Super Bowl XLVIII was supposed to provide football fans with an all-time classic to help get us through the long and arduous offseason.
Who is more likely to return to the Super Bowl next year?
After all, it was a showdown between the record-setting top offense in the league in the Denver Broncos and the stifling, shut-down defense of the Seattle Seahawks. It was Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson versus Champ Bailey and even Marshawn Lynch versus a Broncos run defense that was performing admirably in the playoffs.
So much for that.
As can be seen in the quarter-by-quarter box score, the Seahawks dominated the game from the get-go and won 43-8. They jumped ahead, ruining score boxes at parties across the country in the process with a safety within the first 12 seconds of the game, and never looked back.
|Team||1st Quarter||2nd Quarter||3rd Quarter||4th Quarter|
Interestingly enough, as national sports writer Bryan Fischer points out, Seattle only needed the first couple of plays in each half to beat the Broncos, thanks to the safety and Percy Harvin kick return:
If you only gave Seattle the first 12 seconds of each half, they won and covered against Denver. Most dominant Super Bowl performance ever?— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) February 3, 2014
The tone-setting safety, the Harvin touchdown, the multiple interceptions from the defense, the pressure on Manning and Russell Wilson’s impressive day throwing the football, all jump out when breaking down the box score as primary reasons for Seattle’s dominance.
What about the unheralded contributions that shaped the Seahawks’ victory? Let’s dig into a discussion about a few of them.
Malcolm Smith Beyond the Interception
Calling the Super Bowl MVP’s contributions under-the-radar seems a bit strange at first glance, but the main reason why linebacker Malcolm Smith was given the honors was his early interception return for a touchdown.
If the safety and initial offensive struggles had the Broncos second guessing themselves, the interception return for a touchdown sent them reeling and may have put the game away despite how much time was remaining.
Smith’s other contributions were overshadowed by the touchdown, but they deserve recognition on their own. He (along with Kam Chancellor) led the Seahawks with 10 tackles, and he also deflected a pass from Manning.
Yet it was his presence alone on the field that truly helped stifle the Broncos offense, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Malcolm Smith played half of the Seahawks' 64 defensive snaps in SB. Broncos averaged nearly a yard less per play when he was on the field.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2014
Smith’s Super Bowl will be remembered for the interception returned for a touchdown, but he was excellent throughout the entire contest.
The “Legion of Boom” certainly had its way with the Denver passing game throughout the contest.
Richard Sherman was challenged deep and broke up the pass despite plenty of contact from the receiver. Earl Thomas looked like he was playing with the hit stick from Madden video games the way he was laying Denver’s skill players out. Chancellor tallied 10 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception.
Byron Maxwell was also critically important in stopping the Denver attack, despite the fact that he didn't stand out as much on the box score.
Remember, Sherman can only guard one guy out of the Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker group per play. That means that Maxwell was virtually acting as a shadow throughout the entire game on the talented Denver receivers.
Had Maxwell struggled, Manning would have certainly found the open guy like he had all season for Denver.
Throw in one of the more impressive plays of the entire Super Bowl when Maxwell literally punched the ball out of Demaryius Thomas’ hands which would have received more recognition had it not come after the outcome was no longer in doubt, and Maxwell had himself an excellent game.
Russell Wilson’s Running Ability
Everyone was so enamored with the Seattle defense in the immediate aftermath of the Super Bowl (and rightfully so), that Wilson’s exceptional game under center didn’t get much recognition.
While his passing numbers of 206 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions were discussed, the handful of scrambles had a larger impact than it seemed.
In total, Wilson ran three times for 26 yards, but the influence of those three runs went far beyond the box score. One came off a read option with Lynch that froze the linebackers for just a moment, which forced the defenders to think about that in every ensuing handoff.
Furthermore, Wilson eluded pressure inside the pocket with his feet and bought time on a number of passing plays. Were it not for his quick feet under pursuit, a number of his 18 completions may not have happened.
Seattle’s general manager John Schneider understood that Wilson’s impact went beyond the box score, per Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports:
“Russell’s not a stats guy. He’s a guy that’s about winning games.”
Now he has won the biggest game of all.
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