MVP Malcolm Smith's TD return among four key X's and O's moments

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Things you probably didn't know about Seattle linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith: He is the younger brother of retired wide receiver Steve Smith, didn't get invited to the NFL scouting combine after leaving USC and he had an eating disorder that caused him to lose 30 pounds (and still has trouble eating at times now).

What you do know about him now: He had the biggest play in Super Bowl XLVIII.

It's one of the plays I will highlight here, a play that ended a Denver threat in the first half and had Seattle dancing to a 22-0 lead on its way to a 43-8 blowout victory over the Broncos at MetLife Stadium. 

Smith's 69-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter wasn't a tough play to make, but he was the one who made it in grand fashion. 

With Denver facing a third-and-13 at the Seattle 35, Peyton Manning dropped to pass and looked deep to Demaryius Thomas on the right sideline. Thomas appeared to have a step on Richard Sherman, but the ball didn't come close to getting there and instead floated into the arms of Smith.

That's because defensive end Cliff Avril was bull-rushing Orlando Franklin on the right side, and he hit Manning's arm as the tried to throw. The ball hung in the air for what must have seemed like forever for the Broncos and into the arms of Smith, who raced untouched into the end zone for the score. 

"It was in the air for a while,"Smith said.

Smith, who came in as a seventh-round pick, said the play was made by coverage on the other side and he had the back on the opposite side. When Avril tipped the ball, it came into his arms. 

"I got good blocks from teammates and ran into the end zone," Smith said.

It was 22-0 and Manning had the look of a beaten man. It stayed that way the rest of the game.

For Smith, who wasn't even a starter when the season opened but plays a lot in the dime package, it was a chance to show off what the Seattle defense is all about.

Killer speed.

They can all run. That's why it looked like they had 13 players on the field the entire first half. It's not about the clock speed for that defense. It's about the game speed. They can all fly.

Malcolm Smith is more than just Steve Smith's little brother now. He has a Super Bowl touchdown that proves it.

For him, it's been a heck of a ride. The esophagal surgery at USC nearly derailed his career before it was started.

"That was serious," said Steve Smith, standing off to the side glowing about his brother. "He came through a lot."

He might be one of the most shocking MVPs in Super Bowl history. Heck, he wasn't even a full-time starter and here he was holding court on the MVP podium still wearing his pads. Usually there is a swarm around the MVP. Not here. 

But I bet it'd would be tough to find any winner in history who had a bigger smile than this one.

"I still can't believe it," he said.  

Bang for the buck

When the Seattle Seahawks traded a first-round pick and two other picks to get Percy Harvinthen paid him, I thought it was a bit too steep of a price. 

When he missed most of the season with injuries, it was.

On Sunday, he showed why Seattle general manager John Schneider is among the best in football. 

Harvin ran two fly sweeps in the first half for 45 yards and then blew open the game on the second-half kickoff, returning it 87 yards for a touchdown to make it 29-0 and start the party on the Seattle sidelines. 

On that play, the Broncos tried a short kickoff. It initially appeared to fool Harvin, but he ran up and made the play on the ball after it bounced on the ground. When he did, a lane opened up in the middle and the Broncos whiffed on their tackles. 

It was linebacker Brandon Marshall missing, corner Kayvon Webster taking a bad angle and then kicker Matt Prater getting juked out of his shoes as Harvin went flying to the end zone.

Harvin said it was a return they had not shown all season long, something they were saving for the right time. 

It was the type of big play that shows why Seattle made the deal to get him. Was it worth it? They will say so now, but is one game really bang for the buck?

Fly sweeps

When the Seahawks traded for Harvin, they expected to use him in a variety of ways.

In the first quarter, we saw how they would have used him all season if he had been healthy. Harvin played just 34 plays all season -- including the playoffs. 

But he had 45 yards on two fly sweeps to help get the Seattle offense going against the Broncos. 

"It's a quick way to get to the edge," Harvin said. 

He caught one pass for 5 yards, but it was the two runs that highlighted his first half.On those plays, Harvin comes across the formation and takes a handoff from Russell Wilson in the backfield. On the first run, he ran inside of Terrance Knighton for the big play and on the second he just showed off his speed.  

Seattle D (schemes)

One of the things I wanted to see was how Seattle would play the Denver passing game. Would they play a lot of cover-3, their primary defense, or more two-deep looks? 

They used more two-deep looks than normal and seemed to dare the Broncos to throw short. And that's what Manning did. He was 17 of 24 for 104 yards in the first half. When Broncos receivers caught the ball, they were blasted by the Seattle secondary. 

When Denver tried to run screen passes, the Seattle defense was just way too fast. Even the down linemen were able to chase down screens for short gains. They were simply too fast.

Seattle turned the Broncos into a dink-and-dunk offense. And then they swarmed and tackled. That's how you beat a big-play offense. Manning set a record for completions, but was limited on the big plays. This is a league about chunk plays, and the Broncos didn't get any.

Denver hardly resembled the team we saw in the regular season. Give big props to the Seattle defense. They knew if they stayed in that Cover-3 scheme, they would have had problems. So they changed it up. And it worked.

"We knew they were fast," Manning said.

When you have big corners who can play man and tackle, a rangy free safety like Earl Thomas and a big-hitting strong safety like Kam Chancellor, you can do so many things on the back end. 

The Seahawks pressured Manning some up front, but it was not crazy pressure. They didn't sack Manning. Big props go to the Seattle secondary.


CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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