Everyday people will ask a host of different questions ranging from why is the sky blue. To what is that on the end of my finger? More than often there is no one answer to these hard hitting life questions but just in case you ever wondered what was better offence or defence, then you have to wonder no longer, because clearly the answer is defence.
I’ve wrote about the Super Bowl XLVIII matchup between the best offence ever in league history (statistically speaking) and one of the best defences ever to play the game (certainly the best I’ve ever seen). Something had to give; only one of these two behemoths was going to walk away with the privilege of being crowned the champions for the season, and the match was primed perfectly for a classic Super Bowl. However what we ended up with was a total blow out of the highest proportions. I personally was supporting the Seahawks but couldn’t help but feel disappointed when I saw Percy Harvin take the second half kick-off in to the end zone, it meant the highly competitive game that I was hoping for was never going to materialise and that instead we had a damp squib on our hands.
In the preview that I wrote for the Super Bowl I commented that I thought it would be a tight game and because of that it would suit the Seahawks better than it would suit the Broncos. I also felt that there was an outside chance that the game would be too big for Wilson and therefore the Broncos would be able to run up a score off of his mistakes and win the match. I could see many scenarios where either team would win, the one that I didn’t see coming was the Seahawks blowing out the Broncos in such a vicious manner. This was pure domination. This was humiliation. This was how you play football. The Seahawks dominated on all three fronts, it was a complete performance that only lacked in mistakes. The Seahawks man for man outplayed the Broncos and made them look more like the Houston Texans than a team that broke all sorts of offensive records in the regular season. The Broncos players will be having nightmares about this game for the rest of their lives, and rightly so, the way the Seahawks beat up on them was criminal.
For me there were a number of key moments in the game which really set the tone for how things were going to go. The first of these was unsurprisingly from the first play from scrimmage, the now infamous safety. I don’t know what happened, was it Peyton’s fault or the centre’s? On the face of things it very much seemed like the centre’s fault to me, but I think you can actually blame the coaches for this as well. Clearly they thought they would be playing in the regular calm corporate Super Bowl atmosphere, not the very noisy MetLife Stadium. Several times throughout the game I was blown back by just how noisy the crowd were, it almost felt like I was watching a game in Seattle. The Seahawks fans showed up to party, make noise and give their team all the advantages in the world, I don’t think that the Broncos had anticipated such a hostile atmosphere and that is why they were so taken aback by it in the early part of the game, and that is where I think this colossal early mistake was generated from.
The second key moment for me was when Russell Wilson ran a bootleg to the right and missed his wide open receiver (Zach Miller I think) in the flat. As soon as this happened I thought to myself ‘oh shit, he’s got the jitters’, and so he did, as he made a string of unusual decisions in that first drive. The problem was that instead of seeing that and capitalising on a young player who is on the biggest stage for the first time in his very short career, the Broncos plodded along not doing anything. Wilson was clearly edgy, he would have become more so if he started to get hit a bunch of times, ok maybe you give up a big play but you let him know you’re there and that will be repaid later in the game when he is still on edge. Instead they allowed Wilson to become comfortable and he ended up having a very solid game. Wilson and the O-line were the two potentially weak spots in the Seahawks armoury, and the Broncos didn’t do enough to take advantage of these weaknesses.
The third key play for me may seem like an odd one, it isn’t the interception that Manning threw to Chancellor or even the pick six, but rather with the score at 22-0 and inside the two minute warning within a makeable field goal range the Broncos decided to go for it on 4th & 2. Why is this a key play? Well quite simply when the Broncos didn’t decide to put a score on the board with the chance of possibly giving themselves some momentum heading into half time it showed that they thought they couldn’t stop this Seahawks team. Imagine if you are in that situation, you have been totally dominant in the first half, you receive the ball to start the second and your opponent is within field goal range to get on the board for the first time in the game. If they kick that field goal it means that they think that they can beat you in the second half, if they go for it it means that they don’t think they can stop your offence from taking the game away from them. Imagine the morale boost which that alone gives your opposition, then imagine it doubled when you fail to convert the fourth down; all in all it leads to a disaster. If they went for it and got it and that had catapulted the Broncos on to win the game, then I’m sure that I would be sitting here writing about how brave that was and they should’ve went for the points but they had the cajones to do something different and that won them the game, and that is the risks that sport entails, if they had succeeded it’s genius but they failed and they end up looking stupid. They should have kicked the field goal.
