It turns out Super Bowl XLVIII was more of a revenge game between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos than anyone knew about at the time.
To understand why, you have to go back two years to the offseason of 2012. Peyton Manning had just been cut by the Indianapolis Colts to make way for Andrew Luck, and there were no shortage of teams ready to bring The Sheriff to town.
Among them were the Seahawks. As Manning was staying in Denver preparing to make his decision, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, only a few years removed from running the USC Trojans, decided to try out some of his old recruiting tricks.
According to NBC Sports' Peter King, who spoke to Sports Illustrated's The Record podcast, Carroll defied Manning's wishes by flying out there to meet with him.
It did not go well, per King (h/t Frank Schwab at Yahoo Sports):
"Manning didn't go meet Pete Carroll. Pete Carroll flew to Denver chasing Peyton Manning and Manning never met with him. He got back on the plane and just flew back to Seattle. It was really kind of a crazy time.”
"[Manning] almost put off by the fact that you spent all this time and energy and fuel and whatever to come down here when I told you, 'It's not going to happen. I'm not doing it.'"
Instead, Manning signed with the Denver Broncos and Seattle settled for a rookie quarterback out of Wisconsin named Russell Wilson.
Cut to 2013 and the Seahawks have the best team in the NFL by a wide margin. Seattle scored nearly twice as many points as it gave up (417-231), went 13-3 and essentially waltzed its way to the Super Bowl where the Broncos were waiting.
Denver was outmatched in every way. The Broncos lost 43-8 as Manning passed for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Manning did get his redemption a few years later in Super Bowl 50, when he led a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.