EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Seahawks took us back in time Sunday night. Back to when defense was more competitive than complicated. Back to when the toughest team, not the fanciest team, won the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Back to when the Super Bowl was won in a rout by a team on top of its game.
The Lincoln Tunnel Super Bowl? The Time Tunnel Super Bowl was more like it.
The Seahawks smashed the Broncos 43-8 Sunday night in a game that won't be remembered as a New York/New Jersey Super Bowl, but rather the coming-out party of a great team.
With a defensive performance to rival any in championship history, the Seahawks took apart the highest-scoring offense in NFL history. Seattle held Denver to a lone touchdown, and that coming on the final play of the third quarter, when the score already was 36-0.
This was how NFL titles used to be won. Not with magical quarterback play, but with rugged defense that made finding the end zone harder than finding a cab when Les Miserables lets out. And while defenses of yesteryear have shined in Super Bowls, keep the proper perspective. The '85 Bears squashed a Patriot team quarterbacked by Tony Eason. These Seahawks pummeled Peyton Manning.
“It's all about making history,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “This was a dominant performance from top to bottom. You had guys step up that you wouldn't even think of.”
No doubt. The Super Bowl MVP was a Seattle linebacker, Malcolm Smith, that half of us never had heard of and the other half not until his interception in the NFC Championship Game. Smith had a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown and a second-half fumble recovery, but a dozen of his teammates could have made a case, too. Put the MVP up to an electorate of any size, and we'd have had five runoffs.
The Seahawks rattled Manning into three turnovers and a safety. So dominant was their performance, it was undersold by motormouth cornerback Richard Sherman.
“The Legion of Boom, baby,” 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.”
Good game? This was an epic game. A Bronco team that scored 606 regular-season points (37.9 points a game) had 11 possessions against Seattle and scored only once, needing a third-and-9 pass interference penalty to keep that drive alive.
Super Bowl? Nope. Superior Bowl. The Seahawks were faster, stronger, tougher. Just better. Way better.
Seattle was billed as a back-heavy defense — its secondary is the supposed strength. Maybe so. But Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons led a pass rush that sacked Manning just once but kept him under constant threat, and Manning becomes quite ordinary when forced out of his comfort zone.
Manning's deconstruction of defenses before the snap is useless when the defense plays it straight. Which is what Seattle does. Nothing fancy. No tricks. No great disguises. The Seahawks play hard and fast, mean and aggressive.
Sherman and his secondary mates were excellent, not that Sherman got much testing. Manning threw just four passes Sherman's way, with one completion for six yards. Safety Kam Chancellor was superb, with bone-rattling hits, nine tackles and pass deflections to go with an early interception that showed what was to come.
And a linebacker was MVP. Just a great, great defensive performance.
“I couldn't be more proud to be part of that unit that plays with an aggressive style,” said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “We talk about outhitting people in terms of how we want to attack the quarterback and the way we want to tackle. All year long we've been fast and physical. We have a real style about how we play, and I thought that came out tonight.”
Seattle's everywhere-defense made Manning look rattled, if not old, throwing a few of those “duck” passes that Sherman spoke of. Maybe that's what all this 12th man stuff is about in Seattle — the Seahawk defense seemed to play with more men than allowed.
That's what great defenses look like. And that's what we saw in Super Bowl 48.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.