The final key play in the game for me was the first play in the second half and is another play that cost the Broncos points. The Broncos took a funny kick off so as to get the ball out of Harvin’s hands, and I liked the decision. It looked even better when Harvin still was the one to field it and it took a high bounce into the air before he had time to collect it. At that moment I had fears that he was going to be absolutely clobbered by some guy which would highly likely end in a fumble and a huge momentum swing. Instead the Broncos special teams lost all discipline leaving a hole as wide as Rosie O’Donnell for Harvin to run through, it was then hurt even further by three (yes three) Broncos players over pursuing the ball and basically running straight past Harvin leaving the kicker to make a pathetic attempt at a tackle (he also should have done a better job) and then Harvin to run in for the score. That was it, the game was over, as were any slight hopes the Broncos had of a comeback. The kick off had danger signs all over it for the Seahawks initially but they turned it into a game winning play, something they did throughout the game.
There were other big plays which I felt impacted the game as well, such as Kam Chancellor’s mammoth hit on Demariyus Thomas at the start of the game (setting the tone for how the Seahawks would play) or the play in which Knowshon Moreno got sandwiched and knocked out of the game after yet another Manning dump off (which epitomised how the Broncos had performed all day). In case you haven’t noticed all of these key moments went the way of the Seahawks, not really surprising when you consider the score.
Stats are the key which opens the door to understanding how a game unfolded. You can look at any NFL game and get a very good picture of what happened in the game by looking at the stats. The Super Bowl was no different from any other game, with the stats giving a clear indication of where each team succeeded and failed in their attempts to lift the Lombardi trophy.
The first stat that springs to mind for me is that the Broncos only scored 8 points. This is the same Broncos which broke scoring record after scoring record, the one which moved the ball with general ease throughout the season. The previous lowest scoring total for the Broncos with Peyton Manning was 15. 15 points was their lowest total in two years, yet they wait till they reach the biggest stage to stink the joint up and make themselves look silly. What is even more embarrassing for the Broncos is that the Seahawks defence scored more points than the Broncos offence.
The second stat which says a lot about the game is good ol’ turnovers. Manning threw two interceptions (one being a pick 6) and the Broncos also lost two fumbles. However this is all the worst when you consider that they also recovered two fumbles (one for a safety) and they also had a fumble over turned on review. That’s potentially seven turnovers in one game, now you could credit the Seahawks for a lot of the pressure they put the Broncos under, but you also have to criticise the Broncos for playing such a lacklustre and ill prepared game. How many turnovers or chances of a turnover did the Seahawks have? Zero. That says it all.
Marshawn Lynch was held to 39 yards on 15 carries (a 2.6 average); if you had told me that prior to the game and asked me to guess who won, then it would have been an easy one, the Broncos. Lynch has nowhere to run all game and the defence was very stingy when he was handed the ball, but by totally concentrating on what Lynch was doing the Broncos defence forgot to deal with the other Seahawks on the field. Twice Percy Harvin gashed them on big outside runs, numerous times they were caught sleeping on third down and worst of all they barely touched Wilson all game (0 sacks). Even with Lynch struggling in the game the Seahawks still rushed for an impressive 135 yards, compare that to the Broncos pitiful 27 yards and you start to see how things sort of went in the game. Now to be fair to the Broncos they did have to abandon the run game in the second half, but even when the game was still on the line they couldn’t run the ball, putting more pressure on a quarterback who struggled all night.
The final stat that sticks out to me is Eric Decker, 1 catch, 6 yards. The same Eric Decker who was a 1000 yard receiver and had double digit touchdowns the past two years, but he was totally anonymous in the game. Demariyus Thomas and Wes Welker did the brunt of all the lifting as Decker and Julius Thomas as well struggled to compete against an aggressive Seattle defence. Arguably Decker is Denver’s third best receiver, but in the big games you need all your star players to stand up and be counted, sadly for the Broncos Decker got lost in a crowd of angry birds from the west coast.
