Sports are a fantasy of sorts. Fans of players and teams dream of success as if they themselves celebrate under post game confetti rain. The Super Bowl is the standard because it's watched by casual fans of the NFL and sports in general. Storylines leading up to the game are in effect teases to those casual fans. The hero vs. villain storyline becomes a misleading go to and unfortunately for fans, relying on such a ridiculous storyline often makes fan heart break ever more disastrous and to some, downright melancholy. The Denver Broncos were blown out by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8. Let's make this clear, Peyton Manning didn't lose this game; the Seahawks and Pete Carroll took it from him. The quarterback didn't offer any serious challenge though and Manning's performance was as disappointing as any superstar has ever played in any championship. To say anything different because an adulatory narrative of Manning is set in stone limits a logical total scope of sports to be realized. This is not a hit piece. This is something that should have been said a long time ago.
Do you remember when you messed up as a kid and mom said the words no kid wants to hear? You knew what she was going to say and when she said “Wait until your father gets home” the feeling in your stomach was the worst you’ve ever felt. It paralyzed you and thoughts of running away began to dominate your sanity. You knew what was coming and your eyes showed it; your heart pounded and your skin sweated. You wished what got you in trouble in the first place miraculously didn’t happen, so your dad didn’t tie fire to that ass.
The minutes leading up to that front door opening seemed like 56 lifetimes and when your father walked down the hall and appeared in front of your door, he looked like the most terrifying monster that ever existed. That look on his face made you want to faint, but there was no getting away from what was about to transpire. “Damn, I should have ran the expletive away” you thought to yourself, but it was too late and now you just had to wear what was coming like a champ. Last night, the Seattle Seahawks were the Denver Broncos’ daddy and what got them in trouble was an offense that looked soft as tissue paper vs. the metaphorical belt the Hawks physically wielded. There was no Peyton Manning quieting of the crowd before the snap so he can bark assignments and confuse the opposition. Twelve seconds into the game it was 2-0; twelve seconds into the second half it was 29-0. At the final gun it was 43-8 and for all the records the Broncos set this season, none of that mattered as the sight of Seahawks after Seahawks player celebrating in the end zone became Denver’s worst nightmare; a nightmare playing out before the world.
Or was it Peyton Manning’s nightmare? Yes, the 5-time NFL MVP choked again.
Said a dejected Peyton Manning post game: “We weren’t sharp offensively from the get go.” That was obvious, but all the credit should go to Seattle's defense. Don't get it twisted Peyton. Maybe the ball was even shook at the gate from an ominous sight of a Seahawks monster defense across the line of scrimmage. Center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball wide of Manning on the game’s first play and Denver should have walked away at that very instant. I don’t know why folks jump for all this offensive video game absurdity when we all know defenses win championships. Whether it was the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, the 2007 New England Patriots and now the 2013 Broncos, if you don’t finish what you started, none of those records mean a damn thing except in bar trivia games.
The weather was irrelevant at 49 degrees and maybe if the weather sucked Denver would feel better about getting blown off the field by an obviously more talented Seattle Seahawks football team. Seattle made this a home game basically and yes, the 12th man had a lot to do with Seattle getting to the Super Bowl, but giving too much credit to fans actually takes away from a defense that should and will be seen as one of the best of all time. Their D has been consistently stellar all season and it’s apparent the betting line should have favored the Seahawks by much more than essentially a pick ‘em. Read between those lines.
Peyton Manning saw the future in Russell Wilson (28-9 in first two years in the league). Wilson was 18-25 for 206 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He threw 68 passes this postseason and none were intercepted. There will be no questions whether the 2 year starter can get it done regardless if Wilson ever wins another Super Bowl. Wilson was excellent early and that he was 4-6 on third down before halftime proves he is much more than a just a game manager. Clutch and it was done without a Marshawn Lynch signature run. Beast Mode wasn't needed. Wilson's leadership put the game out of reach early and the youngest team in the league is now Super Bowl 48 champion. Shut up the nonsense that a mobile quarterback can’t get it done in the Super Bowl. Must that be repeated?
The notion that a mobile quarterback couldn’t get it done was as idiotic as anything ever said in sports. Paradigm and perception shift activated. The Super Bowl was actually Seattle vs. San Francisco in the NFC Championship. That is what the league will resemble in the not too distant future. Add a Cam Newton's defensive minded Carolina squad to the mix and the AFC might be locked out of Super Bowl rings for the next decade. On the other hand, the immobile Peyton Manning better thank the running of former Indianapolis Colts teammates Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai for his Super Bowl win and subsequent MVP after the 2006 season, because in the Super Bowl where everything becomes more physical, his stature as a great regular season quarterback shrinks to the size of a heartless atom. Happy feet abound as pressure is brought to his face with bass whether it be through the A-gap or charging hard from the edge. Think Cliff Avril attacking and the subsequent six pickings of Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith. This is the sole reason why an unapologetic wave of mobile quarterbacks is entering the league. Teams can move the pocket and roll out immobile QB's if they want to, but unless offensive lineman are as quick as they are strong, the era of the statue will go the way of the dinosaur.
Speaking of statues, let’s get back to Peyton.
