By Danny O’Neil
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Seahawks could have won the Super Bowl without their offense taking a single snap.
After a week of the country asking whether the Seattle defense was ready for the Broncos’ top-ranked offense, well, Seattle’s defense went and outscored the Broncos all by itself: 9-8.
Malcolm Smith returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to earn Super Bowl MVP honors. (AP)
As far as conclusions go, that was pretty fitting, and that’s not to diminish the contributions of Seattle’s offense, whether it’s the diminutive quarterback or the dominating running back.
But this was a team built upon the bedrock of this defense, a unit that didn’t allow a single one of the final eight opponents to score so much as 20 points and on Sunday went and silenced Peyton Manning to finish a season in which he threw more touchdown passes than anyone in NFL history.
How did the Seahawks do it? By being themselves.
Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator: “We didn’t want to change how we play.”
Safety Earl Thomas: “We stayed to our guns,” safety Earl Thomas said.
Cornerback Walter Thurmond: “We don’t get caught up on who our opponent is. At the end of the day, they have to deal with us.”
And Denver couldn’t deal with Seattle. Not even close.
The Broncos had scored in the first quarter in all but three games they had played in the regular season and the postseason. They didn’t have a first down in the opening period.
This wasn’t just about the safety that Denver allowed on the first play from scrimmage when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning’s shoulder and into the end zone. That was a fluke. It’s what followed for the next 63 plays that proved to be a fulfillment of everything that Seattle’s defensive-minded coach could have wanted.
“It was exactly the way we wanted it,” coach Pete Carroll said.
More coverage of the Seahawks’ win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Highlights | Interviews||• O’Neil: What we learned from Seahawks’ win||• O’Neil: Seahawks’ Super Bowl MVP? Take your pick||• Huard: Breaking down the fly sweep in ‘Chalk Talk’||• Henderson: Title extra sweet for Harvin, receivers||• Henderson: Russell Wilson makes history in victory||• Henderson: Malcom Smith takes MVP honors|
Denver couldn’t run first because the Seahawks’ pass-rush package was capable of squelching Knowshon Moreno, and later because the Broncos trailed by too many points.
And when Manning was forced to pass, it played right into the strength of Seattle’s defense.
The Seahawks forced four turnovers, three from Manning. Combine that with the five passes Seattle picked off from Peyton’s younger brother Eli and it means that in the eight quarters of football the Seahawks played at Met Life Stadium this season, they averaged a turnover a quarter from the Manning family.
Look at the players responsible for those turnovers. Kam Chancellor recorded the first interception. He was a fifth-round pick. It was Malcolm Smith, who returned the second interception 69 yards for a touchdown, breaking the game open. Smith was a seventh-round selection.
Then there was sixth-round choice Byron Maxwell perfectly punching the ball out from receiver Demaryius Thomas before the final turnover came on a forced fumble by defensive end Chris Clemons and recovered by Clinton McDonald, who was cut entering the first week of the season.
Yet somehow that defense built from so many overlooked and underestimated players turned in a performance that was completely and totally overwhelming.
And when it was over and Red Bryant stood on a field full of confetti, a cap proclaiming the Seahawks world champions on his head, the captain of this defense could say that he truly wasn’t surprised at just what had happened.
“I knew we were going to do it,” Bryant said. “I knew when we woke up this morning we were going to win. I knew we were going to continue to do what we’ve been doing all year. That’s silence the critics.
“Can’t nobody say we ain’t the best. Can’t nobody say that this wasn’t one of the best defenses to ever do it.”