I feel oddly envious of my fellow writers. They can think back with you all on being long-suffering fans, Seahawks fans who have had to wait 20, 30 years for this moment. Prior to the game I had a quick pub-stop with fellow Field Guller hazbro24, and he again tried to explain that Seattle mindset to me, one I just couldn't quite get; even if as fans you should feel confident or at least hopeful, Seattle fans always have those doomy clouds peaking over the horizon. "Nuh-huh, you're Seattle, no rings for you." But that Doom Has Been Lifted now, and you know now the wave is just gonna keep rolling. I'd honestly be surprised if this team isn't back for multiple Super Bowls.
Me, I'm not so long suffering. I joined during the Holmgren era and while we've had some bad years, I'm mostly used to the Seahawks being good. It's not even just that, I'm used to the Seahawks feeling like they have a plan, an identity, good people on staff, and they're going to get there. To me, this Super Bowl feels not just like the culmination of a story that started with Pete Carroll coming on board, it is the culmination of one of the NFL's better programs ever since Paul Allen came on board (along with freshly minted hall of famer Walter Jones, what a faithful year that was). So first and foremost I want to once again thank mr Allen, for not just saving the team but setting it up to become one of the NFL's better programs.
But on to the actual game...what in the Sam Hell just happened? Unstoppable force, meet unmovable object...and now you're a stoppable force. Did any one of you call we'd be blowing 'em out so much we'd have Tarvaris Jackson handing off to Robert Turbin for the final drive? If that isn't the most embarrassing sight for Broncos fans (and, let's be fair, neutral fans as well) I don't know what is. This isn't the Super Bowl anyone envisioned, the kind of blowout we haven't seen since the storyladen Bucs-Raiders Super Bowl, if not the good old-fashioned curb-stompings from the 90s. What a mess. What a ghastly sight!
So where did it start and end? Defense, where else. We'll do what we do best, you do what you do best, and let's see who ends up being the best at it (turns out it was us). It was fascinating but not unsurprising to see to what extent the defense was just playing the gameplan they play every game, with the energy they play with every game (well, perhaps turned up a little higher).
So why did it work? The answer is surprisingly easy, though as predicted it took a combination of every part working perfectly. But to my mind, this Super Bowl result starts and nearly ends with the defensive line play, and if it was my MVP to give it would likely have been for "Defensive Line, Seahawks" (I can't object to Smith getting it, whoever got it would just be standing in for the entire D, Avril or Chancellor or Clemons or whoever really would also have been fair). Manning was sacked only once - also the only sack of the game period - when Clemons fumble-sacked him in the fourth, but that doesn't tell you how much pressure he was under, or how little they could get done passing or rushing because the Seahawks defensive line just owned that offensive line up and down the field. Not a shocking outcome, but somewhat shocking the magnitude of the slaughterfest.
And how else would they do it but with a constant rotation? Michael Bennett led the DL with 47 snaps (68%), followed by Chris Clemons at 46, Clinton McDonald at 45, Cliff Avril at 41, Brandon Mebane at 23, O'Brien Schofield at 20, Tony McDaniel at 19 and Red Bryant with 18. Not necessarily the rotation you would have expected to start the game. It's a multi-headed monstrosity, our defensive line, and the Broncos never managed to find an answer, because the moment you think you have an answer another guy is running on the field with fresh legs and a head full of steam, ready to punch you in the face. There was no consistent pressure from one guy, from one side, there was nothing to focus on, it was just coming from every side all the time.
What truly set the tone was not just this pass rush but how quickly the Seahawks made it clear the most obvious answer was not going to work. Peyton Manning's first passes went for 2, 3, 6, 3, 7, 1 and 1 yard, before he finally had a 16-yarder to Wes Welker - also with pressure from Chris Clemons. This would have been semi-acceptable if a) they weren't already down 15-0 by the time they first passed midfield with that pass to Welker and b) weren't getting smacked and pressured on each of those throws. Kam Chancellor and the linebackers were doing their job guarding that short field, including the recognizable sight of KJ Wright single-covering a tight end. Bunches and pick plays - the two big "answers" the Broncos would have to our defense - were ineffective against these players in an efficient mix of man and zone. They set the rules early, no pass or run was going to be easy or risk-free, which made the rest of the game's one-sided domination possible...Apropos, I do apologize to Malcolm Smith for not including him when writing up the linebackers, not sure what I was thinking there. Smith ended up playing 34 snaps, 49% of defensive snaps, which make wonder if he's the first MVP to play less than half his unit's snaps.
It is not like the turnovers were particularly lucky or unusual plays; with each ugly wobbling duck throw by Manning you could see a defensive back running into to pick it off, with each reception there were two or three Seahawks tearing at the ball, and if you clearly had it Kam Chancellor would be on you within a second to knock you down. With nothing doing in the rungame either, thanks to a swarming, angry defense. This Super Bowl is reminiscent of the Bucs win in that sense too; this looked like a true Kiffin defense out there, not in their schemes or body types, but in their mindset; let em dink and dunk, swarm to the ball, prevent the big plays, outhit em, and sooner or later they're going to cough it up. A culmination, in other words, of everything Pete's been preaching for years and years.
With the dink and dunk and rungame clearly being insufficient answers, the question was what else the Broncos had? The answer's not much, so they just had to keep dink and dunking to nowhere. The defensive backfield played a picture-perfect game in coverage, the aggressive tight coverage we're used to seeing, from Sherman, Maxwell and Thurmond (who was having an excellent game, played 74% of the snaps, though he looked a bit less good when he had to sub in on the outside). Earl Thomas with his speed was near pretty much any throw Manning made, wherever it was on the field, he was running there to make the play if needed - but he rarely was, which tends to be a good sign.
But it's not like the Broncos were unmasked. I mean yeah, they're not as unstoppable as they looked, and holy shit is the AFC really *that* bad, but it's not like they're not a great offense. They are. They just met a defense that is flat-out better than them. This was like the final touch on the beautiful piece of art that is the Seattle Seahawks 2013 defensive season, one that is going to go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
Oh yeah and how about the offense...I guess? Wilson had an efficient line but also balled when called upon it, showing that baseline we're used to from him; managing the game when he's asked to, but also balling when he needs to. Lynch didn't do much but you know if he had been needed for 10 more carries he would've started cracking runs of 10, 20 yards, because that's how he rolls. The most unexpectedly impressive unit was likely the least talked-about, an offensive line that surprisingly kept Wilson almost completely clean, and while they couldn't get much done in the run-game, with the matchup of Knighton on Unger being the only one the Broncos actually dominated, they did what I would classify as "surprisingly well". (Since I've been mentioning snaps, you're probably curious how many Percy Harvin had, the answer is 29 on offense (48%), and 2 on special teams.)
But the offense was simply so unneeded in this game, it almost felt like they took the field just to give Peyton Manning and the beaten-up Broncos a rest. And I don't want to sound like I'm disrespecting our opponents, great team, great player, but this was just never a competitive game, with special teams adding some extra little gut-punches to make sure the Broncos (and the world) got the message.
Oh one last thing. Yeah, this game reminds me of the 2002-2003 Super Bowl quite a bit, #1 defense vs #1 offense ending in a 48-21 curbstomping by the dominant D. But what most amuses me is where the comparison falls apart: the Bucs were fast pushing 30, listing 6 starting guys on offense over 30 including a 34-year old journeyman QB, and 3 starters on defense over 30. The Hawks grand total of 30+ starters is Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson and Chris Clemons, with an average roster age a full two years younger. The future's as bright as the present. And the present's pretty damn bright.
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