Russell Wilson followed the same blueprint he's used for most of his two-year NFL career — play smart, efficient, error-free football. He kept the chains and clock moving — he also put the ball into the end zone twice — and didn't give the Broncos any opportunities to stem the surging Seattle tide.
Five-time MVP Peyton Manning gets the lion's share of the credit when things go well and the bulk of the blame when they don't. His pair of interceptions, including the one Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith returned 69 yards for a 22-0 Seattle lead, changed the complexion of this game. But it must be noted that DE Cliff Avril penetrated the Denver O-line on both occasions to alter Manning's throws. Regardless, it was a forgettable day for No. 18, who never managed to put the Broncos on his broad shoulders and dig the team out of a first-quarter hole it never escaped. This game will do nothing to burnish his legacy, a main topic of speculation in the weeks leading up to the game.
Steady as she goes. Whether it was converting third downs, drawing key penalties, pinballing through the defense for a TD (nice job, Jermaine Kearse) or even running the ball, Seattle's maligned receivers completely outplayed their highly touted Denver counterparts. Marshawn Lynch was limited to 39 yards on 15 carries, but he did break through for a TD seven plays after Manning's first interception.
The offensive line started terribly when C Manny Ramirez botched the first snap of the game for a safety, and the unit was consistently overwhelmed by Seattle's never-ending wave of pass rushers. The run game that had so effectively controlled the clock in the first two playoff rounds and had allowed Manning to keep defenders off balance was virtually non-existent. WR Demaryius Thomas finished with decent numbers (13 catches, 118 yards) and did finally find the end zone, but his third-quarter fumble effectively ended any remote chance for a Denver comeback.
Will it now rank with the '85 Bears, 2000 Ravens and Steel Curtain when NFL historians rank the best units in league history? Avril, Smith and SS Kam Chancellor were the brightest lights Sunday as the Seahawks smothered Manning, picked him off and delivered knockout blow after knockout blow to Denver's skill players. CB Richard Sherman's name wasn't called much, but neither were the names of the receivers he was erasing from the Denver game plan before he departed with a fourth-quarter injury.
Denver did a nice job limiting Lynch, Seattle's most important offensive player. But it stood little chance to thrive after its own offense put it behind the eight ball from the jump. By the time Kearse ricocheted in for his TD and a 36-0 third-quarter lead, the Broncos D looked beaten.
Percy Harvin nailed the Denver coffin shut with the first touchdown of his Seattle career when he started the second half with an 87-yard kickoff return for a 29-0 lead. K Steven Hauschka was his usual steady self, allowing Seattle to build a lead with two first-quarter field goals. The coverage units were also spectacular.
Denver had the league's worst kickoff coverage team in the regular season, and it verified that status by allowing Harvin to effectively end the game to start the second half. Trindon Holliday repeatedly undermined the offense with ill-advised kickoff returns, the first preceding the safety on Denver's first play from scrimmage at its own 14.
Some questioned Sherman's outlandish personality and Lynch's reticent one prior to the game. But Carroll never tried to govern his team's exuberant persona, and the Seahawks played free and easy Sunday on their way to the franchise's first title in its 38-year history.
John Fox's team never came close to solving Seattle on either side of the ball. His players looked tight and, at times, intimidated. Hard to entirely lay a dud of a performance at Fox's feet, but a team that smashed records on its way to Super Sunday got smashed upon arrival.