Broncos vs. Seahawks: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 43-8 Loss to Seattle
This was never a game—it was over from the very beginning.
The first offensive play of the game was a sign of what to expect for the rest of the evening. A snap out of the shotgun formation resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for the Seahawks 12 seconds into the contest. The Broncos would never recover.
There was nothing positive to draw from this loss for the Broncos. They were dominated in every facet of the game. The 35-point deficit does not exemplify just how much of a dominating effort the Seahawks put forth in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Broncos turned the football over four times and had just 11 total yards in the first quarter. They didn't score until the third quarter came to a close.
It was Denver's fifth loss out of seven appearances in the Super Bowl.
What are eight takeaways from Denver's loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII?
The Broncos Were Simply Dominated
This was not what was expected when people marketed this matchup as the No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense. The No. 1 defense won, and it won big time.
This slide cannot list every category that the Seahawks dominated the Broncos in, because Seattle simply dominated Denver in all aspects.
The Seahawks won the turnover battle, they won the battle in the trenches and they won the time-of-possession battle. There wasn't a single battle that they didn't win.
The Broncos didn't gain a first down until there was a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game. They didn't enter Seattle's red zone until 1:06 remained in the first half.
Seattle roughed up Denver's offense. It punched Denver in the mouth, and the Broncos never recovered. More than anything, that was the story of the game—the Seahawks were more physical than the Broncos, and the Broncos couldn't respond.
The Seahawks demonstrated that they were the better team and that there is no debate.
Everyone Is to Blame
Peyton Manning looked rattled. Knowshon Moreno never established himself on the ground. The offensive line consistently allowed Seattle's front seven to rough up Manning.
The defense allowed Seattle's unheralded receiving core to shred it up. Quarterback Russell Wilson was calm and efficient in completing 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns with zero turnovers. Every time Denver's defensive line collapsed the pocket, Wilson would run out of it to extend the play.
There wasn't a single culprit. This wasn't Denver's 38-35 double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in last year's playoffs where everyone pointed to Rahim Moore for the loss. Every player who was on the field for the Broncos is to blame for the effort.
Manning threw interceptions and fumbled the football. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse looked like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in Super Bowl XLVIII. Chris Clark and Orlando Franklin were frequently beat off the edges by Seattle's pass rush.
This was a dismantling of epic proportions.
John Fox Was Outcoached by Pete Carroll
From watching Super Bowl XLVIII, you would have thought this was a meaningless preseason game.
No, this was really the biggest game of the year, and the Broncos really did play the way they did on the game's grandest stage.
How else can you explain the fact that the Broncos were dominated in every aspect of the game? It wasn't just that the Broncos were dominated on the field; they were dominated from the sidelines.
The Broncos trailed 8-0 at the end of the first quarter, they trailed 22-0 at halftime and they trailed 36-8 at the end of the third quarter. There were no adjustments, and the Broncos didn't get any better as the game progressed. In fact, it looked as if the Broncos were going through the motions and were just hoping the game would come to an end as soon as possible.
To start out the game, the Broncos suffered a safety. At the beginning of the second half, they gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Seattle was the better team, but to make matters worse, the Broncos weren't prepared. And who's fault is that?
None other than head coach John Fox and his coaching staff.
The Broncos learned a lesson today, and they learned it the hard way.
Everything Was Difficult for Denver
It was excruciating to watch every play for the Denver Broncos on the offensive side of the football.
Everything was a struggle. The Broncos wouldn't score their first points of the game until the close of the third quarter when Peyton Manning completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos turned the football over four times, fumbled four total times and suffered a safety.
Denver ran for a total of 27 yards on 14 carries. Manning posted an empty stat line of a Super Bowl-record 34 completions and 280 passing yards.
All game long, you saw Manning look mortal. All day long, you saw the Broncos stuffed at the line of scrimmage. All night long, you saw Denver's receivers intimidated by Seattle's All-Star defensive backfield.
When the Broncos did get the football into Seattle territory, they either turned the football over or failed to convert on fourth down.
The Broncos never gained any momentum in this game, and it showed all throughout on the biggest stage of them all.
The Seahawks Were More Motivated Than the Broncos
For two weeks straight, all you heard about was Peyton Manning. For two weeks straight, all you heard from most experts was about how the Broncos would defeat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. For two weeks straight, the media made it out to be how it was seemingly Denver's destiny to win the Lombardi Trophy.
On Sunday night, the Seahawks finally received their opportunity to respond—and they responded by humiliating the Broncos.
There was Malcolm Smith, the 242nd overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft, picking off Manning and returning it for a touchdown en route to a Super Bowl MVP award. There was Doug Baldwin, the undrafted free agent making Denver defenders miss. There was Richard Sherman, the former fifth-round draft selection who showed why he is considered the NFL's best cornerback.
Notice the trend here?
The Seahawks were an unheralded bunch motivated by being overlooked not just during Super Bowl week, but during their entire careers.
