If ever there were an ominous tone set in the biggest game on the planet then that is exactly what the first offensive play of Super Bowl XLVIII was. When you look back at the snap snafu that immediately gave Seattle a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish, the more you realize that Denver was in for a long night.
How many hundreds of times before had Peyton Manning walked the line calling audibles and fake audibles this season? There is no way it was crowd noise because it just simply a mistake and a costly one at that. It was essentially the first trickle of water that ultimately became a powerful waterfall. Before Denver and Manning could recover it was 43-8 and the title was Seattle’s.
While much of the focus has been on what Manning and Denver couldn’t do, the real story was what the Seattle defense could do and did do. For one of the first times in NFL history, a defensive unit really was built from the secondary forward rather than the other way around. The Seattle front office recognized what was happening in the game today in terms of big, fast receivers and they matched the trend.
The Seahawks went out and got big cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and even bigger, more physical safeties like Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. While their size and ability to match up with the Denver receivers was crucial, their closing speed and solid tackling is what really spelled doom for the Broncos. Obviously a secondary needs a good front seven and the Seahawks have one.
The linebackers are fast and athletic and the down linemen are quick but have good size that creates significant problems for offensive linemen. Because the Seahawks shut down 2013’s most prolific offense, they will earn high praise and all of the attention they deserve. Where they rank historically is anyone’s guess but I think the bigger piece is that they may have changed how defenses are built in the years coming.
Manning’s Legacy Did Take a Hit
Peyton Manning will more than likely go down as one of the top five quarterbacks of all time and probably the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time as well. The problem as I see it is that Manning’s playoff and Super Bowl failures will standout much greater than anything he accomplished in the regular season.
Sunday’s loss puts Manning’s playoff record at 11-12. His Super Bowl record is 1-2 and he has eight ‘one and done’ playoff appearances as well. Many will cite his one Super Bowl victory but the Colts offense could only muster two touchdowns and took advantages of three Rex Grossman turnovers. Experts will often refuse to say what I’m writing because Manning is a ‘good guy’ and ‘ultimate professional.’
The fact remains that Peyton Manning has struggled in huge games and that’s something that dates back to his college days. It doesn’t make Manning less of a great player or great person but it is what it is. Manning has been outstanding to watch during his long career and the fact that he could come back from such serious health issues is a credit to his work ethic and dedication.
Unfortunately, there are a handful of quarterbacks I’d rather have under center for me with the game on the line or in a big game period. This doesn’t diminish what Manning has accomplished as one of the great NFL quarterbacks but we measure quarterbacks by titles and this is one of few areas where Manning comes up short.