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Super Bowl 48 flashback: The Seahawks defense was great, but so was Russell Wilson

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s been three years and one day since the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLIII, giving the franchise its first ever Lombardi Trophy. Seattle led for literally all but twelve seconds of the game, an achievement that is extremely unlikely to be broken.

The Seahawks defense was deservedly the story of the Super Bowl. It stifled one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, and made Peyton Manning look less-than-ordinary. Denver had an actual drive (eventually leading to the Malcolm Smith pick-6) where they couldn’t manage 50 yards on 15 plays!

Simply put, this was one of the greatest defensive performances ever, and it firmly established the 2013 Seattle defense as belonging with the other all-time greats (2002 Buccaneers, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, etc.). My only wish from this season was for Marcus Trufant to have stayed on the roster as CB depth, thereby ensuring at least one Seahawks player from the 2005 team gets a ring.

This piece isn’t for waxing poetic about the defense, though. I want to highlight the somewhat overlooked play of Russell Wilson, whose final statline (18-26, 205 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers, 0 sacks) really doesn’t accurately depict how well he played.

Leading up to the big game, Wilson had been (by his standards) in a bit of a slump. He turned in a phenomenal outing on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdown passes in a 34-7 romp. After that, his next six games ranged from bad to good-ish.

While the Seattle defense was in peak form, the passing game was drunkenly stumbling around the field when faced with a slew of top-ten (DVOA) pass defenses. Denver was ranked 21st, and didn’t have either Von Miller or Chris Harris Jr. available due to their respective season-ending injuries.

Any concerns about Wilson’s struggles perhaps seeped into the Seahawks’ opening drive (following Seattle’s safety dance), as #3 tossed a really simple rollout throw over the head of a wide open Zach Miller.

That’s about the only negative from Wilson’s performance at MetLife Stadium. In fact, he went 7-8 for 84 yards (and 2 TDs) the rest of the way on 1st down passes. Wilson’s early misfire set up 2nd and 15, but consecutive completions to Jermaine Kearse put the Seahawks in the red zone. Seattle would eventually kick a field goal to go up 5-0.

While the defense was suffocating the life out of the Broncos offense and deflating Peyton’s monstrous forehead, Denver’s ninth-ranked run defense was busy keeping Marshawn Lynch in check. Lynch’s first four carries went totaled four yards, and he eventually finished the game with fewer rushing yards (38) than Percy Harvin (45). Wilson had to be sharp and convert critical 3rd downs on a regular basis. On the team’s second possession, Wilson converted 3rd and 6 to Golden Tate, then 3rd and 4 to Doug Baldwin. Seattle was faced with 3rd and 5 from Denver’s 43, and then this happened:

Shit. Just. Got. Real.

Doug Baldwin, one of many pedestrian receivers on the Seahawks roster, schooled the great Champ Bailey for a gain of 37 yards, which would prove to be the longest offensive play from scrimmage for either team. Seattle again would settle for a field goal to go up 8-0. It could’ve been 12-0 if not for a great pass breakup by Nate Irving, who denied Jermaine Kearse a touchdown grab.

Following Kam Chancellor’s interception, which handed the Seahawks a short field, Marshawn Lynch scored the game’s first touchdown. Wilson’s best play of the entire drive was really just an end zone throw to Golden Tate, who was interfered with by Tony Carter.

With 12:08 to go before halftime, Wilson was 9-14 for 94 yards. Again, not flashy, but all of his completions gained at least 5 yards (a major plus with Lynch’s ineffectiveness), and he extended two of Seattle’s first three drives with timely 3rd down conversions. The much-maligned offensive line — the obvious asterisk here is that Von Miller didn’t play in this game, but who cares? — was nothing short of superb in pass protection. Wilson’s off-target throw to Miller aside, he looked comfortable, poised, sharp, accurate, and was consistently throwing on time with decisiveness. These aren’t awe-inspiring throws, but they sure as hell got the job done!

Following Lynch’s touchdown, Wilson wouldn’t throw another pass over the next 17:10 of game time, as Denver ran 34 of the next 36 offensive plays. The score swelled from 15-0 to 29-0 thanks to Malcolm Smith and Percy Harvin, but at least the Broncos were killin’ it in the time of possession battle.

Lynch was still a non-factor (apart from an 18-yard romp with his first carry of the 2nd half), so the Seahawks didn’t bleed the clock by repeatedly running the ball. Oh what to do, what to do. Well to make sure the high-powered Denver offense has no hope of coming back, it was time for Wilson and company to have some fun and let loose.

Wilson finished the game a staggering 7-of-8 for 82 yards on 3rd down, with all but one of his completions leading to a conversion. Four of those conversions happened in the opening quarter. In Wilson’s previous six games, he was 30-of-57 for 322 yards, one touchdown pass, no interceptions, and 8 (!) sacks taken.

One of my fondest memories watching this historic Super Bowl romp was the fluidity of the Seattle passing attack. Wilson was a second-year starter who performed like a season veteran. The overall performance of the defense from the onset meant that Wilson was never in the running for MVP. I guess you could say that Smith and Harvin prevented Wilson from putting up even greater numbers, because they kept him off the field by scoring non-offensive touchdowns.

For those who want to relive the greatest night in Seahawks history, the full game is available to watch here. It’s worth every second of your time.