He’s 167-73 in the 240 games he’s started, has thrown for 64,964 yards and 491 touchdowns versus 219 picks overall and that is all incredible, but what about the losses and bad games as well? Eight times his teams entered the playoffs and 8 times his teams has lost the first playoff game. To put that in perspective, Tom Brady and New England have played in 8 AFC Championships in that same span with lesser talented teams on paper. That's clutch. Questions should persist whether Peyton Manning has ever been clutch when the heat has been the hottest going back to his days in college at Tennessee and as great as he has been in his career in the regular season, to have an 11-12 playoff record is simply unacceptable in any debate of the greatest of all time. Those 12 losses are the most of any quarterback in NFL postseason history and for all the credit Manning gets for every passing yard, every touchdown and every win throughout the years as if he’s some untouchable god, then the most significant losses must be mentioned in everything hyper-critical as well. Do you find it interesting that most of his teams were considered favorites before the preseason began?
Yet, he only has one ring. Tony Dungy in essence is actually underrated because he was able to put one of sports’ most overrated playoff performers in Manning over the top. The greatest ones in any sport are the ones that make it happen when they get the opportunity to cement their legacy and a 1-2 record in Super Bowls is all anyone has to say when Peyton Manning’s name is mentioned beside the greats at his position. If he didn’t get chances to play in the big game because of team ineptitude OK, but his talent laden teams have consistently been in the playoffs and the personnel hasn’t been all the same so what is his excuse? He in a sense is the constant. For all the heat LeBron James caught early for not winning an NBA championship with no talent around him, why should Peyton Manning escape any sort of criticism for not getting it done in Super Bowl competition with great team talent? We're talking about a number one pick and not some undrafted free agent scratching and clawing to make a name for himself.
Think about it: Peyton Manning does amazing regular season things while his brother Eli isn't known for regular season play. When the playoffs begin, put your money on Eli, because if you put it on Peyton, you better make sure your rent is paid prior. Maybe losses like this will bring irrational conversations of a quarterback given far too much shine rationally back to center. Actually, it’s a slap in the face to LeBron for Peyton Manning to be mentioned in any LeBron James sentence. The King has won when the world was against him and since all this Peyton Manning slobber was ubiquitous in 2013, what will his sycophants say now? What will they offer as reasons for his playoff undoing? What will they say of teams smacking him all over the place in the playoffs?
Why is it a shock when inspired teams take fan and media deifying of Manning and shove it down his throat? Denver didn't convert on 3rd down until the second quarter. Manning's Super Bowl record 34 completions (a sorry 5.7 yards per attempt) as well as most of his 280 yards were put up after the game's outcome was a foregone conclusion and the real story was that the Broncos were able to score at all. Seattle held Denver to 30 points below its season average and Manning’s two turnovers cannot be understated. For all the Peyton Manning hero talk vs. the ridiculous thuggish villain Seahawks narrative BS that dominated the week before the Super Bowl, what should be said more than anything is Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were paper champions; paper champions incapable of exploiting a defense also incapable of being scared by the trumped up marvels of a quarterback inexplicably escaping any type of objective scrutiny.
Give me Tom Brady, Joe Montana and you can have any of the rest. Where Manning stands in the top ten is debatable, but his mediocre playoff record absolutely is not up for discussion.
Omaha is for steaks yo.
Seattle gave the city its first championship in a core sport since the Supersonics won the NBA title in 1979. The Seattle Storm won the WNBA Championship in 2004 and 2010 (updated Re: Storm 2/5/14).
Demaryius Thomas had a great game and also set a Super Bowl record with his 13 receptions. His catch in the end zone will be not mentioned as much as it should, but if you slow down the tape, you’ll see he actually tipped the ball to himself in the most uncommon of ways. Julius Thomas was neutralized (4 catches for 27 yards), but Demaryius showed and proved he will be a great performer at his position. Denver simply faced a Seahawks team as physically gifted as it is mentally talented. Richard Sherman was right about Peyton Manning throwing ducks and his truthful fire spurred Seattle to NFL championship victory. All those shallow crosses and quick screens didn’t work against a team looking to knock the hell out of any player touching the ball and despite Manning’s NFL record 5,477 yards and 55 season, the Seahawks were not affected in the least. Run game non-existent; 11 possessions and just 1 TD. Seattle’s cornerbacks took away the outside of the field and the other 9 defenders super speed knocked everything seeking to exploit the middle. No Denver receivers ran free after catching the ball. The Broncos scored 606 points in the 2013 regular season and had to fight to not be shutout as the world watched a total dismantling of Denver in the Super Bowl.
This is a team game and the better team won despite all the bogus stuff talked about last week regarding dreadlocks, thugs, villains shunning the media or whatever else proved immaterial. Seattle could not be taken off their game and dominated every phase last night. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball were held to 18 yards rushing combined. Shutting down the running game, Seattle dared Peyton Manning to beat them and he couldn't.
Postgame on the field, Earl Thomas told Stacey Dales of the NFL Network: "It's never about the opponent. It's always about us."
Judging by how any Peyton Manning led team is spoken in everything congratulatory leading up to Super Bowl as if they already won the Super Bowl, maybe from now on fans and media will understand definitively that maybe, just maybe this all shouldn't be simply about him.