The Seattle Seahawks put the normally free-scoring Denver Broncos to the sword, to bring the franchise its first-ever NFL title and their city its first championship in any major US sport since 1979.
Literally from the first play of the game, Seattle’s victory never looked in doubt. They shut out the Broncos 22-0 in the first half, added two further touchdowns in the third and eventually rolled out winners 43-8.
The game was decided not by individual superstars but by team collectives. Denver’s was error-strewn throughout.
Seattle’s defense – the vaunted LOB or ‘Legion of Boom’ – meanwhile lowered the boom comprehensively. Capitalising on its opponents’ every mistake, it put scarcely a foot wrong throughout.
This was supposed to be the apotheosis of the Broncos’ 37-year old Peyton Manning, chasing not just his second Super Bowl ring but also indisputable recognition as the greatest quarterback of his era.
In the event, he performed respectably, completing 34 of 49 for a total 280 yards and one touchdown, compared with the Seahawks’ young Russell Wilson with 18 for 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
However figures this time told only a fraction of the story. Seattle’s was a team victory. “We grew together through the season,” said the 25-year-old Wilson after the game, the climax of just his second season in the NFL. “Why not you, was my father’s message to me. This time we thought, ‘why not us?’”
Meteorologically too, Super Bowl XLVIII defied most rational predictions. This has been North America’s winter of polar vortexes, and many feared the worst for this first-ever championship game played in the open air in a cold weather city.
Instead kick-off temperature in the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, was a positively balmy 49 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 10 degrees centigrade, for the 82,500 in attendance. But the conditions were of little use to Denver.
The Bronco’s nightmare began on almost the first play, that set a pattern for almost everything that followed.
On the game’s first snap the ball flew over Manning’s head and into the end zone, forcing the Broncos to concede a two-point safety just 12 seconds in – the earliest score in Super Bowl history.
Thereafter Seattle dominated utterly, forcing turnover after turnover from which Denver never recovered. “Credit to the Seahawks’ defense, we just ran into a buzz-saw,” Denver’s head coach John Fox acknowledged afterwards. After the safety, his team managed to limit further first quarter damage to two Seattle field goals – but then the floodgates opened.
By halftime the Seahawks had added two further touchdowns, both the result of interceptions against Manning, who was never allowed to find the rhythm that had seen him throw more touchdowns, for more yards, than anyone in NFL history during the 2013 regular season.
The second half opened in chronometrically identical fashion, but even more expensively for the Broncos. Once again Seattle scored after just 12 seconds, this time on a kick-off return by receiver Percy Harvin.
With 2.58 to go in the third quarter, they added a further seven points, as wide receiver Jermaine Kearse collected a Wilson pass 23 yards out and wriggled and twisted his way past several missed tackles into the end zone.
With the last play of the quarter Denver did at last manage to score, avoiding the ultimate indignity of a first ever Super Bowl shut out, when Manning connected with receiver Demaryius Thomas on a 14-yard touchdown pass, followed by a two point conversion.
But the improvement was barely even cosmetic as Seattle quickly responded with a fifth touchdown. The final winning margin was the biggest in a Super Bowl since the Dallas Cowboys annihilated the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in 1993. If anything, it was even less expected.