NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary made the noise this season as poster boys for the Seahawks’ league-best defense, but it took a team effort to send the high powered Denver Broncos crashing in Super Bowl 48.
Sunday’s 43-8 trouncing at MetLife Stadium was one of the most lopsided ever in a Super Bowl and came against a Peyton Manning-led offense that had set an NFL record for points in a season.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith ran off with the Most Valuable Player award by running all the way into the end zone with a second-quarter, 69-yard interception to break open the game.
Cliff Avril set up that pick by getting in Peyton Manning’s face with his pass rush, and fellow defensive lineman Chris Clemons had a sack and forced two fumbles.
The defensive backfield certainly weighed in.
Bone bruising hits on Broncos receivers coming across the middle by safety Kam Chancellor seemed to make them jittery, safety Earl Thomas led with six solo tackles while trash-talking secondary mate and fellow Pro Bowler Richard Sherman was largely avoided by Manning’s passes.
It was a performance worthy of some of the greatest defensive teams in NFL lore, up there with the work of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain”, the 1985 Chicago Bears with William “Refrigerator” Perry, and the Ray Lewis-led Baltimore Ravens of 2000.
Do not discount the Seattle offense, either.
Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson showed poise beyond his years in orchestrating a rock-steady attack, scrambling to first downs and tossing two touchdown passes, hitting Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
With Denver focused on stopping the run, limiting Marshawn Lynch to 39 yards on 15 carries, Wilson relied more on his arm and completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards with no interceptions.
And Percy Harvin completed the team picture by racing 87 yards for a touchdown with the second-half kickoff to put an exclamation mark on the rout with a special team’s splash.
“I think as a team, everything - from the special teams to the offense to the defense, I feel like everybody was clicking,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner, who led Seattle with 10 tackles.
“We peaked at the right time.”
Despite thoroughly outplaying the Broncos in the first quarter, outgaining them by 148 yards to 11, Seattle failed to score touchdowns with their opportunities and led by just 8-0.
That is when the Seattle pass rush ratcheted up the pressure and made Manning shuffle his feet, roll outside the pocket and hurry his passes.
The opportunistic Seahawks were quick to capitalize.
First, the hard-hitting Chancellor corraled an overthrow pass for an interception and this time Wilson drove Seattle to pay dirt with Lynch doing the honors by bulling his way in from the one yard.
Then came Avril’s determined rush and hit on Manning’s throwing arm that produced the lollipop gobbled up by Smith.
In the third quarter, cornerback Byron Maxwell stripped the ball from Demaryius Thomas after a 23-yard catch and linebacker Smith was the man on the spot again as he recovered the fumble to set up a touchdown throw by Wilson.
The Seahawks did not work their magic with tricks. They played their usual game on defense and dared Manning to beat them and he could not.
“The thing that I was most impressed about is that we played the style and fashion that we’re accustomed to,” said Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “We’re fast, we’re physical and we played the game on our terms.”
The motley crew of overlooked players that populate a Seattle defense whipped into a high-energy force by head coach Pete Carroll, was the story of the game.
“We’re a bunch of misfits in some ways,” said Sherman, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. “Fifth round, Kam Chancellor. Sixth round, Byron Maxwell. Fifth round, Richard Sherman. Fourth-round, K.J. Wright. Undrafted, Michael Bennett.”
Sherman rattled off other names - Avril, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane as other players that have gone overlooked.
“It’s not just the Legion of Boom back there...it’s a great linebacking corps, a great D-line who gets a lot of pressure. I think they deserve the respect.”
They should have won the respect of football followers that watched them stop five-time Most Valuable Player Manning and the Broncos in their tracks.
Editing by Gene Cherry