Feb 3, 2014 10:26 AM by Greg Smith
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The first snap of Super Bowl XLVIII resulted in a safety. Unfortunately, it set the tone for the Denver Broncos' night.
It was the first of four turnovers for the Broncos -- five including a turnover on downs -- which proved to be too much for Denver to overcome.
Seattle defeated the Broncos 43-8 Sunday night at MetLife Stadium for the Seahawks franchise's first Super Bowl victory.
"I think we played a great football team," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "We needed to play really well in order to win and we just didn't come anywhere close to that."
The opening snap, which flew over the head of Manning as he was walking toward the line on the first play of the game, was recovered by running back Knowshon Moreno in the end zone for a safety 12 seconds into the game. It marked the fastest score in Super Bowl history.
"First play was a cadence issue," Manning explained. "We were using the snap count on the play and due to the noise, no one could hear me. So really, I was walking up to the line of scrimmage to sort of make a change and get us on the same page. And then the ball was snapped. Really, just an overall - nobody's fault, not (center) Manny (Ramirez)'s fault. Just a noise issue that really caused that play to happen."
The Denver defense held strong to force two Seahawks field goals sandwiched around a Broncos three-and-out, but a promising Broncos drive on the ensuing possession was cut short by an interception.
"Holding them to field goals? We should've got the ball back. That's how I view it," defensive end Robert Ayers said. "Sudden change, they get the ball with a short field or whatever, we've got to go get the ball back. We didn't do what we needed to do. We didn't create turnovers. We didn't get sacks. We gave up chunk yardage. We stopped Marshawn a little bit, but Percy got off two runs. We didn't do our jobs. Field goals, whatever. In a game like this, we need blanks. We need to get the ball back. We need turnovers, and we didn't do that."
At the end of the first quarter, the Broncos had been outgained 148 yards to 11. Seattle had six first downs, Denver didn't have a single one. And perhaps most importantly, the Broncos had two fumbles and an interception to the Seahawks' zero as Seattle held the ball for nearly 12 of the 15 first-quarter minutes.
Though neither of those fumbles were lost, one led to a safety and the interception resulted in a 1-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown run three minutes into the second quarter.
Trailing 15-0, Manning and the Denver offense looked to get to work. It started with the unit's initial first down of the game, a 5-yard run by Knowshon Moreno on third-and-1. Two more conversions on third-and-1 put the Broncos in field-goal range, but a tripping penalty put the Broncos behind the chains. Three plays later, Manning was hit as he threw, and his pass floated into linebacker Malcom Smith's arms. He returned the interception 69 yards for a touchdown the other way.
Denver, driving with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, then failed to convert on fourth down at the Seattle 19-yard line for another turnover, this one on downs.
At halftime, the Seahawks led 22-0.
Twelve seconds into the second half, that lead was 29-0. Wide receiver Percy Harvin fielded Matt Prater's kickoff off a bounce and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown.
"They beat us in all three phases," Ayers said. "They ran, they moved the ball offensively, they got turnovers defensively, they returned a special-teams play. One play didn't beat us. It was a collection of things."
Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell forced a fumble by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas -- who led the game with a Super-Bowl record 13 catches -- on a promising Broncos drive deep in Seattle territory with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter to keep Denver off the board. Smith's recovery set up the Seattle offense at its own 42-yard line, and quarterback Russell Wilson led his team on a six-play drive that was capped by a 23-yard Jermaine Kearse touchdown.
A 14-yard touchdown catch by Thomas gave the Broncos their first points of the day, and wide receiver Wes Welker's two-point conversion catch made it 36-8 as the third quarter came to a close.
Another Seahawks touchdown drive made it 43-8, which proved to be the final score.
"It's disappointment, because I just know how hard these guys worked this whole year," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said. "Really had a good year, really persevered through a lot of tough situations and really did a good job. I feel bad in the fact that we couldn't have played better, especially with all the effort that these players put in and the coaches put in. So I'm disappointed for them."
The fact that this group of players went through so much together is what made Sunday's result that much harder for tight end Jacob Tamme.
"I think I'll remember it as one of the most fun years I've had playing football," Tamme said. "I really enjoyed playing with this group of guys. That's what really stinks about this feeling now. We won the AFC. That's not what we were looking to do. We did have a good year and we did have a good group of guys that I enjoyed playing with. It's just very disappointing right now."