Unless you were an optimistic member of the “Twelfth Man”, you did not see this game playing out the way it did on the final evening of the 2013 season. Many people out there predicted a Seahawk victory (I was not one of them) and even more anticipated a great game. Instead, we got a dominating performance out of Seattle and an (altogether) uninspiring effort out of Denver. Let’s break this thing down.
From the very first offensive snap of the game (a moonshot from the arms of center Manny Ramirez that went over the extended hands of Peyton Manning and into the end zone for a safety), you could just tell this was the Seahawks’ night. Perhaps it was jitters, or maybe a mis-communication, but I could tell that the Broncos did not look ready for this one just by watching the first twelve seconds of this game. This error was the first of many by an offensive line that had been dominant for the better part of the season. From that point forward, the ‘Hawks sprinted out to a 36-0 lead over Denver and were able to hold the high-octane Bronco offense back because of the pressure they were able to get on Peyton Manning.
There was never really a point in this game where Manning seemed comfortable in the pocket. For a majority of the contest, the Seahawks were getting a ton of pressure on him with just a four-man rush. This was (and always has been) the key to slowing a Peyton-lead attack. The defensive line of Seattle dominated up front and the back seven was able to do its thing in coverage. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman had outstanding games in terms of coverage. Walter Thurmond III was picked on quite a bit during this game by Manning, but he was not completely exposed because more often than not he had safety help over the top. This meant that the margin for error was larger than it would have been under normal circumstances.
The line-backing core of Seattle was excellent in this one as well. Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith had a great game. He ended up in the end zone on the back-end of a pick-six late in the second quarter. In addition to his score, he also racked up 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. Bobby Wagner made some nice plays; blowing up potential screens and flowing towards the action. This leads me to my next point, mainly concerning the Denver screen plays: the blocking by that offensive line just was not there. On multiple occasions in this game, the Seattle defense looked fooled during screen plays. However, the Bronco offensive line did not get out in front and do a good enough job paving the way for the backs and receivers. Of course, the Seahawk defense was quick enough to react and correct their mistakes, but the poor blocking was able to help them in doing so. I thought that Orlando Franklin had a tough game on the edge. This season, the team has had a lot of success getting outside of the tackles on his side of the field and the running lanes just were not there in this game. Louis Vasquez allowed a couple of leaks in protection, as did Zane Beadles. Chris Clark was overpowered on a couple of different plays on the outside edge and obviously Manny Ramirez did not play a clean game. Overall, the Denver O-line is what failed them the most in this game.
As far as the Seahawk offense is concerned, they were no juggernauts, but they were quite efficient. Percy Harvin gave the Broncos secondary some headaches on a couple of fly-sweeps and the rest of Seattle’s receivers killed Denver on crossing routes. Third down conversions were a big reason why the ‘Hawks were able to move the ball in this game. They made good on seven out of their twelve third down attempts and most of them came on the back end of well-thrown balls to crossing receivers. Russell Wilson played a great game and did not flinch under the bright lights. The play-calling by Darrelle Bevel was excellent. He did not dial up anything that Wilson could not do. Most of the plays were easy for him to carry out and the game-plan came to fruition in the best way possible for Seattle. In other words, the Seahawk offense executed in this game while Denver’s did not.
All and all, this was an utter domination in all three phases for Pete Carroll’s team. Offense, defense, and special teams contributed heavily to this win. Let’s not forget that Percy Harvin turned out to be the X-factor that many people thought he could be going into this season. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown to begin the third quarter; a play that simply demoralized Denver and it’s fans. That return touchdown served as the proverbial fork that was struck right into the hearts of the Broncos as they were already failing to crack the code of the Seattle defense. Their own defense was not able to get off the field on third downs and when you combine all of these elements, it is easy to see why one team absolutely crushed the other. As an NFL fan, I would have liked to have seen a better, more competitive game than this, but congratulations are owed to the Seahawks regardless. They proved that they had the goods to deliver a title to the Emerald City, and showed the world that they were worthy of championship status.