With Super Bowl XLVIII in the books, football fanatics will have to search for some sense of meaning in their lives until September, but for now we can feast on the shocking annihilation the Seattle Seahawks put upon the Denver Broncos in the 43-8 romp.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruno Mars rocked out, and the Gatorade bath was orange, but we will examine Peyton Manning's record-setting performance, the defensive MVP, the absence of "Beast Mode" and the league's newest Super Bowl champion quarterback.
Peyton Sets Super Bowl Record, Dings Legacy
Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos to the most prolific offensive season in NFL history, but he was no match for the Seahawks' marauding defense. His two interceptions were back-breakers as Seattle turned both turnovers into touchdowns.
Manning also added a late fumble on a Chris Clemons sack. That was the only sack of the game, but Manning was hit four times according to ESPN. Malcolm Smith's second-quarter interception return for a score came when Peyton's arm got hit as he threw.
It was a bitter end to a season that saw Manning throw for more yards and touchdowns than any player in history, but the Seahawks pass rush knocked him off his game.
Manning broke yet another passing record in Super Bowl XLVIII, though the final score is all that matters to him. His 34 completions on 49 passes were the most in Super Bowl history, but his receivers failed to rack up YAC (yards after catch) as he finished with 280 yards, just 5.7 yards per attempt. Manning tossed one touchdown and two interceptions, finishing with a QBR of 24.4 and a 73.5 rating.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas piled up 13 catches for 118 yards and scored Denver's lone touchdown, setting the Super Bowl record for most receptions in the process. However, he also coughed up a fumble in the third quarter. The Seahawks offense turned that into a touchdown to make it 36-0 as mouths were held agape across the globe.
Manning was asked after game whether he felt "embarrassed" about the result—the third-largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history—and he was clearly miffed. Per Anwar S. Richardson of Yahoo Sports, Peyton gave that reporter a vocabulary lesson:
It’s not embarrassing at all. I never use that word. There are a lot of professional football players in that locker room who put a lot of hard work and effort into being here and playing in that game. The word 'embarrassing' is an insulting word, to tell you the truth.
All things considered, Manning's legacy would have been much worse off had the Broncos lost to Tom Brady's New England Patriots in the AFC title game, notwithstanding the 35-point beatdown they received on the game's biggest stage.
Manning will still get pestered by the "greatest regular-season QB of all time" label, but he's no Dan Marino. Peyton has his ring, and if Hank Baskett could have recovered an onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV, he might have a second championship.
Peyton Manning is class personified and one of the greatest ever. But to think this wouldn't negatively impact his legacy is ridiculous.— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) February 3, 2014
Leading two different teams to the Super Bowl is an incredible accomplishment, but Manning's 1-2 record in the big game and 11-12 record in the postseason will keep him behind Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Johnny Unitas on the short list of greatest quarterbacks ever.
Following the trend of history, the Seattle Seahawks became Super Bowl champs behind their fearsome defense, so it was fitting that linebacker Malcolm Smith got the game's MVP award. His sensational 69-yard pick-six put Denver down 22-0, and the Seahawks were well on their way. Smith also recorded 10 tackles and recovered a fumble.
Safety Kam Chancellor could just as well have gotten the nod for his 10 tackles and a nifty interception, but you have to reward the linebacker for his long rumble to the end zone.
In 2003, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson won Super Bowl MVP, and linebacker Ray Lewis took the honor when the Baltimore Ravens won in 2001. Defensive end Richard Dent won it with the Chicago Bears and the "Monsters of the Midway" in 1986.
You can put the 2013 Seahawks up there with those terrifying defenses.
No Beast Mode
Before the game, if you were told by someone from the future that Marshawn Lynch would rush for 39 yards on 15 carries, you would probably assume the Broncos won the game.
It turns out the Seahawks didn't really need him, somewhat reminiscent of his 16 carries for 47 yards in the shutout victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 15. Lynch did score a one-yard touchdown in the Super Bowl, but he never broke off a signature, leg-churning Beast Mode gain.
Instead, wide receiver Percy Harvin was Seattle's leading rusher with 45 yards on two carries. Harvin was limited to just one reception for five yards, but he busted the game wide open with a scintillating 87-yard kickoff return TD to open the second half. That spotted the Seahawks a 29-0 lead, and Denver never even threatened.
Harvin barely played during the season after undergoing hip surgery and then dealing with concussion issues, but he was a game-changing presence in the all-important tilt.
Seattle's Low-Key QB
Improbably, champion quarterback Russell Wilson has managed to fly under the radar amidst Richard Sherman's trash talk and Lynch's aversion to the media.
Wilson was his usual efficient self in completing 18 of his 25 passes for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw zero interceptions and did not fumble, finishing with a 123.1 passer rating.
Russell Wilson is only 5’11”. Today, he stands as a giant. pic.twitter.com/GdKZHJR0dk— ESPN (@espn) February 3, 2014
Sherman is the first QB to post a passer rating over 100 in his first two seasons, and he's been a Pro Bowler both times. With Seattle's blend of youth and talent, Wilson could be adding to his ring collection over the next decade.