EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Offense? Who needs offense?
Thanks to the Seattle Seahawks’ top-ranked defense, the first Super Bowl played in the Big Apple (well, just across the Hudson River from the Big Apple) was a Big Dud on Sunday night.
In a marquee matchup of the teams that led the NFL in most points scored and fewest points allowed — the fifth time that’s happened in the Super Bowl and the first in 23 years — the Denver Broncos were overmatched from the first play from scrimmage.
And, really, almost every play after that as Seattle put Super Bowl XLVIII away early — much earlier than anyone could have imagined.
The Broncos offense, which scored an NFL-record 606 points in the regular season, was knocked all the way back to Omaha in a 43-8 pummeling at the hands of the Seahawks before 82,529 shocked fans in MetLife Stadium.
When you have an attacking defense like the Seahawks’, which allowed just 14.4 points per game in the regular season, you don’t really need a lot of help from the offense.
In arguably one of the most dominant all-around performances in Super Bowl history, the Seahawks defense outscored the Broncos 9-8.
They weren’t only the best on that side of the ball; they proved to be better than the Broncos’ high-powered offense that led the NFL in scoring, total yards, first downs and red-zone efficiency.
But not Sunday night, not on the game’s biggest stage, when the Seahawks didn’t allow a point or a first down and 11 total yards in the first quarter against record-setting quarterback Peyton Manning and his bast array of offensive weapons.
Perhaps the only people in the stadium who weren’t shocked were the guys wearing the white jerseys with dark blue pants.
“I hoped we etched our name in the record books,” exuberant Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. “This is the No. 1 offense in the history of the NFL, and we were able to play a good game against them.”
A good game is the understatement of the year, especially for Sherman.
“That’s just the way we play,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We did everything we wanted to. They really didn’t have many opportunities to get the momentum from the start of the game. It was really a good game for our guys on all sides — not just defensively.”
That was evident when you consider they had rushing and passing touchdowns, a kickoff return for a score and an interception return for another touchdown — not to mention a safety on the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage that set an ominous tone.
Throw in a couple of field goals, and the Seahawks scored six different ways.
“I think we played a great football team,” Manning said. “We needed to play well in order to win, and we didn’t come anywhere close to that. We weren’t sharp offensively from the get-go.”
That first play from scrimmage was a disaster.
Just 12 seconds into the game, the Seahawks scored a safety when a shotgun snap sailed past Manning’s head and tumbled into the end zone.
Even though that early miscue was really an unforced error on the Broncos’ part, with the snap coming when Manning was walking toward the line to check into a different play, it was a sign of things to come.
“Momentum is important in sports,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “We gave them a little momentum in the first half.”
After collecting a league-high 39 takeaways in the regular season, the Seahawks pressured the Broncos into four turnovers in all — starting with that first play.
They had two interceptions of Manning, who put together the best regular season by a quarterback in league history, and also forced another fumble in the second half.
Already leading 8-0, an interception by strong safety Kam Chancellor late in the first quarter led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that put the Broncos in a deeper hole.
But the big blow came on the next possession, when Manning’s right arm was hit while he tried to throw a pass and Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith picked off the fluttering ball.
When he raced 69 yards untouched down the sideline, the Seahawks had a 22-0 lead that absolutely no one saw coming.
“They have an excellent defense and, certainly, to get behind and give them the lead like that played into their hands,” said Manning, who set a Super Bowl record with 34 completions. “That’s what they do to a lot of teams.”
Smith, who had a fumble recovery in the second half to go with his interception and nine tackles, was named the game’s MVP.
But it was a tribute, really, to the entire defense.
“It’s the speed of the game and the way we attack,” Smith said. “There are just opportunities all over the field for this defense.”
As if a 22-0 halftime deficit wasn’t enough, an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the second-half kickoff by Percy Harvin virtually finished things off for the Seahawks considering how well their defense was playing.
A fourth turnover in the second half didn’t help the Broncos.
“When you’re minus-4 in the turnover margin against a team like the Seahawks defense, this is what you get,” Fox said. “There’s a reason why they were the No. 1 defense during the season, so give them credit. It was a combination of their coverage and the (pass) rush.”
It was certainly difficult for Manning to pinpoint what went so terribly wrong throughout the game.
“They’re an excellent team and they deserved to win because they played better than we did,” he said.
“Certainly, to finish this way is very disappointing. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we have to.”