A Super Dud
Issue   |   Tue, 02/04/2014 - 23:19

Expectations were a mile high for Super Bowl XLVIII; a promising matchup pitting thetop seeds from each conference against each other in the nation’s biggest city.

The hype assured an unforgettable game. Many predicted a “blizzard bowl” with treacherously frigid conditions. Pundits expected that the weather would be a determining factor in a team’s success in the Super Bowl. Cold temperatures supposedly favoring Seattle and their number top ranked defense, while warmer temperatures favoring Denver and their top ranked offense.

The day of the Bowl, the weather was clear and in the 40s, giving the Broncos the supposed “advantage”; however, it proved not to be a determining factor.

What actually transpired was quite possibly the worst Super Bowl in NFL history. Nobody predicted a 43-8 Seahawk rout.
Steve Rosenbloom, a Chicago sports columnist, made perhaps the best prediction, picking a 75-0 lopsided victory in favor of his hometown Chicago Bears. To be fair, the difference between a 35-point win and a 75-point win is negligible…

In all seriousness, the two teams matched up perfectly on paper. This Super Bowl set the top seeded teams against each other for the first time since 1993, and still... 43-8?

The Broncos had the most prolific offense in history this past season, scoring an NFL record 606 points during the regular season, an average of 37.9 points per game. The Seahawks held them to a mere eight. Peyton Manning averaged 3.44 touchdowns per game, and the Seahawks held him to one.

So what does this say about Peyton and his legacy? What does it say about how good the Seahawks’ defense was this year? Where do they rank all time?

When asked that very question, Richard Sherman responded by comparing the 2013-2014 Seahawks defense to other dominant defenses including the “Steel Curtain” in Pittsburgh in the 1970’, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and the Mike Ditka coached ’85 Chicago Bears. “We’re in there somewhere. As long as we’re in that mix, we’re alright,” said Sherman.

For the first time in his life, Richard Sherman might have been too modest. While the Broncos record breaking offense was nothing short of amazing this season, Seattle’s defensive unit may have been the only thing more impressive.

The Broncos’ offensive onslaught was incredibly impressive, but the Seahawks defense allowed an equally shocking league best, 14.3 points per game to their opponents. Seattle allowed the least amount of passing yards per game (172), and ranked seventh in rushing yards against per game (102), making Seattle the top ranked yardage defense in the league (274).

Their stalwart secondary proved to be the perfect match for an offense with seemingly unlimited weapons on offense.

Denver wide receiver Eric Decker, who averaged 81 yards per game during the regular season was held to just one catch for six yards, while Julius Thomas, who averaged 56 yards per game, was held to just four catches for 27 yards.

Seattle’s linebackers pressured Manning, who went basically untouched before the Super Bowl, forcing him to make quick decisions and rush passes. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell covered the boundaries, while safeties Earl Thomas and Kim Chancellor patrolled the middle of the field once Peyton released the ball.

While Peyton’s Super Bowl performance was not on par with his spectacular 55 touchdown, MVP regular season, he really did not play as poorly as the score suggests.

In fact, he broke a Super Bowl record for completions, going 34 for 49 for 280 yards. Admittedly, he also threw two costly interceptions, and one of those turnovers was returned by Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith for a 69-yard defensive touchdown that firmly gave the Seahawk’s the momentum.

Manning completed so many passes because Seattle completely blanketed the Broncos’ wide receivers on the deep ball, forcing Manning to attempt to “dink and dunk” the ball down the field.

In the regular season, Manning’s big-bodied receiving targets (Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Demaryius Thomas) and the elusive Wes Welker turned pedestrian five-yard passes into big gains by breaking tackles and avoiding defenders after the catch. Seattle’s tackling, however, proved again that it was the best in the league last night, rallying to Broncos receivers and tackled them as soon as they touched the ball. Consequently, the Broncos offense struggled to move the chains.

After beating the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs a couple of weeks ago, Manning mentioned in the post game conference that he was eager to drink a Bud Light. Peyton might have wanted an entire 30-rack after last Sunday’s game. Super Bowl XLVIII will surely haunt him and stake its place as a night that he would rather forget.

So, following Sunday’s disappointment, where does Peyton rank amongst the greats? He is arguably the best regular season quarterback of all time, but his postseason career is comparatively dismal. After the loss to the Seahawks, Manning’s career postseason record dropped to 11-12, and his Super Bowl record is now 1-2.

Can a quarterback be considered one of the best of all time with a sub .500-career postseason record? When it matters most, a great performer and leader like Manning must rise to the challenge, rather than shy away from the moment.

All of Peyton’s critics point to his inability to win the big game. Peyton has one less Super Bowl ring than his brother, Eli, and only one more than his brother Cooper, who doesn’t even play in the NFL. He also has the same amount of rings as Raven’s starter Trent Dilfer, arguably the worst starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

This Super Bowl was Peyton’s opportunity to silence his critics once and for all, and to stake his place as the best quarterback of all time. At the end of the day, he, along with the rest of the Broncos didn’t rise to the occasion.

With his future in question due to health concerns about his longevity, the question becomes: Will Peyton have one more shot to win the big game? His legacy hopes so.