The Seahawks are the definition of an underdog team. Look at their franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson. The shortest quarterback in the NFL became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl in his second season in the league.
Too many people look at X's and O's when it pertains to the game of football, and not enough people place enough emphasis when it pertains to the mental side of the game.
The Broncos had everything to lose in this game, while the Seahawks had nothing to lose. The Broncos were the favorites, and the Seahawks were the underdogs.
Seattle demonstrated that it is not only the better team, but also the more motivated team.
Peyton Manning's Legacy Takes a Dent
I wrote an article leading up to the Super Bowl about how the questions over Peyton Manning's legacy would continue until he won another Super Bowl.
Bleacher Report's Christopher Hansen, following Manning's 400-yard performance in the Broncos' 26-16 victory over the New England Patriots, wrote about how regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl, "Manning has answered his doubters." Hansen stated the following in regard to Manning's legacy:
While some may argue that Manning needs to win another Super Bowl to quiet his critics, even a terrible performance isn't going to change the numbers drastically. He is widely regarded as the best regular-season quarterback of all time, and his performance in the postseason is now starting to mirror that dominance.
A second ring will certainly cement Manning's legacy, but to say he struggles in the postseason is simply not true. Manning is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game no matter when or where that game is played.
Regardless of how you felt a week or two prior to the Super Bowl being played, it's now hard to argue this belief following the Broncos' 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII—Manning's legacy is damaged following this loss.
Nobody is arguing that Manning isn't one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. No one is arguing that Manning isn't possibly the most dominant quarterback in the history of the game.
But the fact of the matter is this: Manning has struggled on the biggest stage of them all, and Super Bowl XLVIII was no different.
Yes, there was no single culprit. Yes, the Broncos as an entire team struggled. And yes, there were dropped passes and lapses in offensive line protection.
But excuses need to stop being made for Manning. He struggled, and he looked lost in doing so.
As likable as Manning is as a player and a human being, and as dominant as he has been during the regular season, it cannot be overlooked how much he struggles when the pressure is on.
No more deflecting blame onto the kicker. No more deflecting blame onto the defense. No more deflecting the blame onto every person not named Manning.
He tends to struggle when it's the big game. Until he proves otherwise, the talk over Manning's legacy and his ability to perform in the clutch will not stop.
When you've set the standard so high and you're playing to be the greatest of all time, you simply cannot perform the way Manning did in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Broncos Will Be Back Next Year
Regardless of whether the Broncos won Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton Manning was going to return in 2014.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman stated the following on the topic of whether Manning would retire or not leading into the Super Bowl: "Almost everyone thinks Manning is gone if he wins and plays well in the victory. In fact, many believe Manning is gone, win or lose."
You can be damn sure after Manning's most humiliating defeat of his career that he won't even ponder the thought of retiring in 2014.
Manning is as competitive as they get, and he is well-aware the Broncos' window to win a Super Bowl will be open as long as he is the franchise's quarterback. He just threw for 55 touchdown passes for the greatest single season by a quarterback in NFL history. Trust me, he's not slowing down.
With the way the rules are bent in favor of quarterbacks, they are as protected as ever. Manning was barely touched throughout the 2013 season and was the least-sacked quarterback of the year. Health is not a concern for Manning two years into his return from neck surgery.
Keep this in perspective: The Broncos were playing this Super Bowl without their best offensive lineman (Ryan Clady), their second-best defensive back (Chris Harris Jr.), their top interior lineman (Kevin Vickerson), two top defensive starters (Rahim Moore and Derek Wolfe) and their best defensive player (Von Miller).
No, this is not taking away from Seattle's victory. The Seahawks were the better team.
However, the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl without a handful of their top players.
The point is this—the Broncos will be back next year.
And if they have Miller and Clady in the big game next season?
Let's just say the Broncos won't be losing by 35 points again in the Super Bowl.
The Broncos Need to Use This Loss as Motivation
The Broncos spent an entire offseason recovering from one of the biggest playoff upsets in NFL history when they fell to the Ravens, 38-35, in the divisional round of the playoffs last year. The Ravens would end up winning the Super Bowl.
How did the Broncos respond?
They opened Week 1 of the 2013 season versus the Ravens, annihilating them, 49-27, when Peyton Manning threw for an NFL-record seven touchdown passes. The Broncos would end the season as the No. 1 seed, before eventually advancing to the Super Bowl.
As you already know, the Broncos were annihilated themselves, 43-8, by the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks.
So what do the Broncos do now?
Move on. Move on as they did following last season's heartbreaking loss to the Ravens. Use this excruciating loss to the Seahawks as motivation to accomplish the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
There is no point in feeling down, and no point in feeling sorry for yourselves. If the Broncos truly deserve to win the Super Bowl, they will bounce back from this loss and win it next season after a second straight season of heartbreak.
And just like in 2013 when the Broncos crushed their demons by avenging last season's postseason loss in defeating the Ravens, they will have the same opportunity in 2014 when they visit the Seahawks in Seattle during the regular season.