Super Bowl XLVIII turned into a downer for football fans outside of Seattle. It was hyped up to be one of the best Super Bowl matchups in years: both top seeds from each conference and the NFL’s No. 1 offense versus the No. 1 defense. Instead, the Seahawks scored on the game’s first play from scrimmage and never looked back in a 43-8 rout of the Denver Broncos. Nevertheless, it is always fun to look back at one of the greatest sporting events in the world. Here is the best of a Seahawks-dominated Super Bowl XLVIII:
Best Seahawks Player (Other than Malcolm Smith): Percy Harvin
Harvin had played in only two games all season (including postseason) due to an August labrum tear in his hip and a concussion suffered in the NFC Divisional Round, forcing him to miss the conference championship game against San Francisco. But being injured all season did not slow Percy Harvin down in the biggest game of his career. Instead he thrived from the beginning, gaining 15 and 30 yards respectively on jet sweeps in the first quarter. On the 30-yard carry, Harvin was only a step out-of-bounds away from taking it the distance. However, he would not be denied his chance for another explosive play, which came on the second half’s opening kickoff. Although Broncos kicker Matt Prater appeared to be kicking away from Harvin with a pooch kick, Harvin was able to corral the ball off one bounce. He went straight up the seam through the Broncos kickoff unit, and was able to make his last man, Prater, miss. The explosiveness and playmaking ability from Harvin was the only aspect lacking from the Seahawks squad all season, but Harvin provided exactly that on Sunday.
Best Play: Malcolm Smith Pick-Six
Trailing 15-0, Denver was desperately looking for some points to go into the locker room with a small dose of momentum. The Broncos offense was methodically moving the ball down the field for the first time against the resilient Seattle defense. On the 16th play of the drive, the Seahawks were able to force a 3rd and 13 at the Seattle 35-yard line with 3:37 left in the first half. It was already the fifth third-down that the Broncos had faced on the drive. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took a shotgun snap and three-step drop before immediately feeling pressure from both sides as Seattle defensive ends Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons drove back both Denver offensive tackles. Avril was able to hit Manning just as he released the ball, which popped the ball in the air. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith jumped in front of Denver running back Knowshon Moreno and caught the ball with a full head of steam running the other way. Smith was able to take the interception back untouched and break open the contest, allowing the Seahawks to take a 22-0 lead at halftime. That play – along with ten tackles and a fumble recovery – propelled Smith to Super Bowl MVP honors, the first defensive player to win the award since 2002.
Best Moment: Bruno Mars Halftime Show
It is difficult to have a best moment in a blowout, even if it is in the Super Bowl. Therefore, it may be fair to label the Super Bowl halftime show as the best moment from Sunday evening. Bruno Mars, who donned a skinny, old-school tie and gold jacket, was great as his stylish self. He was energetic and delivered just like in his performance at the Grammy’s only a few weeks ago. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were okay, but Mars’s voice is made for a live audience and made him the star of the show. Additionaly, the troops dedicating “Just the Way You Are” to their significant others and telling them that they would be home soon was very powerful.
Best Number: 12
Obviously, the Seahawks rode their fabled “12th Man” all the way to the Super Bowl title last Sunday night, but the number didn’t stop there. The loss by Peyton Manning was an NFL-record 12th postseason loss for the future Hall-of-Famer, passing Brett Favre who totaled 11 career playoff defeats. Seattle Seahawks general manager and University of St. Thomas graduate John Schneider demonstrated his prowess in the NFL Draft, as 12 of the 22 Seahawk starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the fourth round or later. Aside from that, only 12 players were drafted after seventh round selection Malcolm Smith (242nd pick overall) was picked by the Seahawks in the 2011 NFL draft. But perhaps the most significant of all the “12’s” is that it took the Seahawks only 12 seconds to take the lead of Super Bowl XLVIII after an errant snap by Broncos center Manny Ramirez sailed over the head of Peyton Manning only to be recovered by running back Moreno in the endzone. The Seahawks held the lead for the remaining 59:48 of the ballgame, the longest time with a lead in Super Bowl history.
Best Broncos Player: Demaryius Thomas
It is difficult to name a best player on a team that lost a game by 35 points, but Thomas was far and away the biggest contributor in a Broncos uniform. Although Thomas did not receive a Super Bowl ring this season, he did break a Super Bowl record by catching 13 passes (the previous mark was 11). The record-breaking 12th catch came on the final play of the third quarter when Manning rifled a pass to Thomas on a skinny post for a 14-yard touchdown and the Broncos’ only score. Thomas finished the game with 118 yards receiving and proved that he is among the elite wide receivers in the game today.
Best Underrated Performance: Cliff Avril
Surprisingly, the Cliff Avril versus Orlando Franklin matchup may have ultimately decided the Super Bowl. Avril, the Seahawks’ left defensive end, was signed last offseason as a free agent on a two-year, $13 million contract after the Detroit Lions opted not to re-sign him. The pass-rusher may not have won Super Bowl MVP honors, but he was a disruptive force getting to Manning consistently. The stats may not reflect his impact—he finished with three tackles, two batted passes, and two quarterback hits—however, Manning never appeared comfortable due to Avril’s persistent rush. Avril’s most impactful play came on the 3rd and 13 when he hit Manning as he was throwing the ball, which caused the renowned pick-six by Malcolm Smith. Further, it was Avril who screamed around the corner and was in Manning’s face when he forced the ball over the middle and was intercepted by Kam Chancellor late in the first quarter. Only five years ago, Avril was a rookie and part of an 0-16 Detroit Lions squad; now, he is a Super Bowl champion.
Best Stat: The last six MVP award winners to appear in the Super Bowl that season lost.
Unfortunately for Peyton Manning, he is the last two of those six MVP’s to lose in the Super Bowl. Manning, who was awarded the 2013 NFL’s Most Valuable Player of the Year honor last Saturday night at the ‘NFL Honors’ award show, was on his heels all night long against the physical Seahawks defense. (He also lost the Super Bowl versus New Orleans after winning the 2009 MVP as a member of the Colts). Manning was consistently pressured by a four-man Seattle rush, and he was never given sufficient time to scan the field for any kind of explosive play. He finished the game with 34 completions, a new Super Bowl record, and threw for 280 yards and a touchdown. However, much like in the New Orleans contest when Manning threw the game-deciding pick-six to Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, he will be remembered in this Super Bowl for the backbreaking interception return by Malcolm Smith.
Best Commercial: Budweiser Puppy Love
Overall, the commercials were not much better than the game, as countless critics rated it one of the worst years for commercial in Super Bowl history. However, Anheuser-Busch ran away with the best commercial—again. It is the 12th time in the last 14 years that Anheuser-Busch earned one of the most coveted U.S. advertising honors, winning USA TODAY’s consumer-judged Ad Meter for Super Bowl commercials. Surprisingly, the ad appeared with only two minutes left in the blowout, so it is likely that a large portion of the audience had already turned off the television. The commercial is about a courageous puppy that continuously returns home to the majestic Clydesdale horse that it loves. The ad is similar to the Budweiser commercial that dominated the field in last year’s Super Bowl and also won the Ad Meter, when a savvy horse kept returning to its trainer.