No one was completely stunned to see the Seahawks defeat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. After all, the Broncos were just a slight favorite heading into the game. It was the way in which Seattle ran the table in all phases of the game that baffled so many in a 43-8 route. With such a lopsided result, we have to wonder just what went wrong.
To break this game down, we’ll start with offense, which is where Denver’s game went horribly wrong from the first play of the game. Aside from an inability to attack the Seahawks on the ground, the Broncos were never even able to push the Seahawks down the field.
Looking at Peyton Manning’s statistics alone, you wouldn’t imagine the Broncos were blown out in such dramatic fashion. Manning completed just under 75% of his passes for just under 300 yards and a touchdown. His two interceptions definitely hurt, but by themselves, they shouldn’t have accounted for such a huge loss.
The simple problem the Broncos ran into was that they weren’t able to push anything vertically on Seattle’s defense. Manning averaged just 5.7 yards per pass attempt compared to Russell Wilson’s 8.2 average for the Seahawks. In short, Seattle gave up some yards, but by forcing the Broncos to complete long drives instead of striking with a few huge plays down the field.
Defensively, the Broncos were a mess. They were able to slow down the Seahawks’ rushing attack, but Denver was unable to keep Wilson and the passing attack in check. Usually, the Broncos are able to outrun their opponents early and force them to play catch up throughout the game, but due to so many offensive problems, the Seahawks were able to score on short fields all night long.
Early in the game, Denver’s defense was able to hold the Seahawks in check by forcing them to settle for a pair of field goals instead of getting touchdowns, but they were on the field too much throughout the game to hold Seattle back. The Seahawks ultimately only won the battle for time of possession by about four minutes, but the first half was very lopsided in favor of Seattle’s old-school approach.
Then, to begin the second half, Denver was ready to try to make a run back into the game, but their special teams unit failed them. Trailing 22-0, the Broncos decided to kick a high, short kickoff in hopes of containing Percy Harvin. He promptly punished them with 87-yard touchdown return that pushed the Seahawks’ advantage to 29-0. Sure, it didn’t exactly impact the outcome of the game, but that was when the game became downright out of hand. Until that point, it seemed as if the Broncos could still make a run, but trailing four touchdowns to the best defense in the league was asking too much.
When we think of Super Bowl XLVIII in the future, we’ll remember it not just as a blowout game, but also as a team victory for the Seahawks and a team failure for the Broncos. For a team to lose in the Super Bowl so terribly, everything has to go wrong, and that’s what happened to the Broncos. There was no one player that cost them the game, and there was no single-handed performance that pushed the Seahawks through.