The Seattle Seahawks were the looser and uninhibited team during Super Bowl week, exuding confidence and conviction that they were the better team in Super Bowl XLVIII.
And on Sunday night, on a cool but comfortable night at MetLife Stadium, the Seahawks proved it.
The Seahawks, who led the NFL in total defense, takeaways and fewest points allowed, crushed the Denver Broncos 43-8 and won the first NFL championship in the franchise’s 36-year history by the third-biggest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.
And the denizens of blue-clad 12th Man Seattle fans celebrated the first major league championship for the city since the Seattle SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA title.
“These guys would not take anything but a win in this ballgame,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who joined Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only men to win national championships at the college level and a Super Bowl title.
Denver’s top-ranked and highest-scoring offense was no match for Seattle’s fleet and swarming Legion of Boom defense that tormented Broncos quarterback and five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning into throwing two interceptions and hurrying other passes to covered receivers. In all, the Seahawks forced four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles.
In fact, the Seattle defense outscored the Denver offense 9-8.
“There was a reason why they were the No. 1 team in defense during the season,” said Broncos coach John Fox. “They had a lot to do with (disrupting Denver’s offense) with a combination of coverage and pass rush.”
The Seahawks killed Denver’s spirit at the start of each half.
They scored on a safety 12 seconds into the game — the fastest score in the history of the Super Bowl. And they matched that by scoring 12 seconds into the second half on Percy Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“All week, and even on the sidelines, we had a special return that we hadn’t put on film all year, and those guys told me I was going to score,” said Harvin, who missed most of the season with a hip injury and concussion. “It wasn’t just saying it to say it. Those guys believed I was going to get in the end zone. When I broke through, and I saw the end zone, I really couldn’t believe it.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes, and running back Marshawn Lynch scored on a 1-yard run.
“We believed we would get here,” said Wilson, who is now 28-9 in his two seasons as the Seahawks quarterback. “We had the talent. We had the coaching staff. The thing you want to do at the end of the season is play your best football, and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Seahawks dominated this game from the very first snap when Denver center Manny Ramirez’s shotgun snap sailed over Manning’s head and landed in the end zone where running back Knowshon Moreno fell on it for a safety.
“It was real loud, and none of us heard the snap count,” Ramirez said. “I thought I did when I snapped it, but I guess Peyton was actually trying to walk up to me at the time, I’m not 100 percent sure.
“It kind of put us on our back right off the bat. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to recover at all.”
Seattle built an insurmountable 22-0 halftime lead when game MVP Malcolm Smith reacted to a wobbly pass by Manning, intercepted it and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown with 3:21 to play in the half.
It was the first time the Broncos failed to score in a half all season.
Denver finally scored on the last play of the third quarter when Manning hit Thomas with a 14-yard touchdown pass and Wes Welker with a two-point conversion. The Broncos, who averaged 37.9 points per game, never scored fewer than 20 in a game during the regular season and two playoff games.
But they had never faced a defense like Seattle’s.
“The team deserves it,” said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, the lightning rod of the team for his pointed comments and gestures two weeks ago following the NFC championship gameago. “The Legion of Boom, baby, I hope we etched our names in the history books.
“This was the No. 1 offense in the history of the NFL, and we were able to play a good game against them.”
That was an understatement, even for Richard Sherman.