The Seattle Seahawks did what many thought would be impossible and neutralized Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' record-setting offense with apparent ease on the way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII after a 43-8 outcome.
Manning never stood a chance, in large part thanks to his offensive line. He was constantly under duress, despite the Seattle defense hardly bringing extra men to help collapse the pocket. As Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter points out, the unit got all the help it needed from Manning's offensive line:
Not surprised to hear. Broncos OL have to look hard in the mirror today RT @PFF: The Seahawks blitzed on only six of Manning's 51 dropbacks.— Ty Schalter (@tyschalter) February 3, 2014
But that in no way should discredit what the Seahawks did. Seattle simply lined up and played its game. The offense had great balance, and the defense was simply too physical and had too perfect of a scheme for even a historic offense to overcome.
The result of the ugly game has a huge impact on both franchises moving forward. For Denver, it is time to pick up the pieces. For the champs, keeping the momentum going may prove difficult.
Note: All contract info courtesy of Spotrac.
Believe it or not, there is a drastic amount of silver lining for the Broncos after the embarrassing loss.
Most important of all, no players will want to walk away from the team after such a horrific end to a historic season.
This is especially the case for Manning and cornerback Champ Bailey. The league's MVP has faced questions about retirement for years, but those have only intensified after the loss. Manning told the media, via Jesse Spector of Sporting News, that nothing has changed:
I've been dealing with those all week. This doesn't change anything as far as what I want to do. Certainly, for our entire team, I think we used last year's playoff loss to kind of fuel us, and it made us a better team this year. Hopefully we can use this to fuel us this offseason into next season as well.
There is the key. It took a stunning loss last postseason for the Broncos to advance to the Super Bowl this year. Will a humbling of epic proportions in the big game propel the team back next year?
Count Bailey back in, who does not sound like one to end his career on such a sour note: "I love the game and I can still play. That's pretty much what it is. That's all it is. ... It's a little embarrassing to lose like that, but I'm still gonna hold my head up."
Fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie wants to return as well, according to Vic Lombardi of CBS:
DRC told me last night he wants to play next year. And he wants to play for the Broncos. I consider him their top FA priority.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 3, 2014
Rodgers-Cromartie is far from the only free agent the Broncos will have to re-sign this offseason:
The good news is many will likely follow Manning's lead and want to keep the team together for another run. With Manning set to return, not many players will want to move elsewhere and take the gamble of missing out on another trip to the Super Bowl.
Things are just as complicated for the Seahawks. Despite the big win, Seattle must now turn its full attention to talent retention.
The Seahawks can simply not suffer the same fate as Baltimore did a year ago, when the Ravens dove off into the deep end of salary-cap purgatory by dishing out big contracts as rewards for the Super Bowl win.
To the Seahawks' credit, their ability to draft well is what put them in this position, as Grantland's Bill Barnwell details:
In a vacuum, Wilson is a bargain, but his contract looks even better when you consider that the typical quarterback of his caliber takes up something like $17.5 million of his team’s salary cap. The Seahawks can take the $16.8 million difference and go spend it elsewhere, which changes the value proposition. Manning is probably a better quarterback than Wilson, but is Wilson plus $16.8 million worth of players better than Manning?
Wilson is far from the only example but clearly the most noteworthy one. Like many of the players on the roster set to hit free agency this offseason and the next, Wilson has a Super Bowl ring on his resume and can therefor ask for more money in negotiations.
As Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke points out, the game's MVP was quite the bargain, too:
MVP Malcolm Smith: Draft pick No. 242 overall, making $555K this year.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) February 3, 2014
There are immediate concerns for the Seahawks, such as bringing back defensive end Michael Bennett and receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. But the future is what will weight heavy on their mind, as Fox Sports illustrates:
As is the case with any championship team, the Seahawks will be measured by their ability to hold it all together, make incremental improvements and turn this ride into a dynasty.
The opportunity is certainly there, but coach Pete Carroll and the front office will have to work some salary-cap miracles, while improving areas like the offensive line to make it all come together.