Punxsutawney Phil couldn’t have predicted the outcome of this game, nobody could have. The Seattle Seahawks completely manhandled, dismantled and destroyed the Denver Broncos in every phase of the game; from the first snap till the final kneel down 43-8 in one of the most lopsided and unentertaining Super Bowl games in NFL history.
From the opening play, Peyton Manning and the Broncos looked like a team that had stage fright on the grandest stage of them all. As Manny Ramirez’s shotgun snap sailed over the head of Manning on that infamous first play, there was no doubt that the Broncos season flashed before their eyes, but they were given a temporary reprieve as the ball was recovered in the end zone by Knowshon Moreno. It thwarted a Seahawks defensive touchdown and yielded only a safety, a blessing at that point of the game.
Unfortunately the Broncos couldn’t collect themselves and the downward spiral slowly continued as the Broncos offense went three and out on the ensuing possession followed up by a Seattle field goal, offensive touchdown and pick six by the Seahawks defense, putting the Broncos in a 22-0 hole midway in the second quarter and putting the game out of reach for the Broncos before they could scurry to the locker room for halftime.
If you were a Broncos fan, you had hopes of history repeating itself. You were praying for another stadium wide blackout but your prayers went unanswered as God himself couldn’t have delivered Manning and the Broncos from the annihilation at the hands of the quicker, more physical and mentally tougher Seahawks team. Seattle didn’t take their foot off the pedal as they returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the end zone and therefore unofficially ended the game and any hopes that Manning and the Broncos had of pulling off a Mile High Miracle in the house that Eli built.
Peyton Manning had statistically the greatest year in history for any NFL quarterback with 60 combined touchdown passes in regular season and postseason play. Many around the league thought that Manning was finally able to overcome his past demons by first weathering a cold weather game in the divisional round victory over the San Diego Chargers, followed up by gaining revenge against rival Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Peyton Manning was one victory away from minimizing his subpar postseason record of 11-11, a statistic that would have been justifiably rendered meaningless when winning multiple Super Bowl championships.
However, with the loss Sunday Night, Manning’s legacy of coming up short in big games will continue to overshadow his lone Super Bowl victory. Fair or unfair, the continued number of blown opportunities in which the talent surrounding him was sufficient enough for him to be successful, given that he played at the level that would be expected of a record setting, future first ballot Hall of Famer.
Many Manning apologists will be quick to blast my criticism of the “great one,” by pointing out his regular season and postseason success this year. With all due respect, statistics in the NFL are almost moot point when the only meaningful argument is championship victories as it rightfully should be.
As great as Manning was this season, he was equally bad when his team needed him most. The proof is in the pudding as Manning was 34/49 for 280 yards, one garbage time touchdown, two interceptions — including a pick six by Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith — and a lost fumble. Manning carried his team through all the trials and tribulations this season: the Von Miller suspension, court issues and season ending injury, the injuries of Ryan Clady, Raheem Moore and Chris Harris, the absence of John Fox for several weeks recovering from a heart valve surgery, the illness that put Derek Wolfe on the shelf, the 24-point lead that evaporated at Foxborough and the home loss to the Chargers, but he was also the man who single-handedly took his team out of Super Bowl contention with his poor play, bad decision making, wobbly and inaccurate passes. His body language on the field and sidelines resembled that of Jay Cutler and Phillip Rivers rather than the man whom many are anointing as possibly the greatest quarterback of all time.
Asked by a reporter after the game if this loss was embarrassing, Manning snapped back and refuted the question by saying that it was an insult to the pro players in the locker room to call the loss an embarrassment.
Get real, Peyton Manning! To say that the Super Bowl loss and performance by him and his teammates was not an embarrassment is an insult to the intelligence of any Denver Broncos player, fan and most certainly team VP John Elway. Your team just put out one of the worst offensive performances in Super Bowl history.
Your high octane and record-setting offense was outscored by the Seattle defense and special teams 14-8. You and the teammates that depended on your play and looked up to you as their leader played like they were scared and seemed to literally throw in the white towel after the Percy Harvin kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half.
At what point did he step up as the leader of the Broncos and fire up his team to overcome the biggest adversity of the season and their careers? Rather, Manning folded under pressure on the biggest stage and rather than take accountability for his pathetic performance, he continued to allow others to criticize his teammates on defense and special teams who were set up for failure by his poor play.
This offseason Manning is going to have to address one question that only he can answer himself. What will it take for him to overcome his mental obstacles when the bright lights are on, the spotlight is focused on him and his teammates are looking to him to lead them through adversity to the promised land? Manning has seven months to think long and hard about that very question.
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