Seahawks' defense lowers the boom
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Legion of Boom was every bit as good as advertised last night. In what was supposed to be an epic battle between the league's No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense, the Seattle Seahawks' top-rated defense completely dominated Peyton Manning and the Broncos' history-making offense.
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said after Seattle's lopsided 43-8 win in Super Bowl XLVIII.
"We talked about how we wanted to affect the quarterback and [make him] check it down and the way we wanted to tackle. We wanted to win with fundamentals, and our guys did that."
Quinn's defense, which led the league in takeaways during the regular season, forced four turnovers, including two Manning interceptions.
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They held the league MVP, who threw an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes this season and never threw less than two in a game, to just one. Held him to a season-low 5.7 yards per attempt and a season-low 73.5 passer rating.
"We talk tackling and turnovers every day we practice," Quinn said. "I was not surprised we played well. We had 2 terrific weeks of practice and preparation. We wanted to play the style we've been accustomed to. We wanted to play fast and physical. We wanted to play it on our terms.
"We prepared for their no-huddle for 2 weeks. You give this group of guys 2 weeks to prepare, you're going to get good results."
The Broncos had the most prolific offense in the league this season. Scored an NFL-record 606 points. Averaged a league-best 457.3 yards per game.
In their AFC Championship Game win over the New England Patriots, they put up 507 yards and 27 first downs. In their divisional-round win over the San Diego Chargers, they had 363 yards and 26 first downs.
But they were no match for the Seahawks' defense, which punched them in the face early and kept punching. They held a Broncos team that scored 30 or more points in 13 of their previous 18 games this season to eight points. The Broncos hadn't scored less than 20 in a game all season.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Broncos had managed just 180 yards, 10 first downs and no points.
"It was a combination of coverage and pressure as it always is in pass defense," Broncos coach John Fox said. "There is a reason why they were the No. 1 defense during the season. Give them credit. They had a lot to do with it.
Said Manning: "Getting behind early like we did played right into their hands. That's what they do to a lot of teams. We didn't want to do that. We wanted to keep the game on the field and keep the score even. But we got behind early and never could make a run to catch up."
Manning completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, but until the meaningless fourth quarter, most of them were for short gains. While he was sacked just once, he was pressured most of the game.
"We knew they had to deal with us," Quinn said. "We wanted to get Peyton off his spot. We didn't blitz a lot tonight. We tried to take our shots. But Peyton has such good awareness.
"A lot of times when you blitz [Manning], the ball's going to come out. We knew we would have to rely on our four-man rush to pressure him. Tackling always is important for us. We knew it was going to be very big tonight. We had to limit their yards after contact."
The Broncos' receivers, particularly wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, took lick after lick from the Legion of Boom. Thomas caught a Super Bowl-record 13 passes, but had precious few yards after the catch. He averaged just 9.1 yards per catch.
"They run those crossing routes," Quinn said. "A lot of times, in man-to-man, those are tough to defend. So we played a lot of zone. On third down, there were a number of times where they might have third-and-8 and were only getting 4 or 5. We gave up completions, but not for first downs."
The Seahawks held the Broncos to 123 net yards and six first downs in the first half. They came out of their corner at the beginning of this battle and set the tone. Kam Chancellor, their linebacker-sized strong safety drilled Thomas on a short crossing route on Manning's first pass.
On the Broncos' next possession, Chancellor delivered another intimidating blow, decking Welker on a short 5-yard reception. Later, on the same possession, Chancellor got a gift interception from Manning, who, under pressure, overthrew tight end Julius Thomas.
"We know what Kam brings to our defense in terms of the physicality he plays with," Quinn said.
"The Legion of Boom, baby," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. "I hope we etched our names in the history books. This is the No. 1 offense in the history of the NFL and we were able to play a good game against them."
The Broncos' offensive line was considered one of the best in the league this season. Manning was sacked a league-low 18 times this season. Wasn't sacked in either of the previous two playoff games and was hit only once in the win over the Patriots.
But Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, 5 years removed from an 0-16 season with the Detroit Lions, dominated Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin. He beat Franklin and hit Manning's throwing arm as he was trying to release the ball on the pass that linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted and returned 69 yards for a touchdown with 3:21 left in the second half to give the Seahawks a 22-0 lead.
He beat Franklin again on a third-and-nine play on the Broncos' final possession of the first half, forcing a hurried throw to running back Knowshon Moreno that failed to pick up the first down.
Manning and the Broncos tried to cool off the Seahawks' pass rush with some screen passes. But Seattle seemed to run every one of them down from behind. Nothing worked for the Broncos.
"It's tough when you start off the game with a safety," the Broncos' Julius Thomas said, referring to center Manny Ramirez' snap over Manning's head on the first play of the game that gave Seattle a 2-0 lead. "But it came down to turnovers. That's been our Achilles' heel."
Thomas insisted the Broncos' receivers weren't intimidated by the Seahawks and their physical style of play.
"I don't think we were intimidated," he said. "The turnovers hurt us. They didn't do anything different in coverage. They did what we expected to see. They just did a very good job of it."
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