar wide receiver Brandon Marshall weighed in on the play. Marshall implied that Harvin was well worth the first-round pick general manager John Schneider gave to Minnesota to acquire the playmaker in the offseason:
This was only the third game Harvin had appeared in all season, battling a nagging hip injury before sustaining a concussion in the beginning of the NFC divisional-round game against the New Orleans Saints.
The extra week off was beneficial and allowed Harvin to pass all the necessary tests to take the field in the biggest game of his career.
Harvin lived up to the hype and also had two big runs to give the ground game much-needed life when beastly running back Marshawn Lynch (15 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD) wasn't producing at his normal level.
Jermaine Kearse's Microcosmic Catch-and-Run
Kearse encapsulated the entire narrative of the game on one play in breaking tackles and racing to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown catch off a pass from QB Russell Wilson.
The attitude and swagger Seattle played with was unmistakable, while the Broncos looked like the team that was unable to rise to the occasion on the Super Bowl stage despite superior experience.
Like many of the talkative Seahawks, the unheralded receiver deflected credit to one of his teammates in Golden Tate for his fight after the catch that got him the score, per Fox Sports Live's official Twitter account:
All of Seattle's receivers play with chips on their shoulders, and that was especially so in this contest with the firepower Denver possessed on offense. No one characterized that better than Kearse when he made the score 36-0.
The Broncos did score to close out the third quarter, but by then it was a foregone conclusion that they would lose thanks to Kearse devastating the Denver defense and causing its continual poor effort.