The best offense-best defense matchup should have been a grinding, tough, watchable-for-all-60-minutes game with a million lead changes, or so that's what we envisioned. Instead, the Seahawks devoured everything in front of them. Seattle embarrassed Denver's NFL-best offense, 43-8. It wasn't even close.
From the beginning, the Broncos were having a tough time. A flubbed snap turned into a safety, and the Seahawks had a 2-0 lead in seven seconds. It was still so early, though, and the Broncos' defense admirably kept it close on the following Seattle possession, holding the Hawks to just a field goal for a 5-0 lead.
So, Peyton Manning and the Broncos had the ball back, a fresh start, only down one possession. Everything was fine. Start that drive—except, they went three and out with a Knowshon Moreno run and two short, conservative passes. And again, the defense held the Seahawks to another field goal after a grueling six-minute drive, keeping it a one-possession game at 8-0. When was the nonstop touchdown factory we witnessed all season going to show up?
Seattle's defense never allowed it any relief. The stat sheet only shows one sack and four quarterback hits for the Seahawks, but the pressure was more prevalent than that. The pockets were tight around Manning as he dropped back. Blitzes came from all over, as usual. Eventually, the error-free, fast-paced Denver offense faltered in a more significant way than punting: turnovers. Moreno fumbled, though it was recovered by his teammate Zane Beadles. But on the next play, Manning threw a pick. Denver had four total turnovers in the game.
Marshawn Lynch's touchdown increased the lead to 15-0, but the Broncos offense finally started looking like themselves with a heavy no-huddle, almost exclusively shotgun offense on their first possession of the second quarter. The Seahawks defense stepped on their opponents' throat, though, when linebacker Malcolm Smith—the same Malcolm Smith who had caught the game-ending interception deflected by cornerback Richard Sherman in the NFC Championship Game—picked off Manning's fluttering throw as he was hit, returning it 69 yards for a touchdown. The lead felt much larger than
two three possessions.
Even in the second half, hey, maybe there was a chance Denver could force a quick three-and-out and get back in this. Nope. Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and a 29-0 lead. Seattle was in no mood for any classic Super Bowl comebacks, thoroughly dominating the Broncos in every aspect. It was merciless, almost historically so.
No team has been shut out in the Super Bowl, but the Broncos avoided being the first at the end of the third quarter with a Peyton-to-Demaryius Thomas touchdown, Denver's only score of the game. Thomas set the Super Bowl record for most receptions with 13, and Manning had the most completions with 34. Uh, hooray?
Those two pieces of trivia won't be worth anything to the Broncos. Denver's offensive line needed to give Peyton enough time for him and his collection of dangerous receivers to do something. They failed, and were suffocated by the defensive pressure. The Seahawks broke the assembly line, shattered windows, and set things on fire, and the factory gradually imploded, becoming a pile of flaming rubble as Pete Carroll strutted around it.