EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Maybe defense wins championships after all. The Seahawks made the case for such a statement Sunday night in the crisp, northern air, demolishing the best offense in NFL history 43-8.
This game was the Seahawks smacking the Broncos in the mouth and Denver standing around just taking it and bleeding all over the field.
"That's what we do best: run and hit. Run and hit," Richard Sherman said. "If they come out there and they take that and they taste their own blood and they beat us, then they deserve to win."
The Broncos got bloodied and bloodied and bloodied some more. Seattle didn't let up once, owing to their philosophy of continually trying to take it to opposing offenses. They set a Super Bowl record for most playing time with the lead, leading Denver for a whopping 59 minutes and 48 seconds.
"That's really how it is. That's what great defensive play is like," Sherman said. "We're going to hit you and hit you and hit you until we can't hit you no more. If you stand there and keep punching back, all the respect in the world and you deserve it."
Super Bowl XLVIII was a disaster for Peyton Manning. He was 24 of 34 for 171 yards and two interceptions when Russell Wilson hit Luke Wilson for a touchdown to go up 36-0 with 2:58 left in the third quarter and the game in hand. Those stats came because Manning played poorly, sure.
But they exist more so because the Seahawks swagged their way onto the field at kickoff, and spent the full 60 minutes swarming to Manning and smacking his receivers around. It was the longest we've seen a Bronco chased last since, well …
The self-proclaimed Legion of Boom was dominant across the board, too. Kam Chancellor dropped in the box, stayed in his lane and annihilated the Broncos' attempt to run the ball. He was a beast and arguably could've been the MVP of the game, recording 9 tackles and an impressive interception that he nearly dropped because he was so surprised Manning threw his way as poorly as he did.
The crossing route attack that Denver continually ran on offense played into his big-hit approach and Chancellor delivered on defense, consistently thumping Broncos receivers. It's a miracle Wes Welker and Co. finished the game. And that was the plan all along.
"I think it's important to hit people, period," Chancellor said. "That's what we do as a group. We're a physical group. We love to run and hit."
Demaryius Thomas set the Super Bowl record for receptions but it's not like he was stretching the field or anything, averaging just 8.4 yards per catch following the Broncos first touchdown at the end of the third quarter. He piled up his catches on screens and crossing routes and never threatened Richard Sherman deep.
Byron Maxwell negated one of those catches as well, punching the ball out of Thomas' hands in Charles Tillman fashion.
Earl Thomas, a guy who got snubbed in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, said the Seahawks knew all along how Denver planned to attack them -- namely with rub routes and crossing patterns -- but they weren't ever worried about handling the Broncos offense.
"We understood how they wanted to attack us," Thomas said. "We have guidelines on our defense and however you want to attack us, we're going to adapt."
They adapted from the get-go, though. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said the plan all along was to not let Manning step up in the pocket when he felt pressure from the outside. Seattle used its ridiculous defensive line rotation -- Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Clint McDonald, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant all contribute meaningful minutes -- and made Manning uncomfortable.
"When we saw [the film] there were not a lot of hits on defensive ends where they ran around the tackles," Quinn said. "Where he could pinch up in the pocket. So we thought it was going to be important as pass rushers for our D-ends to take them up and inside and push the pocket from inside as opposed to chasing him from outside because he has such a quick release."
When you get Peyton Manning dancing and you can put some points on the board, it's going to get ugly.
"We knew they were an excellent defense as far as the scheme we thought they were going to play," Manning said. "Once the score got to 21-0 and 28-0, I think sometimes defenses change a little bit based on the score of the game. But early on, it was what we expected. They executed better than we did."
That's the thing about the Seahawks defense that's so scary. They're not based on smoke and mirrors. They play you straight up and beg you to beat them.
They stick you in your face with jab after jab after jab until they've got you against the ropes trying to avoid the haymaker. If you can't throw those punches right back at them, you'll leave the game as bloody as the Broncos did Sunday.
Percy Harvin's redemption
There was a lot of talk about Percy Harvin and the trade to acquire him being a bust. Hard to blame anyone for that chatter since Harvin hadn't played.
But he put that talk to rest during the Super Bowl, ripping off a pair of runs for 45 yards and taking the opening kickoff in the second half to the house.
For Harvin, finally producing and contributing was a huge relief.
"Man it's a big horse off my back. Finally being able to give my team something for four quarters," Harvin said. "The offseason it really took a toll on me. So being able to finish and give something back to my teammates, I leaned on those guys to keep me up in spirits and keep me going. It meant the world to me."
The Super Bowl, for everyone involved, had to be relieving when it came to the Harvin angle. Seeing him in action and seeing what the Seahawks could be as a complete offense was impressive.
They're a different team with Harvin on the field, only the big problem with Harvin is he hasn't been able to stay there for much of his career. Assuming he can be healthy moving forward, there's a lot of upside in the Seahawks offense.
Michael Bennett was a critical addition for the Seahawks this past offseason, adding depth and talent to their defensive line at a fraction of what he should actually cost (Bennett signed a one-year, $5 million deal).
The defensive end stepped up in a big way on Sunday but he was really entertaining when it came to the Seahawks postgame presser. Bennett uncorked on anyone trying to doubt their defense and, despite a PR person telling him it was time to leave, kept answering questions until he was finally pulled away.
Asked about how the Seahawks rank defensively, Bennett didn't pull any punches, saying that they're the best defense since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
"We're the best defense since the '85 Bears," Bennett said.
Asked if they'd beat the '85 Bears, Bennett hesitated a minute before admitting he believes they would. That's a different story for a different day, but the 2000 Ravens and the 2002 Buccaneers would probably like a word.
Seattle might have proven Bennett's point on Sunday night in their Super Bowl victory over the Broncos, though. They flat-out dominated the best offense in NFL history. Peyton Manning ended up with a Super Bowl record for 34 completed passes -- and 13 of those were to Demaryius Thomas, also an NFL record -- but those records are meaningless.