I actually don’t think that the Broncos defence played that poorly, they were given a guff hand in which they had to play and played it to the best of their ability. They thought that by stopping Lynch that it would be enough to win them the game; sadly for them they had not anticipated Wilson playing solid and the Seahawks receivers and defence playing such a strong game. Look at the scoring when the Seahawks go 29-0 up; 2 points for a safety, 7 for a pick 6 and 7 for a kick-off return, that means that the actual defence had only given up 13 points, with 3 of those coming off the safety and another 7 coming off of Manning’s first interception. I don’t think it’s an excuse because in my opinion they let the Seahawks offence settle into the game too much, they also couldn’t get off of the field on third down and when the game was over they quit letting the Seahawks run the score up, but the Broncos defence (the supposedly weaker side of the ball) were not the reason the Broncos lost the Super Bowl.
Going on from that I don’t actually think it was Peyton Manning’s fault either, yes he will receive all the blame, and he does deserve some of it, but it was really the offensive line which caused all of the Broncos problems. The o-line set the tone of the game with the early safety, and their play didn’t improve there either. Although they only yielded one sack in garbage time, it is hard to ignore the fact that Manning was under duress the entire game, from a team that isn’t known for its blitzing. You can’t blame anyone but Peyton on the first interception, it was just a bad throw, but the second one was down to the line not giving him enough time and his receivers not getting open. The o-line also did almost nothing in the running game, which is really dependent on the Broncos having a strong passing attack, so isn’t really surprising. Have you ever seen Manning dump the ball off so often? I don’t think I have either, now that could be down to the Seahawks excellent coverage but it was also down to the receivers not making separation. Only Demariyus Thomas got open consistently, and against a defence like the Seahawks you can’t rely on just one man to get the job done. Manning by no means played well and as the quarterback he will always get the brunt of the blame, but he wasn’t the main culprit on the Broncos offence, he was just one of many players who didn’t show up.
As an odd side note to the Broncos losing this game, it also happens to be the third time that Wes Welker has made it to the Super Bowl only to end up on the losing side of the result. What is even more remarkable is that Welker played in two record breaking passing offences, yet both times when it came to the Super Bowl neither team was able to replicate that kind of form when it mattered. I don’t think it is Welker’s fault at all, but he is beginning to look like a bit of a poisoned chalice, however one I’m sure a lot of teams would still risk taking a sip out of.
So what’s next for both teams? Is this the start of a Seahawks dynasty? They are certainly a young enough and talented enough group of individuals for this to be a legitimate question, and unlike the Ravens last year you wouldn’t be overly shocked if they did retain their crown next year. The one thing standing in the way of the Seahawks though is their tough division and to be more precise the San Francisco 49ers. There is no doubt in my mind that the best conference in the NFL is the NFC, and for me the best division is also the NFC West. That competition will make the Seahawks better, but it will also make it much harder for them to get to the big stage year after year. The Broncos on the other hand are a team which totally relies upon one player, and sadly for them it is a player who is in the twilight of his career and has major question marks over his health and fitness. Can Manning still zip the ball when it is late in the season? I’m not so sure, I think the Broncos probably wish they had pulled him earlier in a few games, rather than letting him run up the score and break records. I think the Broncos are probably in decline now and this was their one big chance of winning it all. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that the other AFC teams will be better next year, and more importantly for the Broncos I think the Chiefs will be better next year. The future looks bright for the Seahawks but I don’t think it looks nearly as bright over in Colorado.
What does the Seahawks mean for other teams in the NFL? I think that this result will make teams like the Browns, Jets and Chiefs stand up and take notice; you can win the Super Bowl with a strong defence and running game, in fact maybe the old adage is true, defence wins championships.
To finish off I would like to state my delight at seeing someone who isn’t a quarterback win the Super Bowl MVP, and no less a defensive player. As is tradition though the voters still managed to give it to the wrong person, as it really should have been Kam Chancellor who really had an outstanding performance, although to be fair you could say that about most of the Seahawks defence.
So what did you think of Super Bowl XLVIII? I think we can all agree that the right team won, but do you think that this is a change in how the NFL is being played? Leave a comment and let your feelings be known. Plus find all the latest bm23sportsreviews updates on Facebook and Twitter.