By Danny O'Neil
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Yes, Seattle. That just happened.
The Seahawks scored on the first play from scrimmage in the first half, a fact made all the more remarkable because the Broncos had the ball when it happened. They scored on the first play of the second half when Percy Harvin returned the kickoff 87 yards. Turns out that it wasn't the weather that spoiled the suspense of this year's Super Bowl, but an avalanche of Seattle points.
The return of Percy Harvin – and the (kick) return of Harvin – had a huge impact in the Seahawks' 43-8 Super Bowl victory over the Broncos. (AP)
Seattle 43, Denver 8. Or Seahawks XLIII, Broncos VII if we're sticking with the Roman theme.
Seattle scored 12 seconds into the first half on a safety, the Seahawks scored 12 seconds into the second half on Harvin's return, and the Seahawks defense first stifled, then muffled and ultimately silenced the league's top offense in Denver at a game attended by 82,529 fans, watched by a nation and relished by a city that waited nearly 40 years to win its first Super Bowl.
Eight years ago, the Seahawks felt they were robbed against the Steelers. This time it was a rout, which left the entire city pinching itself. The unprecedented expectations that Seattle carried into this season only made Sunday's victory more fulfilling, and a six-month journey ended in a game that was more like a parade. Or maybe a coronation. Seattle led by 36 points before Denver scored. Marshawn Lynch was held to 17 yards rushing in the first half and still Seattle led 22-0 at halftime.
It started innocently enough, Denver center Manny Ramirez snapping the ball over Peyton Manning's right shoulder as the quarterback came to the line to call out a change. Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety, and Seattle had a lead it would never lose, adding two field goals and then a touchdown on Marshawn Lynch's 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and when linebacker Malcolm Smith caught a pass that fluttered out from a pressured Manning and returned it 69 yards, the rout was on.
Seattle outgained Denver 148 yards to 11 yards in the first quarter. The Seahawks intercepted two passes from Manning, scored on the safety that resulted from the errant snap and didn't commit a single turnover. Denver failed to score in the first quarter only three times this season in the regular season and the playoffs. The Broncos didn't have a first down in the opening period, holding the ball for just 3 of the first 15 minutes of the game.
There have been larger halftime leads in the Super Bowl, most notably the Broncos' 25-point deficit against Washington in Super Bowl XXII, but there has never been a team that has trailed by more than 10 points in any Super Bowl to come back and win.
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns in the second half, first to Jermaine Kearse and then to Doug Baldwin, and by that point the only question was the final margin. Wilson left the game with just over 3 minutes left, replaced by Tavaris Jackson.
The significance: Well, let's see, only the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history, and the first championship since 1979 for a Seattle team in one of the country's three major pro-sports leagues. Not only that, but Seattle muzzled a Denver offense that never scored fewer than 20 points this season.
Play of the game: Percy Harvin has returned two kickoffs for the Seahawks this season. The first one went for 58 yards in Week 11. The second one he ran back 87 yards for a touchdown, the longest kickoff return in the playoffs in franchise history.
Turning point: With 3:36 left in the second quarter, Seattle had a 15-0 lead, but Denver had the ball at the Seattle 35. A touchdown and the Broncos would have made a game of it. Well, a touchdown for the Broncos it should be said. Instead, Cliff Avril got a great pass rush on third-and-13, collapsing the pocket into Manning, who was unable to step into the throw and let go a wobbler that Malcolm Smith caught and returned 69 yards for a touchdown.
Player of the game: Defensive end Cliff Avril won't show up on the scoresheet for either of Seattle's first-half interceptions, but he should. He was closing on Peyton Manning from behind, knocking him down just after releasing a pass he arced too high, overthrowing tight end Julius Thomas into the arms of strong safety Kam Chancellor. Avril collapsed the pocket into Manning on the pass that came fluttering out, intercepted by Malcolm Smith and returned 69 yards for a touchdown to put Seattle ahead 22-0.
The good: Seattle scored a safety on the first play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning walking up to the line to reset the play as the center snapped it. Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno recovered it in the Broncos' own end zone for a safety. Denver – which scored in the first quarter of all but three games in the regular season – didn't have a first down in the first quarter. Seattle intercepted Peyton Manning twice in the first half. Combine that with the five times Eli Manning was intercepted by Seattle at this very same stadium back in December, and Seattle had seven interceptions from the Manning family in the span of six quarters.
The bad: Seattle was penalized four times in the first quarter for 35 yards. Marshawn Lynch carried 11 times for 17 yards in the first half.
The ugly: What Seattle did to opposing offenses starting in December. Seattle didn't allow any of its final eight opponents to score so much as 20 points in a run that was absolutely remarkable. Denver outgained Seattle 112 yards to 18 in the second quarter in what might have been the most meaningless statistic of the game as Seattle scored two touchdowns, the first one set up by a Manning interception and the second one off a Manning interception.
Seattle: CB Richard Sherman left the game in the fourth quarter, unable to put the full weight on his right leg. CB Walter Thurmond was also banged up in the fourth quarter and left the game. C Max Unger left the game with 7 minutes left in the game. S Kam Chancellor left the game for five plays in the first half , but returned. Cornerback Jeremy Lane was shaken up on a special-teams play, but also returned.
Denver: LB Paris Lenon was shaken up in the fourth quarter.
Seattle: TE Kellen Davis, RB Christine Michael, OL Michael Bowie, WR Bryan Walters, OL Caylinn Hauptmann, DE Benson Mayowa, DT Jordan Hill.
Denver: RB Ronnie Hillman, TE Joel Dreessen, OT Vinston Painter, DT Sione Fua, G Chris Kuper, QB Zac Dysert and QB Quentin Jammer.